Doing Your Best?


I will admit that the movie Facing the Giants is hokey and not the best cinema in the history of cinema. But, I have always loved the death crawl scene. I love the fact that the boy was able to accomplish more than 70-80% more (100 yards vs. 20-30 yards like he said) than he thought he was capable of. I love the fact that the boy used that moment later in the movie to go the extra four downs when he didn’t think he had anything left. I love the fact that the other boys lives were also changed when they saw their leader prove that each of them had more to give than they were giving. But, for some reason, which I now understand, there was something about that scene that bothered me.

Hearing the phrase, “give me your best,” or hearing a student (or anyone for that matter) say, “I did my best,” bothers me because I think the majority of the time we don’t know, nor does anyone, what our best is. The coach says two or three times, “Are you going to give me your best?” and “You’re very best,” to which the players say “Yes!” Then we find out their best was way more than what they thought. So, to be clear, I don’t like that phrase, and I would ask that you not ask your players to give their “best.” The struggle is to choose what to replace it with that fits into our culture and community and that will challenge them without it coming across harsh or dismissive.

During staff training this year Mr. Hinton had a phrase in our handout that gave me my answer. We were discussing a section regarding accepting responsibility for outcomes. The phrase was, “We are not asking you to do your best. We are asking you to find a way.” Let’s unpack that last part a bit. Let’s say a player misses a penalty kick in a soccer match. A common coach comment could be, “Well, at least you did your best.” To me there is a better way. So what if you said “Walk me through your process. Point by point, what you were thinking as you executed your kick (skill).” This is working the problem (as they say in the military) or determining the way the student was thinking about the outcome.

I am seriously thinking about putting this on a sign in our facility somewhere. I really wish you would not say, “do your best,” but rather, “find a way” or “work the problem.” We have to help our students become strategic thinkers in the sports arena just as we are teaching in the classroom. Their futures depend on it!


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