When friends suggested that we visit Anna Maria Island in Florida for our summer vacation, instead of taking an epic road trip to Austin, Texas that I had been planning for months, I almost scoffed. Then, I saw the pictures… The house was a pale sky blue, and the water a bright grayish green washed up on the white sands mere steps from the back door. On the horizon, the Skyway Bridge rose like a hazy mountain from the gulf flanked by St. Pete and Tampa which looked small and very, very far away. Colorful Adirondack chairs lined the wooden deck. But the clincher for me was the supply of kayaks, paddle boards and bikes at the house. I was tired from a long year of teaching, and all too ready for a rest rather than a serious adventure. By my nature I want to venture out, but this time was different, and a new area with a beach, kayaks, and cold drinks offered enough adventure for me this time. The Coach and I talked it over out on our porch one evening, and knowing that our friends wouldn’t lead us astray, we decided to take their advice.
After arriving in Anna Maria, we sat out back one afternoon enjoying the waves splashing against the shore, playing in the crystal water, and laughing as our boys tried balancing on the same paddle board. Our entertainment was interrupted when our daughter asked for her book to read. Seriously, she wanted to read? Now? I am all for reading, but we were in activity mode, listening to music, playing on the sand and in the water. It wasn’t a time for reading as far as I could tell. Then I saw two young girls at the house next door sitting in their swing chair reading. My daughter had been watching them, and wanted to do exactly the same thing. This got me thinking… how often do we become influenced by those around us? Just as we had been influenced by our friends to visit Anna Maria, and scrap months worth of planning, my daughter was being influenced by the little girls next door .
I’ve been married to The Coach for over 18 years, and have learned many things about personal and team success. One of the things that you need in order to be great at something, is that you should surround yourself with people who influence you to be your best. Sometimes that may be an encouraging voice, but it can also be a brutally honest one. Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Does personal success depend heavily on the company we choose to keep? I would say so. After watching The Coach rise over years of hard work to become the head coach, I have seen people and players come and go. I’ve seen some achieve success, and some fall by the wayside. When I look at what has made some successful, and others less so, I am intrigued by how many of the successful have kept their focus, and surrounded themselves with those who pushed and encouraged them to grow.
Year after year certain players have a huge influence over the team as a whole. These young men aren’t simply athletes, they are intellects. They know the value of relationships, and they are pursuing greatness for themselves and their team. Sometimes they are young men with a strong sense of character, morals and humility. Some are more outgoing (to put it nicely), fun loving and willing to step into the spotlight and force competition among all of the players. Many are willing to learn hard lessons for the benefit of themselves and the team. There should be a good balance of personalities on a team or in an organization. A wise boss once told me, “Surround yourself with people who are strong, where you are weak.” I agree! I also think you should surround yourself with people who are willing to believe in you.
The Golden Lion team is fortunate to have coaches and players who believe in each other’s abilities and talents, and aren’t always trying to “one up” each other. Instead, I have heard coaches tell players to work hard and build on the talent they have. I’ve witnessed players step up and defend one another, and encourage each other when they are discouraged. Young men who have stuck together more like a family than a football team. That’s not to say that always happens, and sometimes The Coach will tell me about players who almost came to blows, or a player who has made such a poor choice for himself, that he can no longer be a part of the team.
Some players and people aren’t willing to change or bend. Some choose to remain with the same group of people who have dragged them down for years. Those are the ones who usually don’t make it. They don’t go on to better things. They never dream bigger dreams for themselves, because they stay within the influence of a circle of friends who don’t believe in them, discourage them, or allow them to be complacent. There’s an old story about crabs in a bucket, and it’s true if you ever have a chance to try it. When one of the crabs tries to climb out, the others reach up and pull it back down with them into the bottom of the bucket. Only the strongest and quickest ones, (perhaps smartest, but I’m not an expert on the intelligence of crabs) make it out.
This leads me to my final question: Why is the football so great in our county? I think the answer is simple, you have four outstanding teams who play against each other and push each other to be better, whether that’s intentional or not. The competition is heated. They are willing to pull for one another when they are playing outsiders, but are bitter rivals when they go head to head. The company we keep can make us greater, or can pull us down. Who do you choose to be around? And who do you choose to influence?