Something incredible happened this past Friday: The Mississippi State Bulldogs Women’s Basketball team beat the Connecticut Huskies Women’s Team in the NCAA Championship semi-finals, ending the longest winning streak in college basketball. In fact, incredible might not be a big enough word to describe this occurrence. Phenomenal? Stupendous? Insurmountable?
You see exactly one year ago today, these two teams met in this same game and the Huskies won by 60 points! Yes, you saw that correctly, not 6 or 16 …… 60!
For decades the Connecticut Huskies have been the epitome of excellence in sports. Well coached, recruited and managed, this team just did not lose. 111 games spanning 5 seasons and 4 national championships to be exact. And yet, the mighty Bulldogs, who lost by that whopping margin last year, found a way.
Was it their taller than everyone else center? Their fast as lighting point guard? Their WNBA bound power forward? Nope. None of those. In fact, it was the shortest player on the court who hit the dagger that ended the reign. 5”5” Morgan Williams hit a 15-foot jumper over Gabby Williams, who happens to be 5”11” and an All-American, as overtime expired to seal the deal.
Displaying amazing humility and graciousness in defeat, Huskies Coach Gino Auriemma said “sometimes all it takes is one kid to go into a completely different zone, and they can carry a team through an entire tournament.” You see up until the week before when Morgan scored 41 points in a victory over Baylor to advance to the Final Four, she had fought the perception that she was too short to play with the “big girls”, averaging 9.6 points per game over her college career.
What can we learn from this experience? Some of my favorite clients are those that “punch above their weight”; defying the odds, and not just competing, but beating more well funded, better known global brands to attract and retain jobs and talent. These communities don’t give up the fight, but rather they double down, work hard, spend their dollars wisely and figure out creative and innovative ways to beat the competition. That’s not to say more well-funded organizations don’t do these same things, but it is to say that those that are less resourced MUST do these things every day, every time, every way to be successful. Their margin for error is slim to none.
I like competition and I believe those in our business do to. You see, competition makes us all better. It’s when we take things for granted, get complacent and begin to think no one can beat us that, in fact, our weaknesses are displayed. Competition, on the other hand, forces us to keep our edge, be creative, and look for new and innovative ways to work our magic!
It also means we have to work as a team. You see, when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl, he had Adam Venetieri to kick the winning field goal. When Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, he had an entire team of coaches, managers, and trainers working on his behalf. When the Bulldogs beat the Huskies, Morgan Williams hit the winning shot but it wouldn’t have mattered if Victoria Viviens hadn’t scored 19 to lead the team in scoring.
When David beats Goliath the temptation is often to blame it on an injury, or a special circumstance or a one-time event. But a peek under the hood usually reveals a lot of blood, sweat and tears over a long period of time that culminates in that one shining moment. It’s what we do day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year that determines our fate on the playing field. Here’s to those that fight the good fight, knowing they might lose more than they win, but relishing the fact that the victory experienced will be ever so sweet!