Let’s go back in history for a moment to January 2, 1956. Tension is in the air. It’s the 42nd Rose Bowl game (no I wasn’t there!) and Michigan State has been battling it out with UCLA for four quarters. Over one hundred thousand people are in attendance. The score is tied at 14 with just a few seconds left. The Spartans has driven the ball into scoring range and are poised for the win. Duff Daughtery, the head coach for Michigan sends in Dave Kaiser, replacing the regular kicker who had been injured, to attempt a 41-yard field goal to win the game.
The ball is snapped, Kaiser kicks it toward the end zone, but instead of watching the ball’s trajectory, he immediately looks to the referee. This is strange, since most kickers watch the ball, not the referee, to see if the kick is good.
The kick sails through the uprights, Kaiser watches the ref’s arms go up signaling the successful attempt and Michigan State wins the game. It is Dave Kaiser’s first converted field goal attempt. A little later, Coach Daugherty asks Kaiser why he didn’t watch the kick. Here’s what he had to say:
“I couldn’t see it. I forgot my contact lenses at the hotel, so I had to watch the officials to know if the kick was good or not. Coach, I couldn’t even see the goalposts.”
Initially, Coach Daugherty was furious. If he had known this, he would never have sent Kaiser into the game. But as he thought more about it, he began to settle down. And the more impressed he became with the thought that this kicker had the confidence to even attempt such a feat during a crucial moment in one of college’s biggest bowl games.
Dave Kaiser kicked the ball perfectly because he was a practiced, disciplined kicker. He knew the distance and where the goal posts would be. He didn’t need to see the ball. After hours and hours of practice, kick after kick, and careful disciplined training, he was able to visualize the angle and distance, enabling him to kick the winning field goal, even if he couldn’t see the ball after it left his foot.
Dave Kaiser’s confidence and competence says something to all of us. If we want to get really good at something, it takes lots of practice, application and discipline. In our rapid-paced society, it’s hard to focus with enough intentionality and time to reach that level of success.
Such discipline applies to all of life. Do you have a relationship with someone special you would really like to see succeed? It will take time and attention for it to develop into something meaningful and lasting. It won’t just happen. Perhaps you have educational or professional goals? They take time, planning and persistence to be successful. Spiritual goals? “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance…” Proverbs 21:5.
Discipline isn’t always fun. But it helps us reach our goal even when it seems to be off in a distant, perhaps fuzzy future.