Our focus this week in practice has been diligence -- the earnest and persistent application to an undertaking ... a steady effort ... and my favorite working definition: an overwhelming, laser-like attention to the mundane. Unsexy work. Boring and rudimentary, but the stuff of championships, I am convinced.
A lot of teams agree to diligence in theory. Everybody wants to run a pretty play. Every athlete wants to block a shot. Every shooter wants to drain a 3. And diligence is a necessary part of being able to do all of those things. But real diligence -- in its pure and pervasive form of practical application is a different story. Not everybody wants to yell out “right lane” every time they take off down the floor. And not everybody wants to stay in a defensive stance (especially when they’re three passes away) or run a convicted cut when they’re 99 percent sure they’re not going to get the ball. That’s diligence with arms and legs. That’s earnestness in the mundane. And that’s dull and boring toil to all but those who have a greater calling than the work itself.
Yet, diligence just might be the secret ingredient of a gym filled with rare air.
I love practice. Always have. It’s my very favorite part of this thing I get to do. But this season’s practices have been laced with something extra. We have five new freshmen, a sophomore transfer, a redshirt freshman, a redshirt sophomore, two juniors and a senior class of four. The balance of what we know and what we don’t know we don’t know is oftentimes comical. And yet there is very little difference between what all the guys wearing jerseys are willing to do. Their ‘want tos’ line up in uncanny synchronicity. What manna for the leaders in our gym.
I’ve always felt that you could tell a lot about the quality of a home by the way you feel when you walk in the door. Some places just wrap themselves around you. It might have to do with the décor or the lighting or the size of a space. But often it just boils down to the quality of the air. I remember clearly how it felt to walk in the back door of my Granny’s and Papa’s house when I was growing up. Sometimes it smelled like chocolate chip cookies, occasionally like Easter eggs my brother and I hid in the house and failed to find, but always it felt like a place I really wanted to be. The air just wrapped itself around you and made you want to stay awhile.
That’s how I feel when I walk into our film room or our locker room or our practice court. I want to set up shop and stay awhile because it feels like such important stuff is growing there. We’re trying hard to get better at defending ball screens and we are blocking out every day like our lives depend upon it, but it is the spirit of diligence that our guys are currently willing to entertain that augments our air. The way they are together -- all their individual earnest pursuits of the mundane inextricably linked just sort of descends on you when you’re with them. And I find myself daily wanting to go wherever it is their spirits are headed.
So far the water has been pretty quiet, but the choppy waves are headed our way this weekend with potential tsunamis en route on down the line. The real test of our diligence will come then. But we couldn’t be on firmer footing as we prepare to face what’s headed our way.
We won’t be perfect, ever. But that’s not the goal. Diligent pursuit of excellence is.