Background: This game was a title match between two of the top 3 teams. The winner would remain undefeated and lead the conference. We came in already having beaten the third-ranked team and on a confidence high. They were the dominant running team; we the dominant passing team. For the entire first half, both teams controlled the other team’s strengths and the score was tied at zero. During an early series in the second half, our opponent scored that leading touchdown.
Breakdown of the Play: I played cornerback with the assignment of covering the receiver on my side of the field on each play or covering an outside run to my side. During the first series of the third quarter our opponent ran up the middle and took the ball easily down the field. Now it was 1st and goal from the 3 yard line. It appeared to be an obvious run play.
That touchdown ended up being the only scoring play of the game and we lost 6-0. My lack of discipline and teamwork cost us the game, the championship and a trip to the state tournament. That was a lot of guilt thrown on one 17-year-old. I was disappointed, my teammates were disappointed, and my coaches were disappointed. Instead of benching me like I deserved, my coach put his arm around me and said, “One bad play doesn’t make you a bad player. We need you for the rest of this game.”
How often as leaders do we take one mistake and make it a final mistake? How often do we let one bad decision define who that other leader or other person will be in our minds? Leadership is about forgiveness. It’s about not defining a person as bad because of a single action. It’s about defining the action and then developing the person to take better actions in the future.
Lesson 1: As leaders and individual contributors we can’t be the hero. We play our part and rely on everyone else to effectively play theirs.
Lesson 2: As leaders, we have to have to understand our team members are not perfect and one bad play doesn’t make a bad player.