Growing up in Indiana, high school and college basketball were “kings” of the sports world. So this time of year always leads me to reflect on what advocates can learn from those great basketball games and teams.
Keep your head in the game until the game is over – If you ask any player or coach they’ll tell you that a focus on winning, a passion for the game and a determination to perform at their best are some of the reasons they achieve success in March.
As advocates, you can learn from these players. Following your issues through until the final day, even if the related bills won’t pass is critical. This is especially true if you’re focused on a bill sponsored by your legislator or of high priority for your community. Your commitment to the issue demonstrates how important it is and how much you care. Even if no legislation passes this year, the issue may very well return in the next session. And your determination will not be forgotten by your legislator.
You have to play offense AND defense to win – Players know you have to play at both ends of the court in order to win. They don’t stop at mid court and wait on their teammates to do the rest. Advocacy is no different. You have to continue offer help throughout the entire session as well as ask for their help. This is the foundation of building a strong, lasting relationship.
Execute your game plan – Knowing how to execute key plays and understanding an opponent’s reaction results in steals, turnovers and ultimately scoring points to win. Players know to win they have to study and outwit their opponent. This works for advocacy too. If you recognize some of the key information that’s important to legislators, you’ll gain an advantage over your opponent when communicating your message.
Players that react quickly usually get the ball – Just like quick defense leads to great offense, immediate advocacy leads to legislator support. During the last weeks of session, staying focused and engaged means you can communicate quickly, which can be the difference between your legislator supporting or opposing your position on an issue.
Be gracious in victory and defeat – Before and after the games, coaches and players shake hands. While during the game their fierce rivals, before and after they’re college students, sometimes friends and individuals working to be a leader in their communities. The same is true for legislators and local officials.
A healthy debate and disagreements are part of the legislative process, but civility before and after session is a quality that lasts all year long. It’s important to remember that while you may adamantly disagree with your legislator on one issue, you may be strong allies on another.
Your Advocacy “Teammate”…Kathy