I remember the smells, sights and the feeling after all these years. I was a high school sophomore football player about to begin the first day of daily doubles in the hot, August sun.
Ushered into the varsity locker room to receive my practice uniform, I was feeling very intimidated. I knew what was coming: confident, more physically mature athletes, drill sergeant coaches and the extreme elements of late summer. However, I was struck by another feature in that locker room which, in hindsight, has had a more profound and lasting effect.
The walls were decorated with dramatic sports photos and motivational quotes. A sense of awe overcame me as I considered what I was about to become a part of. The previous year, the team had won the state title. The mottoes on the wall had a certain "living" quality about them - more than mere words printed on paper. They had validated themselves through the rewards of their application.
As I progressed through high school, I increasingly found comfort and confidence in the familiarity of that blood/sweat-stained old locker room. In three year's time, I experienced countless chalk-talks, a handful of stirring halftime speeches, many after-game celebrations and a few quiet, dark moments of reflection.
And the words of the wise were always up there—seeming to apply to every situation. Eventually I came to realize they were relevant to more than just football. They were relevant to life.
Those simple locker room slogans have stayed with me and helped me through some rough spots in my life since high school.
And now I sometimes quote them to my athlete sons, getting responses like, "Gee, Pop. That's cool!"
I guess they need to find life's guideposts for themselves.
At any rate, here are some of my favorites:
It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
This Mark Twain gem is the underdog's creed. It reminds me that statistics, reputation and appearance are measurable and therefore fallible. But the heart of a warrior is hidden and not displayed until the time of battle and is often the tipping point in the struggle.
We are not going to play them. They are going to play us.
This Hank Iba quote speaks to me of taking the initiative—of being proactive and not reactive. In my own heart and mind, it gives me the confidence to believe my team is the favorite regardless of the expert's opinion.
One finger can't lift a pebble.
Teamwork. We need each other to accomplish our goal. Even the smallest team objective cannot be completed by one acting alone.
It ain't over 'til it's over.
Yogi Berra, with all his famous bumbling quotes, was never so eloquent than with this jewel. It's the child-like faith which always holds in reserve the question "Why not?" It's the attitude that refuses to throw in the towel, knowing despite the odds, or time remaining or distance to cover, sometimes, through fate or magic or sheer effort, the miraculous happens.
Second place is for the first loser.
Setting one's sights on the highest mark. Anything less is unacceptable. Disappointment will surely follow this rallying cry unless one knows he's got the goods to go all the way—and does!
Perfection is our goal. Excellence is tolerable.
Like the previous quote, it encourages the loftiest goal, then realizes perfection is not an earthly commodity. Excellence is a noble and honorable (and attainable) alternative. Anything less is, well...intolerable.
Between saying and doing, many a pair of shoes is worn out.
This proverb drives home the work ethic. It's often a long journey of studying, training or just plain experience to convert the talk of my dreams into the substance of my reality.
Sports is life with the volume turned up.
As a young high-schooler with most of my life ahead of me, this truism escaped me. Now, many years later, it is foundational to the appeal and draw of sports in my life. I love the parallels. The fact that the world of sport reflects everyday life is reinforced by these simple sayings. I've found their application and results to be beneficial in both worlds.
Do you have a favorite locker room slogan which has helped you along life's path?