The Story of How I Learned to Play Offense Again

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Most of my childhood was spent playing sports. As a younger kid, basketball was by far my favorite. I would get home from school, go outside, and shoot hoops until it was dark out. I would end every session on a three point “game-winner”. I’d imagine it was the buzzer beater shot and I would hype myself up. When the shot finally sunk through with a swish, I would jump up and down with the triumph that I had done the impossible. I wouldn’t allow myself to leave on a missed shot or a lay up, that was too easy. I needed to prepare for my moment.

In basketball I always played the point guard. I loved this position because the game felt like it was within my control. When we were down by five points, I didn’t have to wait on anyone else to make things happen, I made things happen.

But when I entered middle school, something unexpected happened.

We had another player move in and our coach thought he was more adept at handling the ball. I was a bit upset (as I had always been point guard), but I adjusted to my new position because I wanted to be a team player. I told myself shooting guard wasn’t that bad, but inside it stung worse than I would admit. It hurt knowing that I was no longer tempo creator. I felt demoralized inside. It was the first major heart break of my life.

Little did I know this moment would have a slow ripple effect that would change the next few years of my basketball playing career. I gradually quit going outside to shoot hoops on my own, as I had done for many years. I let the coach’s voice telling me I wasn’t good enough, get to me. I told myself I should start focusing more on baseball, since I would never have a future as a pro basketball player. Instead of using the coach’s doubts as motivation to get better, I let it become a hindrance and excuse to not pursue what I wanted most.

However, the problem with my shift in mentality was that I lost so much of my love for the game when I switched from point guard to shooting guard. I became known as a “defensive player” on the court and not an offensive guy. I was encouraged to pass the ball off to my team mates to score and I was left guarding their ball handler or highest scorer. I didn’t mind contributing to my team in this way, but I missed being the “go-to guy” on the court. I missed making the game winning shot, controlling the tempo of the game, and knowing I had the power and ability to create change on the court.

Once I got to high school, my reputation as the “defensive guy” only escalated. I was encouraged to not take many shots and coach even had the tendency to pull me out of the game if I tried handling the ball too much. As a result, I became meek and timid on the court. I would pick up my dribble way too early and always felt like my offensive skills were non existent. In fact, because I had such little confidence in them, my offensive skills WERE non existent.

I slowly lost my love for the game of basketball because it turned from a game of possibilities and game-winning shots, to a game where I was left to react to the moves of the opposing player. When you’re main priority is to play defense, you are left only to react to the plays run by the opposing team. Sure, you still have to be quick enough to react and keep up with the tempo, but ultimately the game is not within your control.

defensive
Playing Defense in High School

As an offensive player, you are the creator of the game. You control how fast the game moves. You call the plays that your offense runs. You have the ability to not call a play at all, and instead take the ball straight to the basket. You write the destiny of your team and when the end score is not in your team’s favor, there is very little to blame but your own capacity to guide your team.

The offensive player’s unique capacity to create something out of nothing is the sole reason we are so in love with them. The men like LeBron James, Tony Romo, and Michael Jordan, they have always been the offensive geniuses, the makers of the game. Their brilliance for “making things happen” is the reason why we can easily name leading offense players in all sports, but struggle a bit more to talk about the defensive players. Yes, we still need solid defensive players, but most of the time offensive leaders are the ones with the highest pay checks and most purchased jerseys.

The shift to a defensive player in my own world carried over to much more than the basketball court. In other sports I felt myself contributing less and less on the offense, and once I graduated from college I took a defensive approach to my career. I went into sales. As much as I wanted to be an entrepreneur and writer, I didn’t take the position of an offensive player because I didn’t feel quite adequate yet. Perhaps I wasn’t brave enough or I let the voices of others convince me I was meant only for defense, whatever the reason was, I seemed to listen.

When I decided to quit my sales job and pursue a career in writing and entrepreneurial things I felt immediate push back from those who knew me.

“Heath, you’re so good at sales. Why would you quit to go pursue something unknown?”
“I don’t think of you as a writer, you belong here.”

The voices telling me I didn’t deserve to play offense sounded so much like the voice of my seven grade basketball coach, telling me I didn’t belong at point guard. Stick to defense, it’s safer there. Leave point guard to the person who can handle it most.

Now that I’ve been “making it” for the past year as a writer, film maker, and entrepreneur, I no longer doubt where I belong. I feel the young basketball player inside of me thriving once again. I feel myself not wanting to leave the court until I sink my last three pointer. Except for the court is now my life and the three pointer is now my writing and creative projects.

I realized that it has always been my choice to either play offense or defense. Now when obstacles present themselves in my life, I don’t become discouraged and doubt myself. I use those obstacles and barriers to become better and lean into the resistance. In every area of my life I strive to play an offensive role, to create great work, to control the tempo, and be the guy who’s willing to take the game-winning shot and risk it all.

But playing offense is more than just one big choice of what to do with your life, it’s all the little moments in each day that make you either an offensive or defensive player.

The offense is where creation happens.
 Playing offense looks like designing your life, instead of reacting to it. An offensive player doesn’t wake up and immediately check email or Facebook, they read, write, journal, and carefully plan what their day looks like. Why? Because they realize if they don’t take control of the ball in their court, someone else will ask you to help take care of theirs. Your lack of guidance and priority in your own life will always translate to working more for others than you do for yourself. In other words, placing your ultimate happiness in someone else’s hands and hoping they take care of it.

This is the breakdown of offensive vs. defensive in my own life.

Offense in my life= productive creation+ doing things that help me or my marriage succeed.

Defensive in my life= being at the beckoning call of others + over committing + being in constant reaction mode

Offensive Plays

  • Journaling
  • Writing
  • Editing film for our documentary
  • Publishing blogs
  • Writing social media content
  • Outreach to rejection ambassadors (for the book launch I’m working on)
  • Working on the Rejection Gym (online product I’m helping to build)
  • Connecting with influencers and new friends online
  • Strategizing for our documentary, blog, or business
  • Hanging out with Alyssa
  • Reading
  • Calling old friends to visit (or family)
  • Working out (crafting muscle)
  • Learning how to cook different things

 

Defensive Plays

  • Responding to emails
  • Saying yes to more opportunities than I can handle
  • General overcommitting to things (similar to above)
  • Over watching TV (responding to entertainment, instead of creating something of my own)
  • Taking on too many phone calls or meetings (instead, say no and have a clear reason why)
  • Feeling obliged to say yes when people ask for things

 

I strive to spend 70-80% of my time in an offensive mode, although if I’m being honest with myself it’s probably around 50/50 or even more time spent on the defensive. I plan on exploring more ways to spend my time in a creative (offensive) way and would love to know how you do the same. Leave a comment below and tell me how you spend more time focusing on the offense in your life vs. the defense, I’d love to hear!