Low Man Wins

A well-used tenet in coaching football is the adage “low man wins.” It applies to line play as well as defeating blocks and tackling. It is all about pad level, getting into a low position enables a player to have more leverage on their opponent. Being lower to the ground provides a stronger base, more balance, and more lower body strength. As a side note I also used this saying to comment to young athletes that I coach – “if low man wins, then only losers get high.”

I heard ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas use it when a player drove by a defender for a layup: saying “it’s a shoulders game, the low man wins.” Until then, I had never heard the expression used in basketball. I used a similar coaching technique with girls AAU basketball, stressing an ‘athletic position’ with shoulders over knees, knees over toes as opposed to being like a statue and standing straight up. When looking to make a big defensive stop you will often see all five players of the Duke University’s basketball team crouch low and slap the floor. To be the low man it takes core muscle strength to stay in this athletic position for a prolonged period.

There is the phrase “low man on the totem pole.” This idiom was introduced by an American named Fred Allen somewhere in the mid-1940s. He used it, mistakenly, to depict something of least importance and today it commonly means the lowest-ranking, least important person in a group or organization. However, in totemic designs, the most revered or “main” character of the story being told is the lowest or closest to earth. While the least favored/honored of the story is always on the top.

While researching this blog, I came across a website www.lowmanwins.org that inspires leveraging influence for impact. In a world ripe with competition they believe that purpose and significance begin at the bottom. A life of sacrificially serving others, puts you in a winning position that leads to a life of significance.  

When God first appeared to Moses in Exodus, He appeared as a lowly burning bush and not from some lofty position. Later when God fed the Jews, He fed them with manna, and he did it in such a way to teach them a great lesson. The manna was on the ground. They had to go and “gather” it and for that to happen they had to bend down. To get their blessing, they had to “lower themselves.” There is the expression that you will never be closer to God than when you are on your knees.

For a Christian, the definition is simple – become like Christ. Jesus had every opportunity to boast and brag. After all, He was the Son of God. Instead, He humbled himself as “a slave.” He allowed Himself to be beaten and ridiculed, and then died a most horrific death. Humility and obedience are rooted in Christology, Christ humbling of self and obedience to the point of death.

Chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a plea for unity and humility. His request is to serve one another as one serves Christ. “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Jesus expects us to take the low position of a servant. Jesus taught on being last, not first.

Humility is the “lack of vanity or self-importance.” It allows one to lose concern for being right and focus on doing right for the greater good. People with humility do not think less of themselves, they think of themselves less.  They do not deny their talents and capabilities, rather they recognize these strengths pass through them, not from them. The low man can still have a high level of professional drive. Our job is to humble ourselves; and God’s job is to exalt us. If we reverse the roles, and do His job, exalting ourselves, then He will do our job for us, and humble us. It is one of the most powerful laws of the Universe.

“Be Moonlight” is my favorite metaphor in this area. The moon does not create its own light, but merely reflects the light of the sun. The light we show forth is like the light of the moon, we need to reflect the light of the Son of God. We are to be lights that shine and dispel the darkness. In Matthew Chapter 5 Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and that our light must shine before others, so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father.

The low and humble man wins. He has leverage in God’s eyes. Just like the athletic position it takes core strength, an inner strength, to stay in this position for a prolonged period. A life of sacrificially serving others, puts you in a winning position that leads to a life of significance!

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