NFL Network’s Danyelle Sargent on What it Takes to Step Up When it Matters Most

“Sports and Life Parallels: Stepping Up to Make the Big Play – When it Counts”

By Danyelle Sargent

One of the things I have always found most interesting in my position as a professional sports journalist, is the many ways in which sports parallels life and how those parallels play out each weekend. Mind you, this is not exclusive to the NFL but holds true for sports in general.

As we watched Week 8 in the NFL unfold this past weekend, we once again saw big players make big plays in big games. We saw leaders like Eli and Peyton Manning do what they do best in guiding their squads to victory. We also saw the emergence of a slew of young and talented players seize opportunities to make big plays.

A couple of weeks ago on my blog, I spoke about how the “routine” play isn’t always a given. Well this week let’s take a look at the “big” play and what it takes to make that play in clutch situations.

Last week, there was much talk surrounding Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver, Dez Bryant, the young and promising talent’s ability to make the clutch catch at the end of the game, and his off the field issues. This past Sunday afternoon against their fierce division rival, New York Giants, Bryant found himself in the position with yet another opportunity to make the big play – the game winning play. After making several key plays throughout the day and with time running out in the 4th quarter, Bryant made a dramatic catch in the back of the end zone to seemingly put his team ahead for good. But as he came crashing to the ground, one of those two hands that snatched the ball out of the air for the TD, unfortunately landed out of bounds before his body landed in the field of play. As the play was reviewed and the ruling on the field reversed, you could see Bryant on the sideline, frustrated, yes – but ready to get out there and make another play. Despite the outcome, Bryant wanted to be in the place with the game on the line. He wanted to be the “go to guy.”

On Sunday, October 28, 2012, the sports universe also watched the San Francisco Giants sweep the Detroit Tigers to win its second World Series championship in three years. As another exciting Major League Baseball Season came to a close, there was no denying the Giants did what they needed to do to in order to be crowned World Champions. This is a team comprised of a passionate bunch of guys who never once doubted their ability to come from behind and win when it counted. And the Team that plays in the City by the Bay proved it by winning three straight games – twice! First, in the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds after falling behind two games to none, then again in the National League Championship Series, ousting the St. Louis Cardinals after trailing three games to one. Riding on superior passion, emotion and a belief nothing would stand in their way, the Giants harnessed that energy and rolled through the World Series in four games.

Pablo Sandoval, the Giants third baseman and MVP of the Series, played four of the best games of his career, hitting three homeruns in the first game of the series, while a stout Detroit team led by Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera and Cy Young winner, Justin Verlander, along with powerhouse Prince Fielder, was silenced by the orange and black attack from San Francisco.

These are just a couple of examples of athletes who when finding themselves in position to make “the big play” on the world’s biggest stages, find a way to do just that. In spite of the outcome, they are determined to make the plays that inspire a team and help lead them to victory. There are countless examples, yes, but the takeaway here is how can you apply this to your life, your job, your family, etc.?

Just how do you put yourself in position to achieve greatness?

I believe the following five points are instrumental to getting one focused in that direction:

  1. Believe in yourself and tell yourself that no matter what the obstacle or challenge in your path, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals. When you carry yourself with a confidence that cannot be denied, it will carry over and positively influence your teammates, co-workers, family, etc.
  2. Stay focused on your goals and eliminate the distractions. You will have critics telling the world what you can/can’t do, making predictions about what you’re going to do, etc. But like every great athlete you must learn to shut out the negative noise and focus on the task at hand to achieve success.
  3. Understand you are going to fail. Mistakes are inevitable and part of the game. The key is learning from them, not dwelling on them and moving forward. You’re going to drop the ball but you’re also going to get another chance. Be ready for it and make the most of it.
  4. Always be prepared. Preparation is key and there is no substitute for hard work. Also, be smart about what you’re doing and understand the more experience you gain, the better you will be in clutch situations. Remember, the “routine” play isn’t always a given.
  5. Picture yourself making “the big play” before it happens. Your mental preparation is as important as your physical preparation.

In the weeks to come, try and change the way you watch sports and find the ways it parallels your life. Look ahead at what’s in front of you and identify opportunities where you can achieve greatness and make the big play when presented with that chance.

And as always, make sure you’re ready!