VSHS Athletic Banquet 2015

The last thing I want to do is make this about myself, but I’m going to sort of start off that way so bear with me. I promise there’s a point at the end. The best way I can tell you what I've learned is to tell you little about where I've been.

89–30. That was my record as a Lady Bison. That works out to about a 75% winning percentage during my four years at Harding. That’s not a bad number when you consider the large number of changing variables that occur from game to game, much less from year to year, in college basketball. But I want to tell you about a much more meaningful stat.

146–22. That was my record as a Lady Tiger. From 8th grade to my senior year, we won a lot of games during my time here. 87% of the time to be exact. You can’t tell me that’s a coincidence that the records are close to the same.

I don’t say that to brag about myself or even to validate my presence behind this podium tonight. I say that to brag about the people in this room. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to speak in front of all of you and not tell you how thankful I am for the impact so many of you had on my life. I hope that I stand in front of you tonight as proof that the things you’re teaching are effective.

If you didn't already know this about me, you will by the time I’m done, but I’m a quote person. I probably get that from Coach Jenkins actually. There just aren't many situations in life that a good quote can’t be found to address. One of my favorites is one that says, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Essentially, there is no such thing as luck. There is no such thing as a coincidence. When you prepare the correct way, you give yourself a chance to have success when the opportunity arrives. That’s what you all did for me, just as you’re doing for all the athletes in this room tonight, and just like I know you will continue to do for all of the future athletes to come through these programs. That is why I was able to have such a successful career as a basketball player, both while I was here and once I moved on.

You instilled in all me, just as you do in everyone who walks these halls, the desire to prepare as a champion. To develop the mindset of a winner, which is invaluable to any athlete. And I would argue is invaluable to every person in general. I truly believe it’s what separates winning and losing..and, trust me, it’s a fine line that separates the two.

It was here that I learned what I would consider to be the most important lesson you can learn as an athlete. And that, of course, is the way in which you play the game. Yeah I know, it sounds cliche. And it probably is. But I want to take it one step further.

It’s not just the way in which you play the game, it’s the way in which you prepare for the game. On the days you’re sick, the days you’re tired, the days when you've got a million other things going on that seem so much more important. How do you respond then? Do you still do that last rep?

Champions don’t just touch the line, they touch an extra foot past it just to make sure they don't miss it.

Let’s take it even further. It’s also the way in which you respond after playing the game. I want to say that it’s easy to act right when you win, but I don’t think that’s true for a lot of people today. We see it on TV all the time. Professional athletes who get attention for acting absurd after a victory. Yet, what bothers me more is how often I see it at the end of small town athletic events. How many people take winning as an opportunity to degrade their opponent? As if beating them at a GAME makes them any less of a human being than you are.

Champions win with humility.

If winning is that dangerous, then comes the question of how do you act when you lose? Are you able to do so without resentment and anger? Or do you allow losing a game to cause you to treat your family badly? To be rude to your parents or blame your teammates. Because we all know that they’re all considered family.

Champions lose with grace.

If my time being an athlete taught me anything, it was that I found a lasting happiness in improving myself as a person off the court..whereas I could only find momentary happiness in improving myself as a player to help me compete on the court.

This past season at Harding we had a theme: Legacy. Ever since last June when I learned that’s what it would be, I've thought a lot about what it means to leave a legacy, about what it takes to be a legend. As the season went on, my views about it changed. They've also changed since it ended. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say tonight, it’s what kept coming to mind.

This is an awards banquet. A time to come together as a community to memorialize what a special year it’s been and to recognize all of the incredible people who were a part of it. To give tribute to the accomplishments of both teams and individuals. Everyone wants to be remembered. Everyone dreams of being a legend. It’s simply human nature.

Another favorite quote of mine is from the Sandlot. I really hope at least most of you know where I’m going with this. If you don’t,you should. It goes, “There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.” Most people stop there when they quote this, but there’s a little more to it. He continues on to say, “..follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”

And that is exactly my point for tonight. It’s all about heart. It’s not about a win/loss record. It’s not about how many championship games you win or how many rings you get to wear on your fingers. It’s not even about how many banners you hang up in the gym. I know that’s basically blasphemy in front of all of you coaches in the room, but deep down we all know it’s true.

None of it means anything if you don’t have heart behind your actions. I've been a part of a lot of championship games. I can’t tell you how many points I had in any of them. But I could tell you who was by my side in all of them. I've got quite a few rings that I get to wear around. I rarely wear my rings in my daily life though. But I do I think about all of my teammates I won those rings with on a very regular basis. There’s even a banner on that wall in the gym with my name on it, but I would trade its presence there in a heartbeat for just one more game with that team.

My advice to all of you athletes is this: don’t strive to be a legend. Don’t play the game in a pursuit to be remembered. Don’t rob it of its beauty in that way. That path just leads to have a bunch of dusty old trophies to show your kids some day that no one really cares about anymore.

Instead, play to be a role model for someone younger than you. Do it to teach yourself discipline and perseverance and integrity and work ethic and loyalty. Do it to be the best teammate you can possibly be. Invest in the relationships you get the opportunity to be a part of as a result of the game you love to play.

If you do that, you can trust me that the awards and the accolades will come. Even if they don’t come in the form of trophies or rings or banners. They may come in the form of the life skills you developed or the knowledge that you impacted someone else’s life for the better. You will be remembered for so much longer, because you will be remembered as more than a number on a jersey or a stat line in a newspaper. Instead, you will be remembered for the kind of heart you have.

I’m going to throw one more quote at you and then I promise to stop. It says, “Our fingerprints never fade from the lives we touch.” I've found that being an athlete allows you to touch a far greater amount of lives than you would be able touch otherwise. It opens doors to places you wouldn't expect or couldn't even dream of. Use that to the best of your ability. Touch as many lives as possible with a determined heart and a humble spirit, and I promise that you will leave a lasting legacy wherever you go in life.