I love sports. Always have. Since growing up as a kid, it was the ultimate challenge. Competition meant the opportunity to demonstrate skill, strength, and cunning against your opponent. It meant escaping a tackle and running for a touchdown, or hitting the pitch over the fence. It was an opportunity to see if I could get better. It presented a life lesson of practice. Practice makes perfect as the cliché goes.
I also learned from sports to embrace competition. It was the only way to get better. When playing tennis, I needed a stronger opponent to keep me focused in raising my game. Complacency settled in whenever I failed to pursue credible competition.
This past week, we have witnessed the unraveling of an NFL quarterback (and millionaire). With a promising career, Josh Freeman dropped the ball (pardon the pun). But, his story is not that different from countless others in many arenas. It is just his visibility as a sports figure amplifies the lesson.
Josh Freeman has exceptional physical skills. He was a first round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Immediately hailed as a starter and signed to a big contract, his journey begins. Now, he has been replaced and will possibly find himself a back up at best in the NFL. Although many assumed he was a great value as a quarterback, recent reports indicate no NFL teams outside of Tampa consider him a starter. Let’s take a look at the scoreboard.
Number one: Handling Adversity
Freeman was sought out by the Head Coach at the time, Raheem Morris. Their relationship was great. They had three years working together before Morris was fired. The Buccaneers brought in a new coach. For a young professional (football player or not), personnel will change all around you in life. Expecting a constant environment is a mistake. A new head coach proved an adverse situation for Freeman. But, adversity presents the opportunity to refine character and overcome obstacles. It allows us to grow.
Overcoming adversity: Fail!
Number two: Embracing Competition
Competition was introduced at the QB position in Tampa Bay when the Bucs drafted Mike Glennon in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft. It still amazes me that this was approached as an insult to Freeman. I am old enough to remember when Pittsburg drafted Terry Bradshaw, and Terry Hanratty. Bradshaw beat out the favored Hanratty and the rest is history. Hanratty, from Notre Dame, was the odds on favorite for the job. But, Bradshaw embraced the competition and fought for the right to start. He competed rather than surrender an opportunity. Kinda reminds me of the young man who leaves the dance because the girl he brought glances at the upperclassman across the room. When competition enters the room, up your game. One of the misgivings of today’s society is when we are sheltered from competition. It offers opportunity to grow.
Embracing Competition: Fail!
Number three: Lead!
In sports as in life, there are leaders and followers. Some positions are predisposition to a need for leadership. Quarterback is one of them. Your personality has little to do with it. If you are a quarterback, you should be your team leader. And leadership comes from your actions, not your title. Indifference is not flattering for a leader. Sleeping late and responding to interviews like, well, like you don’t care, speaks volumes to a team. If you don’t care, they don’t care. But, trust me, if they want to win, they want somebody who cares. If you think you are leading, and no one is following…actually you are just taking a walk.
Number four: Accept Correction, and Get Better
How you handle correction helps you steer more quickly to success. If you cannot be told no, or sat on the bench, then you will always attribute blame to others and seldom get better. Remember the cliché is ‘Get Better, Not Bitter’? Challenge yourself. If someone feels you’re not the best, prove them wrong. Don’t buy into destination disease that another place, another team is the answer. Your place on the bench isn’t just because, ‘Somebody didn’t like you’. Apply yourself at a new level.
Accept Correction, and Get Better: Fail!
Number five: Own it
Win or lose, own it. Avoiding local media and going to ESPN simply reaffirmed Freeman is not the man for Tampa. Maybe this was his agent, who is now desperate because his ill advice this offseason now means dollars lost for Freeman. The ESPN was actually the anti-announcement of Lebron. Even ESPN must be rethinking this idea. Regardless, you owe it to your team to own it. Life as well as sports, requires team effort. Teams are not looking for players who disappear from responsibility.
Own it: Fail!
I just want to add that the reason I write is to help and inspire others to a higher level. It is not my intention to ‘bash’ Josh Freeman. Rather to use this example as an educational opportunity for those wishing to succeed. Since 1976, I have pulled for every player that ever played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even if they were not my favorite player. I respect owners and coaches who make their decisions with much more information than I am privileged to possess. This I do know. If you wish to be successful in a competitive world, Josh Freeman has offered a great example of what not to do.
Written by James Anderson
James Anderson writes and creates media for leadership and coaching