My Pitch

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Posted

I know that the saying is cliché, especially in sports, but it has, and will always be true.

On Sunday afternoon, the New England Patriots dropped a heartbreaker to Miami on the final play of the game. Like all Pats fans, I really don’t want to relive the nightmarish ending … but I must in order to provide context for those who did not witness the debacle.

Despite allowing numerous opportunities to slip through their fingers, the Pats were able to grind through the hot Miami day and take a 33-28 lead into the final play of the game. The Dolphins would make one last desperation play, and the unthinkable happened … Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill would dump the ball off to Kenny Stills, who pitched it to DeVante Parker, who pitched it to Kenyan Drake, who took it the distance and secured the touchdown and win in what is now being referred to as, “The Miami Miracle.”

This should serve as a reminder to every athlete and coach, that you must play until the final whistle. It doesn’t matter what level or what sport, anything is possible in competition.

Leading up to that final play, I wouldn’t say that the Patriots lost focus, but they certainly got a little too comfortable in my opinion. Many players, including Tom Brady, were high fiving, taking their pads off, getting ready to head to the locker room.

May this serve as a reminder, that in football for example, there are 60 minutes in a game for a reason. Barring absolute blowouts, the game truly isn’t over until it’s over … thank you, Yogi Berra.

Although it would be easy to continue to rant about how bad that ending was, and how all athletes should live in fear of letting a lead slip away regardless of circumstance, I think the better way to look at it is through the eyes of Miami.

Of course, I stick by what I just said. This is a great example for coaches to turn to in the future to show the importance of keeping your foot on the gas and playing like every play could change the course of your season. But it truly goes both ways, good and bad.

The Dolphins could have easily conceded the game, went through the motions and headed back to the drawing board. But instead, they decided to unload the tank and shoot for a miracle, and that’s exactly what they got.

When it comes to kids, whether it be at the youth or high school level, far too often do we see athletes fall behind and not have the proper mindset to pull themselves out of whatever hole they are in.

Look at the Pilgrim football team for example.

The Pats dropped three consecutive blowout losses midway through their season. It looked as though Pilgrim would once again be watching the postseason from the stands … however, the Pats remained confident and hungry, and would take their season all the way to the Super Bowl where they came within arm’s reach of winning it.

Obviously, that’s not a perfect example since that is referencing a season versus just one game, but there is a certain mindset that is required to be a champion. Whether it is one play, one quarter, one game, one season, athletes and coaches must have no quit, focus, and mental toughness to compete for a championship.

Resilience is also key.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the Patriots respond to this loss. Some teams cave when faced with this type of adversity, and in certain cases I don’t blame them. It’s hard for an athlete to get over any loss, but to let a lead slip away the way they did is something they’ll never forget.

Other teams thrive after losses like that, and embrace the opportunity to prove doubters wrong. Once again, it takes resilience to compete for a championship as well.

As we all know, winning a championship is the hardest thing to do in sports. It takes the right level of talent, character and coaching, and most of the time even that’s not enough.

As much as Sunday’s loss stings for football fans in New England, it should serve as a reminder of how important it is to never give up, and how important mentality is when winning games.

Whether you are in youth sports, high school, college, or professional. There is something to take from every match or game, and Sunday’s loss once again taught one of sports’ most important lessons.

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