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Our Spiritual Athletic Journey
7 Powerful Messages to help you take your game to The Highest Level
By Rodney Scharboneau
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Rodney Scharboneau
All rights reserved.
Stop Competing, Start Creating
There are only spiritual solutions; there aren't any other solutions.
How should we view competition in a spiritual way? Consider the example of an apple pie. Those who approach their lives competitively would likely say there is a limited number of pieces in that pie, so if they want more than one piece, they must figure out how to gain another by outworking others. Does this sound familiar? I've spent a lot of time in competition, and I'll bet you've spent your fair share of time as well. Competitive people will look at the pie, study its size, and devise a well-thought-out game plan for getting as much of it as they can. They may say, "If I want more, I need to take more by defeating others—whatever it takes."
But there is a better approach that will not only provide us with abundance, but also bring us closer to our divinity in the process. We can accomplish the goal of getting as much pie as we want and do it in ways that will make the spiritual universe smile. We can have all we need and, in the process, create endless opportunity for others.
Our answers lie in creation. Find ways to replace competition with creation. Create instead of compete. What does that really mean? A champion who creates will say, "If we want more of something, let's get together and create more." Find ways to innovate, develop new ideas and new areas to explore—make a pie so large that it will be in abundance for anyone seeking it.
Replace competition as you've always known it and infuse spiritual creation into all areas of your team sports. The healthiest competition is not about denying someone else a goal; it is about seeing who can be the best at creating an atmosphere, free of fear and full of improvement, that will result in the most individual and team accomplishments. This approach will not only help you accomplish personal and team goals, but also, it will oftentimes lead to overachievement and more wins on the scoreboard.
As coaches, let's find ways to create situations and conditions in which players are focused and free to achieve their best. Making your team, as well as yourself, the best they can be. The striving is in creating, not simply in beating an opponent in a given game on a certain day.
Let me assure you, I'm a competitor. I want to win! Winning contests was a high priority when I was growing up south of Detroit in the 1970s and 80s. If you are my age or grew up in the twentieth century, you can likely relate. We played baseball all summer long, in the fall we played football, and in the winter it was basketball. We always played outside and with friends in the neighborhood. It was a very different athletic sphere from the parent- and coach-organized Amateur Athletic Union and club events of today.
It was a special time in so many ways, full of great memories, big victories, and crushing defeats in a fantasy land of city parks and neighborhood driveways. I will always remember how we used the imposing twenty-foot fence of the city tennis court as our version of the Boston Red Sox left field wall. Baseballs falling out of the sky didn't sit too well with those attempting to enjoy an afternoon game of tennis! But at the time, we just couldn't see their side of it. After all, didn't they know about the Green Monster?
It was also a time and place that didn't hold much compassion for opponents. These outdoor fields and courts were filled with self-centered competition. Winning at almost any cost was pretty much the law of that jungle. Sometimes, fighting (both verbally and physically) was part of the deal. You did what you had to do to hold the court.
All of us have been shaped and tempered as a result of past experiences and challenges. I love my mother, Mary Farley, and my father, Gerald Scharboneau. They did their best as parents to teach their children valuable life lessons and how to be respectful, responsible people. Our circumstances required me, my sister, Robin, and my brothers, Steve and Jerry, to develop an inner toughness that has served us well to this day and is a key ingredient in the people we've become. I am grateful for every experience I had in my childhood. I am a better and tougher person for having had them.
I've now reached a place where words like toughness and competition have taken on a much different meaning for me. Concepts of old-school toughness, aggressive play, and tough love have been replaced by more spiritually powerful ideas: "Let's see how good we can be"; "Push your perceived limits"; "Less is more if it's done with focus and intensity"; "Love tough"; "Compete with yourself to be better than you were yesterday."
Here is what the website Parenting.org found when they asked kids to tell them the top reasons they participate in sports. The answers the kids gave may surprise you.
Note that winning isn't even on the list. I believe this reflects that the respondents called upon what they felt within and relayed what made them feel the best when they played sports. We are listening to and calling on inner spirit when we attempt to put words to a description of what makes us feel good about playing sports.
