Being a part of something small is easy and can offer success. There are guys who deliver in a big way on the small stage. This past year I’ve seen first hand how guys can be spectacular on the small stage and occasionally step up in big situations but for some reason they melt down when given the biggest of stages.
In order to make history you have to be willing to accept a challenge, meet it head on, and excel in the process. What does that mean? It means that the people who lead have to be able to lead and carry when the opportunity presents itself. The biggest knock on Lebron James was that he couldn’t lead and win the big game so he joined Dwyane Wade so D Wade could pull him through the big moments. What we learned was that the problem was never Lebron, but that his teammates weren’t ready for the big stage. They weren’t ready to handle the moment when given the opportunity. How do we know this? Because if you look at Lebron’s stat line in those loses, he was better when he lost than when he won.
Small schools have the same conundrum. They have a bunch of players who were passed over by big time programs and for some of them it was a good thing because they got the opportunity to be the big fish in the small pond. For the most part they excel in that area, but how will they respond on the big stage. When given the opportunity to win the big game will they step up or will they melt down? Can they pull their teammates who were never even considered for the big stage with them?
The true mark of a great player is that the stage is never too big for them. It doesn’t matter how big the moment is, they never let it be bigger than they are. They don’t let the nervous energy derail them, they step up. They don’t let the circumstances surrounding them dictate their impact, they find a way to make one. They don’t let adversity get the best of them when the tide starts to wash them in the wrong direction, they find a way to stay the course. In the end, the true mark of a champion is having the ability to get up one more time than they can be knocked down.