I grew up with two older brothers who were involved in sports from an early age: baseball, football, basketball, soccer, wrestling; you name it…I was the obedient little sister sitting in the stands during cold football games and in smelly gyms.
However, my dad (through all his great intentions) just couldn’t get me to love playing sports. During my one year of softball, I stood in the outfield and played in the sand. During soccer, I just ran around to make it look like I was doing something. My dad almost jumped out of his skin when I told him I was interested in tennis…only to quit after my first lesson.
It’s not that my dad wanted me to be a star athlete (because by no means did I have the drive to be); it’s that he wanted me to learn valuable lessons he knew he may not be able to teach me as well as team sports could.
One of those lessons is responsibility.
Some of the most inspiring stories that come out of high school football are when the coach lets the third string wide-receiver go into the game during the final quarter, with seconds to go and sets him up to score the miracle touchdown. The crowd (and Facebook shares of the video) go wild!
I was, at one point, that third string wide receiver. I was the kid with no apparent talent or gifting, just on the team because I loved the game.
But once upon a time, someone saw something in me – something I couldn’t see in myself.
And she put me in the game. She had a faith in me that gave me the fuel to step into something totally foreign, something totally beyond what I thought I could achieve; and with seconds to go she set me up to score the winning goal.
She believed in me enough to give me responsibility.
She took great risk in appointing me to a leadership position that would: a) take tasks and control away from her and b) put the spotlight on me, the girl with little to no evidence that I could succeed. And wouldn’t you know, I succeeded. Why? Likely because I had her confidence in me. She believed I had the ability, the skill and the passion to try something new. Because of that belief, I blossomed and realized I had a talent I didn’t know I had. That talent has, in turn, allowed me to find strength within myself to continue to pursue new goals and more opportunities.
So what can we all learn from this?
To the leaders (coaches) – you should take a risk on that third string wide receiver. Someone took a risk on you once, putting you in a position where they (and maybe even you) weren’t sure if you’d succeed. Now you are in a position to do the same for someone else. Give them responsibility and watch them take that small seed and grow it into something amazing.
And to the third string wide receivers – prove yourself worthy of responsibility. Work with excellence no matter the task. Be dependable and reliable regardless of the sacrifices you have to make. Be willing to learn and let others see in you the things you can’t seem to find in yourself. And trust your coach’s leadership! Step into something beyond what you think you can do, and take it on with the energy as the final seconds count down, and the game is coming to a close.
Great leaders take responsibility and give it. Be great!