All of us get caught up in the score of the game. We all want to win, to be competitive, to compete hard, play hard, and be winners. Naturally, the final score is the focal point of any game. But it's only a small part of the universal and spiritual reasons for play.
The next time you coach, spectate at, or participate in a sporting event, ask yourself: "Why are we really here, together, in this place, right now, on this field or court?"
Approaching the contest from a place of spirit puts us back in creation mode. You'd like to create a great goalie, shooter, or pitcher who can throw at 100 miles per hour—that would be a worthwhile creation, you say? Well, I can't disagree, but I am talking about an extraordinary shift in mindset so that you and your team can operate from a place that is aligned with your true self. The goal of establishing a state of creation is to free your team from the competitive constraints of the moment, to create situations within the competition that offer your players the best chance to learn and grow. Ultimately, it's not about winning the battle or struggling to beat the opponent.
Consider this question: Would you honestly attach your self-worth and personal happiness to the scoreboard outcome of a game you played against an inferior team? When we look inward, we realize that what is most important is challenging ourselves to make the next play, the next practice, or the next game better than the previous one.
From a player's point of view, I think finding a way to create a scoring chance for a teammate can prove to be twice as valuable to your team, because it will lift your inner spirit as well as that of your teammates. When we deal with our inner spirit positively, we are in a place with unlimited potential for abundance—and when it comes to scoring in a game, abundance can be a great thing!
Another way to create is to use words that build confidence and self-esteem. Create moments in practice and in games that give players the opportunity to lift their self-image and self-worth. Empower them with difficult challenges; encourage them through each step and proudly review the results.
When we are coaching or playing the game from this place of creation, we are closer to being one with source energy. It is here that we have the best chance at experiencing the feeling that everything is actually possible. This is a safe place where we can let our imaginations have a say; the more the imagination gets involved, the more extraordinary the game will become.
I am fortunate to have had this very experience over my past three seasons helping to coach the girls varsity basketball team at Woodhaven High School in Michigan. Along with the other members of the coaching team, Doug Simons, Mike Brennan, and Brian Marvaso, we decided as a program that we were going to play the game at a very fast pace and try to score as many baskets as we could in each game. We didn't have a lot of great shooters, so we had to be creative in finding different ways to accomplish this. We had to create, invent, and imagine.
Paramount to this effort was creating a safe atmosphere for the players to express themselves, in every way, toward our team goal of scoring the basketball as many times as we could. Let's face it; you can't score if you are afraid to shoot. We made sure they knew that missing a basket was okay as long as it was within our offensive framework and their focus went immediately into rebounding the ball and creating another shot as soon as possible.
We were successful at creating a team culture in which fear and doubt had little chance to take root. We encouraged our players to go for steals, to sprint the floor hard so they could get open for quick shots, and to support one another emotionally with positive energy. We told them to focus on the next play and do all they could to help their teammates do the same.
This system and style of play proved to be very rewarding for everyone. We won games and championships, emotions and hearts, and created an outstanding spiritual team atmosphere. The wonderful result of playing the game from a place of creation is that it also provides you with the best chance at achieving your desired outcome on the scoreboard; you tend to win more.
Our opponents do not set the bar for us. When we step onto the playing surface, we initially react and focus on our opponents and the scoreboard. But this viewpoint is as shortsighted as it is temporary. If we wish to begin the journey to truly improve ourselves and our teams, we need only look inward. The ultimate goal should be to improve as a player, a person, and a team. The greatest respect that we can give to any opponent is to be the best opponent they will face.
When our priority is to create ways to make ourselves better before striving for other goals like winning the game, we are honoring spirit, sport, and our team. When we decide to create and not just compete, spiritual universal forces will align with us. Don't be too surprised if, much of the time, the scoreboard does as well.
Fear, Love, and Our Teams
How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.
Marianne Williamson has said that there are only two human emotions: fear and love. Anytime you are feeling angry, anxious, or worried, you have entered fear and left love.
Which culture are you creating for your team, one of love or fear? As coaches, we need to be aware that an atmosphere free of fear-based emotions like embarrassment, guilt, and rejection will serve us and our team in the best possible way. I would go as far as to suggest that everything we do outwardly—every drill we run, every direction we give, every decision we make, every action we direct—takes us toward one of these two emotions. Ask yourself how much time you are spending in each of these emotional areas.
