Vols / Calipari / Leadership – Jeremy Austill

Last night was fun. An unheralded and unranked Tennessee Vols basketball team defeated the future NBA player laden Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky fans will point the rafters in Rupp Arena and their historical dominance over the Vols in an effort to soothe their pain. That’s fine. It’s not the first time a fanbase resorted to the past to feel better about a present loss and it won’t be the last. Whatever makes you feel better…As a Vols football fan, that’s about all we’ve been able to do for the better part of a decade. Nonetheless, last night was fun.

In the aftermath of a ballgame, as it so often happens for me, my view shifts from the sport to my life. One of the things I love about sports is the many life and leadership lessons found within the details. Last night’s 82-80 win over the “one and doners” of Kentucky was no different. (I like referencing the win and reserve the right to do so several more times in this blog.) Last night’s lesson was not so much found in the underdog victory, tenacious determination or belief against the odds. I noticed something from John Calipari (the coach who lost to the Vols last night 82-80…there it goes again).

To be honest, my perception of Calipari is he is about as trustworthy as a rattlesnake…but that’s not fair. I have never met the man and he has never harmed me in any way. But isn’t it the right of a fan to revile an opposing coach even if they are a saint? After all, where do christian ethics fit into fandom? (Please notice my tongue squarely imbedded into my cheek here.) In the post game press conference Caliper made this statement:

“Tennessee was better than us tonight. They deserved to win the game. It would’ve been a shame if we hit a late 3 and won it.”

On the surface, this is a patently absurd statement for a coach to make. However, in the context of the entire press conference and Calipari’s coaching history, something valuable is revealed. Kentucky plays for Final Fours and National Titles. In the grand scope of Kentucky basketball, losing to Tennessee 82-80 (wink) is rather meaningless. However, it can be valuable to him as a coach to use as a teaching moment. He could be apocalyptic about losing a game or he can keep his eyes to late March / early April and find value in the moment.

Perspective matters. A broad perspective is valuable. At times in life we are captives of the moment. We are so deeply invested in the here and now that every situation seems life or death, success or failure. As a leader, a follower of Jesus and a human we could take a cue from Calipari…yes, today matters…yes, today is a big deal. But there is a bigger picture, a greater prize. Today, whatever it holds, can be perceived as valuable if we keep our eyes and minds conscious of our own version of late March / early April. A loss today does not kill our tomorrow. It potentially serves as a means to that victorious end.

One more thing…Go Vols! 82-80

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