“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.” Pat Riley (Former NBA Coach)

My 3rd grade son, Everett, finished up his flag football season recently.  They had a mediocre season, but more importantly, he learned a lot more about the game of football.  His coaches were three high school football players that chose to volunteer to teach the next generation of players for our local school.  Everett really looks up to them, and they serve as great role models to him!

In the weeks leading up to the first game, I took a backseat…allowing the coaches to work their magic and prep these kids for the season.  I wanted to stay out of their way so I wasn’t teaching Everett something that would conflict with their methods.  Once the season started, it was clear that Everett needed a bit of work on the defensive side of the ball.  When the kid he was guarding went for a pass, Everett appeared uncertain of what to do, and how to guard his opponent.  When a kid was running the ball, Everett would basically get out of his way and gently grab at his flag on the way by.  In Everett’s defense, he has watched some guys get obliterated on the field while watching games on TV, and no one wants to get bowled over like that!

So, we went to work.  On evenings that he wasn’t at practice, we were out in our yard working on defense.  I coached him on passing plays to keep the player at his hip, defending the pass and not losing his man on the field.  On running plays, I coached him to hold his ground, knowing that in flag football, they don’t bowl the other guy over, they dodge the defender.  Once he understood the threat of being flattened was gone, he began to catch on.

Mid-way through the season, he began to gain confidence, and hence, he began to pull flags.  At practice with his coaches and with me, he wanted to get better.  He wanted to help his team, he wanted to win games.  In order to do that, he knew he had to step up his game on defense.  While far from perfect, by the end of the season, he was holding his own on defense and they ended the season on a high note by winning their last game!

As Pat Riley states, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”  Often, we admire an athlete at how good they are at their craft.  But what we often fail to remember is the reps that she completed in the weight room, at practice, the nutrition plan she has followed, and the myriad of other things that made her able to compete on the field.  The same is true for a teacher, or a nurse, or an architect.  They show up.  They strive to get better, to leave their mark on this world, to leave the world a better place than they found it.  They strive.  And day by day…moment by moment…it happens.  Excellence.  Gradual, but sure.  Like compounding interest over a lifetime, the tribute to their work shines through the purpose they fulfilled.

Today, be excellent.  Be kind.

Strive to do better…

Excellence awaits…