Sunday spotlight: Letter to the Underdog (A note to all state tournament participants)

Dear Athlete,

 They say with great success comes great responsibility. Cliché, yes, but they were not kidding…. they can’t teach you how to handle everything that comes with winning. They can’t teach you everything that’s comes with losing either. They can’t prepare you for the hatred and support, or for basketball fans to forget that you’re a human being, that you are here for more than their entertainment. Now the test begins... you’re entering the the pressure test, no one can prepare you for everything that will come. The work you put in throughout the season is the only thing you can ride on now.

You came into the season with team and individual goals. Both were considered “lofty” because you were overlooked before the season even started. But you are used to this. You’ve been an underdog your entire life, or in other words, your whole life has been full of Goliaths. You were always overlooked, never passing the “eye test.” 

But you didn’t let those doubts define you. Look where you’re at now! In the state tournament. They said you wouldn’t make it. But just like David, you have conquered that, despite everyone telling you, much like they told him, you would fail. You carry that wherever you go and you never forget it.

You knew these team and individual goals were another Goliath, and they could be conquered. You wanted to make it to the state tournament, you achieved that. You wanted to lay it all out on the line for your team, you accomplished that, you want to lead your team to success. You and only you can dictate that outcome. You not only proved everyone wrong, but you proved yourself to be right. On top of all of that, you committed to a journey, to a team. Along this journey you will have encountered many trials and tribulations that ultimately will form you into the man/woman you are today. But no journey is traveled alone. The people standing next to you in the locker room have sacrificed just as much as you have. 

Not everyone knows, but odds have been against you since the beginning. Let people throw throw dirt on your name. They weren’t with you during the hours and hours you spent in the gym. Despite that, you kept pushing. They weren’t there every time the pressure seemed to consume you, but you kept pushing. They weren’t there when you believed that your higher power didn’t have your back, but you still kept the faith. No one knows what sacrifices you’ve made to get here. 

In order to have what you truly want, you must first be who you truly are! Look at the name across your chest. Remind them who you are. You’ll realize that everyone isn’t a part of your story, because they don’t know your story. And they don’t need to.

“Tough players walk in with the mentality to WIN ANYWAY, regardless of the odds.” Tough times never last, but tough people do. You will have to buckle down and find your happiness in the game. Remember why you chose to play with the best team you’ve ever played for, full of the greatest people you’ll ever encounter. They have your back, your family has you back, your coach has your back. And you are a child of God—“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for YOU are with me” Psalms 23:4. 

You have always been a believer that pressure is just a figment of your imagination, as is fear. It only becomes real if you let it. If you begin to think too much about the past or the future, or what people think, it can become very real. Don’t buy in now. They’re sleeping on you, let’s wake them up. Don’t feed into it now.

Stay humble and respectful. You chose to to be in this position. Be humble in victory, give God all the glory. You wanted the throne now you have to prove you deserve it. You put the blinders on and focus on the end goal. I beg of you not to buy into the lies now. Greatness isn't achieved when the game is won. It is achieved in the anonymous places where pain and failure tells you to quit, where circumstances say give up. Where the tears seem like they won't end, and after its best shot you tell failure it cannot have you- and you stand triumphant as the victor. Stand tall and win! 

This is a chance to shut them up. You will encounter many defeats but you must never be defeated. You have accomplished so much already. This will be moments game in your career. . What’s stopping you? 

If you are looking for an excuse, you will always find one. If you are looking for an opportunity, you will always find one. You asked for this opportunity to make noise. Here’s your shot. Don’t waste it.

Greg Kahler