Fear is aligned with competition. Here is an example of a statement based in fear: "If we don't play hard and beat this team, we won't win the championship. There is only one trophy—we'd better be the ones who come to play so that in the end, we can be the only ones standing and holding that trophy."
Love is aligned with creation. What if the coach said this instead? "Let's come together as a team, like never before, for this one contest. If we can all reach deep inside and bring all of our individual efforts together and play as one, we will be champions today. And after we win the championship, let's spend our time giving thanks and remembering all those who helped us get here."
We need to let our players know that we believe in them. Four of the most powerful words we can use are I believe in you. These words can be the difference between a fear of failure and the courage to try.
Here are some emotions and their contrasting states categorized by whether they are aligned with fear or love. When you find yourself in an area of fear, recognize it and immediately shift to one of love.
Fear limits our minds and thoughts. Bill Meyer put it best when he said, "Every thought is a seed. If you plan on harvesting Golden Delicious, you'd better not be planting crab apples." We feel constricted when we focus on thinking we need to win every game we play, or that we are in trouble as a team because we have injuries. We can go on and on painting bleak pictures if we want to. If we are going to be at our best, we need to recognize fear-based emotional beliefs and constantly be looking to turn them into positive and proactive solutions are attached to love.
Fear is lack of trust in ourselves. It is our job to embrace truth, to know and to trust that we are being taken care of on a higher level. Trust is what we learn when we ignore fear; it allows us to take important leaps of faith. We have to trust that the universe is taking care of us and that everything that happens is part of a purpose much larger than anything else, and especially larger than our fleeting fears about a specific contest. We are supposed to grow and to reach higher to new levels. Oftentimes, as soon as we make the decision to step out in faith, fear shows up to try to stop us. We'll have thoughts such as, "What if I fail? What will other people think? I don't have what it takes." Fear will try to convince us to shrink back and stay where we are.
The Bible says that fear is a spirit that we have power over. We have power over the spirit of fear! Scripture tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. Some people say that fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Understand that fear is a lie and don't buy it.
We have the power to choose love over fear in every moment. Even though we may have temporary moments of negative thinking and doubt, if we just choose to focus on the light, then the fear, like clouds, will pass.
Use daily affirmations to crush fears. Say the right things every single day. Release your fears about the season. Your world, which your team is a part of, is safe and secure. Rise above all attempts to make you angry or afraid. Release past games with ease and trust in what is next. Know that you are always divinely protected.
Choosing love over fear puts us in the best position to win on every level. The universe will notice and send the right breaks and circumstances our way.
One of my favorite quotes about fear is this one from Eleanor Roosevelt: "We gain strength, courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face. We must do that which we think we cannot."
If what you want is to win on the scoreboard and to win the trust and the hearts of your players and teammates, then allow it to come by choosing love-based thoughts, emotions, and actions. Love yourself first and make it your mission to banish fear from your vocabulary and your life.
Dreaming and Pretending— Act as if It's Done
Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back ... play for her.
My uncle, friend, and mentor, Thomas Farley, has been a positive force and inspiration in my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager, he introduced me to the writings of Henry David Thoreau. What a life-changing event that was for me! One of my favorite Thoreau quotes is, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
Our spirituality and our dreams have a relationship. When we are asleep, we feel as if we are in a place that is not of this earth—a magical place where anything and everything is possible. We can all relate to pretending, dreaming of being a famous person, maybe an athlete or a superhero. I have been many in my time. I spent a couple of my childhood summers as Ken Griffey from the Cincinnati Reds. In the fall I transformed into a bevy of wide receivers. I can remember spending the most time as Ahmad Rashad, dancing gracefully as invisible defenders tried in vain to trip me up.
The Michigan winter was welcomed by many imagined NBA players who were at home on the basketball court of my snow-covered driveway. I would play entire NBA games and mimic the mechanics of NBA greats as they tried to drive to the basket or bury a long jump shot.
Excerpted from Our Spiritual Athletic Journey by Rodney Scharboneau. Copyright © 2014 Rodney Scharboneau. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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