When University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling coach Heath Eslinger spoke to Chattanooga's Downtown Rotary Club in February 2017, he shared a story about watching his daughters play basketball on their second and third grade team.
“It was late in the fourth quarter and the score was tied. With about 10 seconds to go, our team was throwing it in. The coach called a play, the girls scattered, we passed it in, took the shot and missed," said Eslinger.
"The best player on the opposing team, who was possibly the best player in the age division in the entire league, gets the rebound, takes one dribble and goes right back up - putting the ball perfectly off the square - makes a layup and the ball goes in.”
The young lady put forth great effort. She spent energy to make it happen. And, her technique was the best on the floor. Unfortunately, she put the ball in the wrong basket and won the game for the opposing team.
Eslinger asked Rotary members a to consider a question.
In all of the places where you spend your time – home, workplace, places of faith, schools, etc., are you shooting in the right basket?
"I work in the world of athletics where we may be missing the mark as much or more than any other,” Eslinger shared. “We have great intentions, spend lots of energy and give great effort. But often times, we are shooting in the wrong basket.”
Eslinger embraces two guiding principles in all that he does:
- Put focus on the good AND the great.
- We must teach both global and stable attributes.
“Jim Collins wrote Good to Great,” Eslinger said. “It is a phenomenal book, but I believe we must have a priority on the good as well. Great is the evaluation of what we do – wins and losses, GPA, test scores, etc. Good is the essence of what we do – providing hope, instilling a moral compass and teaching someone how to build meaningful relationships.”
When it comes to global and stable attributes, Eslinger quipped that it had been a long time since he had used a wrestling move to get something he needed in life.
“Qualities such as empathy, teamwork, resilience, discipline, self-control - these traits cross boundaries and will stand the test of time.”
What about you? When you catch a pass, get a rebound, or go to the free throw line in life's journey, do you consider what basket really matters?
According to Eslinger, if we want our education system to improve, we have to determine what basket really matters.
“If we want our teams to excel, we must invest in the right basket. If we want our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to survive in this world that often seems chaotic, then we must make a decision to invest in the right basket,” he said.
Finally, Eslinger cited Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path.
“The principle of the path is simple. Direction will always determine destination,” Eslinger said. “I challenge all of us to run in a direction that matters and shoot in a basket that counts.”