What My Son And An NBA Icon Taught Me About Life

At ten months, my son took his first steps. As I sat on the floor, eyeing the carpeted chasm between myself and him; and as he clung to his mother, nervously and enthusiastically cheesing as he pondered the steps toward me, I had the thought pointed in his direction: You have to first let go to get to where you want to be. 

Coach Tom Landry provided me with one of my favorite quotes. “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do to achieve what they want to achieve.” I am my son’s father, his coach, his leader, and as such it is my role to challenge him in the direction he might not want to go so that he can achieve what he wants to achieve. I have to teach him to let go of certain habits, mentalities, or comforts so that he can grasp onto other, more important things.

But I am also the coach of myself, and that is a truth that I often forget to apply.

The Player-Coach

On June 26, 2017, NBA historical icon, Bill Russell received the Lifetime Achievement Award from a panel of decorated basketball stars. From 1958 to 1969, the 6’9” center had dominated the court, leading the Boston Celtics to eleven NBA championship titles. His impact was so great that in 1966, Russell became the first African-American coach in a major professional sports league. And not just as a coach–as a player-coach. Yes, he played on the team that he coached. At the same time.

Like Russell, maintaining personal mental health requires the coaching of self, and it also requires being engaged in action. You are in the game, sweating, fighting, and working toward victory, while needing to have direction, a plan, and the discipline it takes to achieve your goals. You are a player-coach. Too often, we play the game, leading others but fail to lead ourselves. And the thing that is most in our way of success is that which we have the hardest time letting go. That thing is different for each of us. What habit, mentality, or comfort do you struggle to release in favor of healthy progress? Letting go of that thing in order to achieve success can be the most difficult step toward progress, but it is the most valuable.

As the player, take baby steps; one step at a time. As the coach, push yourself to go where you might not want to go; and do what you don’t want to do in order to achieve what you want to achieve. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you venture forward as the player-coach of your life.

Direction: What Is The Goal?

First of all, recognize your goals. For my son, his goal is to be able to walk independently. For you, the goal might be to finally see a doctor or a therapist, or to be more physically active, or open up to a friend about deep struggles. Maybe you’re goal is as simple as wanting to initiate with a friend, break out of the cycle of depression and anxiety, or just getting up and out of the house for a day. Perhaps there is a quick tip that you want to apply or another goal that is on your mind. Whatever your objective is, recognize it, own it. Establishing a vision is the first key to being a successful player-coach.

Plan: How Do You Get There?

Now, make a plan. Determine the key players (the nouns: people, places, or things) in your life that can motivate you toward achieving your goal. Bench the losers who are slowing you down, and recognize your all-stars. Make an achievable game plan. Take control, see the end, and create the way to get there.

Discipline: Of What Do You Need To Let Go?

Lastly, let go. It’s frightening, even nauseating at times, but it’s what needs to happen. Do what you don’t want to do so you can achieve what you want to achieve. After identifying the negative habits, mindsets, people or things that hold you back, let go. Take the step of faith, and learn from the wisdom of Nike, “Just Do It.”

So, what is that habit, mentality, or comfort that is keeping you from achieving your goals or taking the necessary steps toward progress? Be a player-coach. Recognize your objective, create a plan, and finally let go.


If you need help creating a plan toward your goal, reach out to someone! Maybe that someone is me–comment below or visit my contact page!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s