My high school basketball team was not the most athletic in the world. My senior year, the tallest player was our 6′ 4″ freshman center. We didn’t have a deep bench and only slightly above average quickness. No one could come close to dunking a basketball.
We did have continuity though, with five seniors who had been together for four years. Having played together for so long, we had learned each others’ tendencies and developed some serious offensive talent. During my senior year we averaged over 80 points a game.
Our biggest advantage didn’t come from our skill. It came from our coach. He was a great motivator and we had learned to trust his instincts and understanding of the game. His wisdom about game situations proved valuable on many occasions, most importantly one winter afternoon as we competed for our state’s private school state championship.
Defense Wins Championships
The tightly contested title game had gone back and forth all afternoon. No team had held a large lead and defense, not offense, and ruled the day. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, our press had finally worn down the other team. We were able to convert several steals into fast break baskets. Finally, in the closing seconds, several free throws had put us up by three with only one possession left for our opponents.
That’s when coach told us this in a timeout:
“They only have time for one shot. Let’s push our defense up. I want all five of you guys playing above the three-point line. Don’t worry about giving up a two-point basket. If they do that, the clock will run out and we will win by one. Switch on every screen and force them to take a deep three-pointer.”
“And NO fouls!”
So that’s what we did. When the team threw the ball in bounds and saw our defensive alignment, they froze. The play they had drawn up did not anticipate five defenders playing five feet above the three-point line. Their desperation heave – in the face of outstretch arms – bounced harmlessly off the backboard and our team celebrated the first state basketball championship in our school’s history.
Our focus on defense in that moment won the game.
Financial Offensives and Playing Defense
Pulling out a victory with our personal finances requires going on the offensive at times. There are definitely occasions when quick, aggressive action is called for. Such instances might include:
refinancing a house because interest rates have dropped to historically low levels,
making a commitment to get out of debt,
accepting that job promotion that will lead to additional income or
continuing to invest when the stock market is experiencing a downturn.
However, success in our personal financial lives is not always about looking to score. Sometimes we have to shift our emotional and mental focus to playing solid defense. This keeps our opponents from scoring on us, or maybe put more accurately, taking advantage of our mistakes. Believe me when I say – and you know this – our opponents have developed some outstanding strategies to break down our defenses and get us to buy their wares.
Seen any advertisements recently promising how you “can’t live” without that certain thing? “Look how happy your life will be when you use this product.” “All your dreams and fantasies can come true…all it will cost is three easy payments of $24.99.”
These types of messages are designed to play on our emotions and entice us to buy. We succumb to these messages because we let our guard down. We don’t understand the game situation (our current financial position), nor the tactics advertisers use to draw us in. Next thing we know, we are waste deep in a money mess and have to work really hard to come from behind.
Be On Guard
So the takeaway is simply to stay alert. Be aware of advertisers, stores or salesmen who are trying to find a way into your pocketbook. Lock them down with some good defensive resistance. Put up your guard, get your hands up, box out and move your feet. You will find yourself on the winning end if you do.
What’s your best defensive strategy to avoid getting in financial trouble? Which are you better at – playing offense or defense?
Image Courtesy of BasketballHQ
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