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There was a time, many years ago now, when I was young and fit and reasonably athletic and I played Australian rules football.

I was never a great player, having mainly grown up playing basketball, but I enjoyed the experience.

One of the most vivid memories of my fleeting footy career is the feeling you get when the final siren sounds and you walk, or perhaps limp, off the ground.

Footy is a very physical game and the country leagues that I played in were brutal, so you felt as though every bone and muscle in your body had bumps and bruises.

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On my Twitter feed this week, a fellow Tigers supporter posted a photo of the Richmond VFL team from 1919 after they had lost the grand final to their archenemies, Collingwood.

In the photo, every player was beaming and the caption simply said,

Are we downhearted?


What a wonderful attitude in the face of disappointment.

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The fastest runner doesn’t necessarily win the marathon.

It’s the person with the most effective preparation.

The person with the strongest mind who can push through the pain.

It’s the person who can run the hardest for the longest.

Sound familiar?

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This Saturday, my beloved Richmond Football Club has a chance to win their third AFL Grand Final in four years.

After such a tumultuous year, it has been a remarkable achievement from them (and their opponents, Geelong) to make it to the big dance and it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to cement their place in history as one of the great modern dynasties of football.

The Richmond theme song has been heard a lot over the past few years and the war cry of “Yellow and Black” from 100,000 fans makes it one of the most popular reprises in the league, but it’s another line in the song that resonates with me.

“In any weather you will see us with a grin.”

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In 1980, little known guard, Terry Duerod was making his debut for the Boston Celtics late in a game against the New York Knicks.

He took one shot, a jump shot from the top of the key, which rattled against the rim and then fell out.

Feeling slightly dejected in the locker room after the game, the team’s star, Larry Bird, came up to him and encouraged him to take that shot every time.

Duerod was a shooter and it would have been easy to go into his shell after that miss, but in doing so, he wouldn’t have been able to make the most of his strengths.

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As a sports fan, today marks the end of an era.  For the first time in 22 years, the San Antonio Spurs have missed out on a spot in the NBA playoffs.  It’s an extraordinary run that won’t be repeated any time soon and it’s a record that’s made all the more amazing by the fact that coach Gregg Popovich has been at the helm for each of those 22 years.

I’m an unabashed fan of Coach Pop and have admired his leadership and coaching methods for long time, so how did such a great winner respond to his run being broken?

This is what he said:

“I don’t dwell on the past.  I don’t know who won the baseball championship from year to year. Four years ago, I don’t know who won the NBA championship. That stuff is totally unimportant. What’s important is the moment. You do what you gotta do and you move on.”

Yes, it was a great run, but he’s not lingering there.

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Football coach Pete Carroll was once asked, “Pete, which is better: winning or competing?”

He simply replied, “Competing… because it lasts longer.”

You may not feel as though you’re winning at the moment, but you can still compete.

You can still battle.

You can still persevere.

You can still do your best.

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In his wonderful book, The Captain Class, Sam Walker writes:

One of the highest compliments coaches can pay athletes is to describe them as relentless, to say that they just keep coming.  Not every star has this quality.  Some have a tendency to take games off; others shrink in critical situations.

How would your coach or the people around you describe your attitude to life?

Would they say that you are relentless?

That you just keep coming?

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In baseball, when a batter swings and misses, does he give up?

What about if he misses on the second pitch?

Does he walk back to the dug-out, or does he risk three strikes?

What if he does strike out?

When his turn comes around again, does he pick up his bat and go back in?

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My beloved Boston Celtics are on a bit of a roll at the moment in the NBA and I noticed an interesting statistic that mentioned when Jaylen Brown has scored 20 or more points this season, the Celtics are 23-5.

Imagine that.

A player does well and the team benefits.

It seems obvious, but sometimes we forget this important principle and also neglect to apply it in our lives.

I need you to hear this today.

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