I spoke at assembly this past Monday about making mistakes, and about steps we can take to try to avoid them. My address to the boys appears below. Perhaps it will provide a springboard to further conversation in your household. You’ll note I conclude with some thoughts about the Battalion Ball. If your son is attending this event, I’d encourage you to talk to him about making good decisions so that the event is safe, fun and memorable for all the right reasons.
Thanks for reading,
“Good morning… I trust you all had a restful enjoyable break.
This two-week holiday always seems to arrive at the perfect time, signifying that we’ve managed to make it through another winter, with thoughts of the warm days of spring ahead. The anticipation of better weather is not the only thing I look forward to at this time of year.
For armchair athletes like me, March brings with it, one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. With the NCAA Final Four Basketball Tournament reaching its climax, fans of college hoops like me eagerly anticipate the remaining games and the chance to watch some remarkable athletes in action, ones who don’t play for money but for pride in their school and passion for a sport they love.
To some degree, the world of athletics, especially at the collegiate level, provides a stage through which onlookers can observe important character moments as we watch players and coaches react to adversity and challenge. One such moment occurred in the opening round of the tournament this year during the Vanderbilt/Northwestern game.
Northwestern has never won a tournament game and with 15 seconds remaining in its match-up against Vandy, it appeared as though that streak would continue. I’ll ask the AV guys to run the clip to show you what happened.
You can predict what happened in the final 14 seconds of the game. Northwestern went on to score both free-throws and then held on to record their first tournament victory in the school’s history. Not surprisingly, there has been much post-game discussion about what happened. One reporter described the unfortunate error as one of the worst mistakes in NCAA tournament history, claiming that “Fisher-Davis had committed the biggest basketball sin of all, something drilled into players every day of their lives. He didn’t know the time and score.” (USA Today, March 16, 2017)
Understandably, Fisher-Davis was devastated by the impact of his error. In his words: “I saw him [referring to his coach] point at (McIntosh), but he was just telling me to pick him up (and guard him)… And then I committed a dumb foul. You gotta be smarter than that in that situation… Obviously it’s hard to take. I especially feel bad for our seniors, going out like that, off a play like that.” (The Tennessean, March 16, 2017)
When asked about Fisher-Davis’ game losing error, Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew, who throughout the season had an “at times” rocky relationship with the young Junior, chose to focus on the positive aspects of the situation:
“He made a mistake at the end, yeah, I mean I’m not sure what happened. He’s the type of person that he feels some blame for it. The second half, we had no chance if he didn’t make some of the shots that he did. I just wanted to let him know that, we’re with him no matter what… I’m going to make mistakes and everybody is going to be around me and supporting me and vice versa. That was just how it was.” (Business Insider, March 17, 2017)
Vanderbilt players also conveyed their support for their teammate, acknowledging his great play throughout the rest of the game that ultimately led to them even being close with a tough Northwestern team.
I don’t want to be overly dramatic. After all, we are talking about a basketball game, but I think there are number of valuable life lessons to be learned from the split-second error that cost Vanderbilt an opening round victory.
First, Fisher-Davis admitted he had lost track of the time and score, and that he also misunderstood what his coach was telling him to do. We will all be faced with pressure situations in our lives and during those times, we need to be fully aware of all that is going on around us and we need to communicate with others clearly so that we can make decisions based on understanding and sound judgment.
Second, we will all make mistakes. I make many of them, if you don’t believe me, you can ask my wife and kids who do a very good job of reminding me when I mess up. Fisher-Davis blew it and he didn’t try to shift blame or explain it away. He immediately admitted his error and the impact it had on others. In particular, those most greatly affected, the graduating players with whom Fisher-Davis played, many of whom would never play in a basketball game as important as that one for the rest of their lives. When we do make mistakes, we need to man-up, accept responsibility for them, and do what we can to best manage their wide-reaching impact.
Finally, when the mistakes of others affect our lives, we need to be understanding and forgiving. There is no doubt that Fisher-Davis’ coach and fellow players were feeling extreme disappointment, frustration and anger, yet all of them supported their dejected teammate to the fullest, understanding the situation for what it was, knowing that showing their aggravation and being critical would in no way change the outcome of the game. Learning from our own mistakes, and the mistakes of others is important for growth, but the learning process will only hampered by cynicism, negativity and dwelling on the mistake. There will be times in your lives when you will be adversely impacted by the decisions and mistakes made by members of your family, your friends and other people with whom you associate. How you react during these times will be the best reflection of your character – being positive, supportive and taking steps to move forward always makes the situation better.
I’ll ask the AV guys to play today’s final clip. Some of you may remember seeing this commercial before. I believe Dr. Power showed it a few years ago. I feel its message complements the thoughts I wanted to share with you this morning. Play the clip.
It would be nice to have some sort of a warning system – like a honking horn – to correct us when we’re headed toward making a poor decision, but despite all of the technology out there, there isn’t a device or anything I know of that will prevent us from making stupid mistakes.
Yet, there are some tips that can help us make better decisions, especially in those pressure filled situations:
One: Remember the learning from previous mistakes – your own ones and the mistakes of others.
Two: Trust your instincts. If you feel somewhat hesitant about a decision you are going to make, chances are it’s one you may end up regretting.
Three: Have some forethought. Most teenage boys (and some 50-year-old men like me) aren’t necessarily known for projecting too far ahead, or for thinking about the consequences of the choices they make. Considering the potential impact of our actions before we take them often contributes to making better decisions.
This Friday is the Battalion Ball, and like any other year, many senior boys will be attending this annual memorable event. I urge you to carefully consider your decisions in preparation for the evening so that it’s memorable for all the right reasons. Carefully consider your own decisions and be good teammates – supporting others in making their own good decisions and collectively trying to minimize mistakes that might be made.
Be safe and have fun.
Thanks for listening.”