From The





From The


From The


What’s Your Super Bowl?

This is one of my favorite times of the year because Sundays are filled with football, cheering, and all the guacamole. Few things in life get my heart racing like a spectacular Hail Mary touchdown pass. They are incredibly thrilling and I scream my head off when a receiver jumps, extending his arm out at just the right angle, and lands in the end zone with the football safely cradled against his chest.  Many people say these passes are miracles, made possible by a higher power. When Philip Rivers (Go Chargers!) launches the ball into the air like a rocket, my friends and I close our eyes and whisper silent prayers. That’s how these long passes got their name; we are literally praying to Mary for him to catch this pass.

But in all the glitz and glory of the Hail Mary’s, we are missing the real miracles: the first downs. For readers who are not familiar with the game, I will break it down (skip to the next paragraph if you are a football fanatic and already understand the game). Not including end zones, a football field is 100 yards long and is divided into 10 sections of 10 yards. A team’s offense has four chances to move the ball 10 yards. If they make across the yard line, they are given four more chances to gain another 10 yards. Crossing a new yard line is called a first down; the team is on its first try to move the ball down the field.  (If you want more, check out the NFL rulebook!)

First downs are not exciting. First downs do not bring fans to their feet. First downs do not make Monday morning’s highlight reel. First downs are difficult, taxing, lackluster, and incredibly necessary for progress. The teams who consistently achieve first downs are usually the teams who win championship rings. Every week, these high-performing teams put in work to gain a few yards here and a few yards there, moving closer to the end zone with each play.

Watching the division championships this weekend reminded me that success is about first downs, not Hail Marys. If you are lucky, you will be in the right place, at the right time, to catch a long pass, but the majority of success comes from your ability to complete a series of smaller goals. In football, and in life, every yard counts.

Define your Super Bowl

You do not have to be a NFL quarterback to incorporate first downs into your life. Everyone has a Super Bowl, a dream worth devoting your entire life to achieving. Your first step to reaching your dream is to define it. What is your Super Bowl?  What is your long-term dream? What is your victory?  The more specific you are, the easier it will be to accomplish it.

Identify your yard lines

Your next step is to identify your yard lines. Work backwards and break up your dream into smaller, more manageable goals.  If you are saving up for a car, set monthly saving goals and and create smart spending habits. Trust me, getting a chunk of birthday money and then buying eight candles on a whim will not grow your savings account. I tried that and it did NOT work. Hail Marys won’t mean squat unless you are willing to put in the effort the other 95% of the time.

Celebrate your first downs

Your third step is to celebrate the small wins. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of your dream. Recognizing the small wins builds motivation to push through the more challenging obstacles. Every time I leave Target without buying something from the dollar section, I high-five myself and say aloud, “Kristen, you are awesome, strong, and $20 closer to your car!” Your hurdle may be a particularly difficult calculus equation or a 300 pound defensive lineman. Either way, celebrating the gain of another first down will give you the confidence you need to tackle whatever stands in your way.

Take a timeout

Your last step is to take a timeout. Remove yourself from the game and analyze your process. Is this plan working? Am I on track? What do I need to tweak in order to improve my performance? Who can I ask for advice? Taking a few minutes to critically view your progress can make all the difference in the world.

The repetition of these steps is what creates lifelong success. They aren’t flashy and won’t be featured on SportsCenter, but they will get you to your Super Bowl. Now, start practicing your touchdown dance. You’re going to need it.

*Leadership Lesson*

Would you like to tackle visioning and goal setting with your own group? Have your group read this post and then try Stepping Stones as an experiential activity! Make sure to debrief to discuss important learning outcomes…here are some suggested questions to use (following the Kolb model):

  • Explain your group process in this activity.
  • What challenges did you face in this activity?
  • How does this relate to first downs and Hail Marys?
  • Tell a partner about something in your life that you would love to be a Hail Mary, but you know is going to require first downs.
    • What are those first downs that you need to achieve?


*Meet the Author*

Kristen Vega is the Coordinator of Greek Life and Community Engagement at California State University, Monterey Bay. When she isn’t developing student leaders, she can be found hiking in Big Sur, reading non-fiction in a local coffee shop, teaching tap classes, or pretending she is a contestant on Chopped.