Hustle Like It’s the Last Game of the Night

What do you think? One more game or we done for the night?

Can we see the ball? Yea? Then let’s get one more game in!

Sometimes the best inspiration comes when you aren’t even thinking about it, and in this case I was 2 hours into a night of pick up basketball in the neighborhood. I couldn’t help thinking about writing this out and what this thought meant for life and working with my students and staff.

As the sun was setting, I was struck by the intensity of our group. Trying to get in that last game or two before the sun set and before we couldn’t see the ball anymore. Trying to get one more win or one more basket. Hustling when a lot of other guys already left for the night. Pushing for more when there was no reason to and really when no one else would even know (or in this case maybe even literally see) any great play they made.

All of a sudden, I felt like we were in a Gatorade commercial! I could hear a deep-voiced famous actor like Morgan Freeman preaching about “these are the times when champions are made” or “champions are made in the dark, not in the arena.” And yes I know you just read that in his tone, it’s ok. At least that’s how I heard it the other night and it motivated me to hustle even that much more.

True hustle, passion, intensity, dedication, being relentless, grit, sense of urgency, whatever you want to call it, shouldn’t only come in the first game, it needs to show up in the last game. But it only shows itself if you are willing to sacrifice and give your all.

More importantly it only shows up if you are even still in the game! Too many of us go home for the night and count on another day to get a win. Too many of us quit at exactly the wrong time. Right when you think it may be time to end for the night, are you willing to sneak in one more game and push your limits?

Looking around the court, it was great to see a bunch of younger guys (yes, I almost called them kids) still out there, but in many cases they were being out-hustled by the older guys (and yes I’m in that category). On the court, it’s easy to read people and it made me wonder if that’s how they are in real life as well.

Do they hustle and get back on defense or do they give up and just walk down the court?

Do they double down and try again when they miss a shot, or do they yell and swear?

Do they try to do it all by themselves and drive to the lane or take the three ever time down the court, or do they play as a team, pass the ball, and look to help others score?

BJ Armstrong, who played for the 90’s Bulls championships teams, recently discussed Michael Jordan’s tenacity:

“I want these young kids to have that mentality. Jordan had phenomenal talent. He had phenomenal understanding. But he also had a mentality that I haven’t seen. He had a sense of urgency every time he stepped on the floor. These guys now need to take on that challenge.”

I was motivated recently on similar posts about athletics and the metaphors to life by my buddies Hamish Brewer @brewerhm with One More Round and Eric Ewald @EricEwald_Iowa with Just Do It. I thought about what it takes not just to win on the basketball court, but what it takes to win in life. Was I living up to that expectation? Do others? If not, why not?

I think we don’t push all the way sometimes because of one main reason – it hurts. It hurts physically, but depending on your situation, it also hurts mentally and emotionally. Like the quote above, Jordan didn’t just have a physical edge, but he played with a mental edge which was what really made him the champion he was. Like this Gatorade commercial, the true test is when life get’s tough:

Over the last few years, our students’ performance results have increased to that championship level and when I think about why, this piece keeps coming back. Our teachers and our students push the hardest when it hurts the most. No one quits on each other. No one quits on our students. I know it hasn’t been easy. I’ve seen the hurt. I’ve seen the pain. But I’ve also seen the tenacity of champions and the hustle late into the game.

If it’s getting dark and it starts to hurt, then you are in the right place!

Now is the time. Now is the place.

How bad do you want to be successful for your team and for your students? How far are you willing to go for a child? At the end of the day, are you on your own, or are you working as a team doing whatever it takes together?

Work hard every play!

Never give up on your team!

Be relentless the entire game!

Hustle like it’s the last game of the night!