Let me tell you a story

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kevin Head
  • 509th Comptroller Squadron commander
Future National Football League Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was a good college football player for the University of Florida, but he was a great professional football player for the Dallas Cowboys.

Two intriguing questions come from those statements: What is the difference? And, what made the difference?

The difference between good and great can be found in their definitions. Good, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is defined as having positive or desirable qualities, whereas great is defined as having superior qualities or character.

Now let me tell you the story behind what made the difference for Emmitt Smith and what would change his life, and the fate of the 1-15 Dallas Cowboy organization.

Emmitt's college career, although spectacular, was plagued with fumbles. His college coach consistently preached, "Don't fumble the ball, don't fumble the ball."

The Cowboys organization took a chance and drafted the very athletic running back in the first round of the 1990 draft. They were fully aware of his so-called 'problem.'

However, they believed they could fix it. How? A change in mentality -- positive reinforcement. Whenever Emmitt went to carry the ball, coach Jimmy Johnson would say, "Hang onto the ball, hang onto the ball." As they say, the rest is history.

Three Super Bowl championships later, a Most Valuable Player of the NFL award, and becoming the all-time NFL leading rusher, Emmitt Smith has demonstrated how positive reinforcement can result in greatness.

Positive words can make all the difference in the world. Enough of a difference to separate the great from the good.

We should all strive to be great Airmen rather than settle to be good. Everything from our evaluation system to one of our key core values, excellence and greatness continue to be the standard.

After multiple assignments and hearing the cliché, "We are the best," from each wing, it is obvious that this saying has not been overused here.

Team Whiteman has proven itself over this past year in numerous inspections and evaluations as truly the best, and each time, I never heard "Don't fumble the ball," but rather, I always heard, "Hang onto the ball."

This has happened because individuals have challenged themselves to be great. And now Team Whiteman can honestly boast "We are the best".

But it doesn't stop there. Emmitt Smith could have rested on his laurels, after all, just how many Super Bowl rings can you wear?

But champions train for the long-term, not the short-term. Our lives are the same. Life isn't a sprint but a marathon, composed of short stretches, long stretches and even some hills.

The military has become 24/7, so our actions and the decisions we make today will have an affect on our futures.

We do physical training so we are combat ready, not just to pass a test once a year. We train consistently so we are prepared for changes and updates. We attend school so we can improve our quality of life.

You see, being an Airman is similar to being an athlete and we all want to win.

Winning takes work, no doubt, but why settle for good when we can be great. Let's not be satisfied with where we are at. Keep the positive momentum going.

Drawing on another sports story, the great Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees, once said, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."

As Airmen, we should come out swinging and as leaders we should teach with positive reinforcement. After all, we play for the greatest country in the world!