Play Hard or Play Smart?


Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7, KJV

Do we play hard or do we play smart? Is it either/or OR both/and?  I submit that we must play hard and play smart.  But first let’s talk about playing hard.

Playing hard means that we give it all we’ve got and we play is if there is no tomorrow. We reach for every rimed-out rebound and dive for every lively loose ball.  We leave our hearts on the court and fight to the finish. There is no substitute for playing hard. Nothing takes the place of hustle, but heady play comes close. Every one of our coaches taught us to play hard, but they also trained us to play smart.

Playing smart means that we make good decisions.  Waiting for the best opportunity is better than forcing the slightest possibility. But we’ve all done it. So, instead of putting your head down and driving toward the basket, keep your head up and let the game come to you.  Be cool. Be careful. Be calculated.  

So play hard AND play smart. It’s a both/and proposition, not an either/or scenario. The opposite extremes are also equally eradicating; living off of the jump-shot usually leads to dying at the foul line. You can’t just do one thing and win – it takes the combination of discipline and determination, effort and education, muscle and meditation.

Winning the day can be a whisper away from missing the moment.  Most days most of us are a mistake and a misstep from victory. Harvard is known for being a “smart” school. And yet their hustle and their heads got them a win over Cincinnati.  At the same time, a smart play and a timely move could make all the difference in the world. Just ask Solomon.

Solomon played hard and he played smart. He asked God for “an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad.” Solomon could have asked for fame and fortune, or for lavishness and luxury, or for silver and gold; instead, he played smart. He asked for wisdom, and in return, God rewarded him with wealth. 

So be careful what you ask for; be careful for what you wish for, and be careful what you fancy for. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Play hard, and play smart; be hardy and be heady, be forceful and influential, be “on the ball” and around the ball. If we are brawny and brainy, dogged and discerning, solid and savvy and sagacious to boot, victory cannot be but a smart play and a tough rebound away.

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