What Justin Ricklefs’ didn’t realize when he was playing sports as a youngster, were the life changing lessons he would take with him, and how they would shape him as a man.
The first time I ever played football was my freshman year in high school. The last time was my senior year.
I wasn’t good enough to play in college (see the above picture of me missing a tackle), but I had a good high school career. I’ll never forget when my dad came up to me at the end of my freshman season and said, “You’re 25% of the way through. Make the next three seasons count.”
At the time, I dismissed him and was immediately on to basketball season and girl chasing.
Looking back however, I’m grateful for that one particular life lesson. Playing sports throughout my childhood was primarily for fun, but I now realize how they helped shape and grow me into the man I am today.
I not only learned that one lesson, I learned at least seven of them:
1. Make it Count
My dad was right. I’ll never get those years of high school football back. But I’ll never get today back either. Go hard today, empty your cup and make it count.
2. Look Out for Your Teammates
Teams function better when the group is more important than the individual. Same is true in life, business and home. Build up those around you. Serve others.
3. You Have More In You
Life is hard. When it seems insurmountable, keep moving your feet.
This clip shows exactly what I mean:
4. The Meaning is in the Mundane
Practice, early morning weight sessions, film study. At the time, I couldn’t care less about these things. I simply wanted to play the games.
But life has taught me that most of life happens in the mundane. The day to day.
Don’t miss the daily things while you’re waiting for the big things. Do the work. Prepare in the quiet. And when the lights flip on, you’ll be ready to shine.
5. It’s Worth It
Nothing that’s worth doing will be easy. Marriage, parenting, friendships, career, wellness.
Put in the effort, trust the process, it’s worth the effort.
6. Character is Refined in the Fire
In high school and even now, my temptation is to look for the easy way, the shortcut. To avoid pain. But the hard times bring out the best in us. The fire fortifies average men and turns them into strong, vision-filled men.
7. Have Fun
The first six on this list are great, but they are worthless if you’re not having fun. The most contagious coaches, players, businessmen, leaders, husbands and fathers realize life is too short to not have fun.
Smile. It’s good for you.
(Photo Credit: Author)