Life Lessons from Sports - Little Things Matter

Life Lessons from Sports

Lesson #3 - Little Things Matter


Most athletes could easily share a vivid personal example of this huge truism. Me, you ask? I tagged up and sprinted home with the winning run before the outfielder caught the fly ball. Yep. Sure did! My little lapse of concentration cost us the game. And I got tagged with an unflattering nickname - “Joe, leave-too-early, Flatt.”


I think you know how this ends. The small thing or the sum of small things often has huge repercussions - either positive or negative. Perhaps it was just a failure to block out that led to a put back by the opponent. On the other hand, it was  your textbook box out that gave your team another possession. A simple basketball fundamental at work. Or maybe the small thing is setting a screen or not. Or floor spacing or not. Or defensive rotation or not. Or defensive help or not. Or a jump stop or not. Or making a free throw or not. Or going to the floor for a loose ball or not. Or paying close attention or not as the coach draws up a play during a critical time out. Or communicating with your teammate or not (“I got the shooter”). All small things. But the game or perhaps the season can turn either way on only a single such small thing.


Think I’m making too much of this? It was the 1993 NCAA championship game. Michigan was down 73-71 when All-American Michigan sophomore Chris Webber rebounded a missed free throw, dribbled up court and called a timeout with 11 seconds left. The problem was that Michigan had no timeouts left. Technical foul. Turn out the lights. North Carolina wins. Yes, Chris Webber was a fabulous player. Yet, rightly or wrongly, he is widely remembered for this one “little” blunder.  


Now, here is a simple observation. Daily life is packed full of ho hum tasks, responsibilities, and circumstances. Little things that actually can make us or break us.  These things can easily trip us up big time. A little thing like missing the due date for paying a bill can mean a hefty late fee, a hit to your credit score, and higher interest when you next borrow money. Turning in assignments late might mean sinking grades or maybe even a lost college scholarship. A simple word of encouragement could win you a friend for life. Dressing appropriately for the interview has meant the difference between a job or continued search. Something as mundane as keeping your space and stuff organized usually means fewer embarrassing “I can’t find it” or “I didn’t know” admissions.


So from my vantage point, it seems that if you understand and do the little things in the game, you will give yourself a better shot at doing the little things in the rest of life as well. And believe me, the little things may be small but they are not insignificant! Again, your athletic competition is a great training ground for life!


If there is any doubt about this idea that small things really do matter, please consider the principle that Jesus uses when he taught his disciples about managing money. ”He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11 "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12 "And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12 NAU). Or “…Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much…” (Matthew 25:21 ESV).


Talk about doing little things being a proving ground. Wow!