NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It may be a “me, me, me” world, but for the Lipscomb Bisons softball team the slogan for 2015 promotes a much different message.
For the Lady Bisons 2015 is all about the acronym “INAM” which stands for “It’s Not About Me”. Fans will notice the letters on some of the Lady Bisons equipment this season.
The Lady Bisons are prepared to open the season this weekend with the Music City Classic at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium. Friday they play Missouri-Kansas City at 4 p.m. Saturday they are scheduled to face IUPUI at 2 followed by Indiana State at 4:30. Sunday they close out the weekend against Ball State at 2:30.
Shortstop Paige Neely heavily influenced the decision to use the slogan. She admits she was inspired when she first heard “INAM” spoken by Keenan Reynolds, quarterback for the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I went to high school with Keenan,” Neely said. “I heard him talking after a game when he had set a school record. A reporter was asking him questions about the record and about him but he completely turned the question around and talked about his teammates.
“He kept on talking about `INAM’. I didn’t know what it meant so I looked on Twitter and he had a hashtag `INAM’.”
One of the traditions for the Lady Bisons is to paint bricks with slogans. The bricks are stacked up on a wall in the dugout and are added to each year. Last season Neely chose to decorate hers with the letters “INAM”.
“I guess the coaches liked it,” Neely said. “They told me they wanted to use it as the team motto this season.
“We are focusing on the team and what we do. You are going to have more success if you put the team above yourself.”
With today’s college students doing most of their communication electronically and many feeling personally entitled, Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman thinks the team’s use of the slogan is appropriate.
“’It’s Not About Me’ is a cool phrase,” Ryman said. “Everyone on the team picks a word, or even a small phrase, something that defines them for the season. What is going to be their focus or central theme? What can they come back to individually as the thing they want to focus on? What phrase or word really drives them?”
No one understood at the time what Neely meant by the use of the acronym when she painted it on her brick. Everyone was required to explain to the rest of the team why they chose a specific word or short phrase. When Neely told the team the background of "INAM" everyone understood the message she was trying to send.
“Paige told us what it stood for,” Ryman said. “It is a neat idea and theme.
“Coming into this year we started thinking about a slogan for the season. I kept coming back to `INAM’.”
For a coach any theme that stresses the importance of the team’s success over individual performances is a desirable one.
“I think in the times we live in now it is a world of instant gratification,” Ryman said. “It is a world of what’s in it for me? How is this going to benefit me? It is very me-driven.”
Ryman thought the timing was right this season to change the focus from being more “me-centered” to being more “we-centered.”
“We have gone a lot of different ways with this,” Ryman said. “We made a more spiritual connection – it is not about what we want, it is about what God wants. How are we here to serve His needs and what He wants?
“As a team the time was right to shift the focus. As good as our girls have been, there can still be more focus on how to be a better teammate.”
All of the girls wear bracelets engraved with the theme.
“They serve as a constant reminder that it is not solely about you,” Ryman said. “You can’t win a game with just a catcher or a shortstop. At times that sounds so obvious and so cliché’.
“But at the end of the day when they really think about it they see how reliant they need to be on their teammates. If I make a low throw to first base, then the first baseman can save me by scooping the ball up.”
Another reminder is through their weekly devotionals as a team. A book being used in the devotionals, in addition to the Bible, is “It Is Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy”, written by Max Lucado.
“This group has a lot of learning to do in certain areas, but this is a really smart group,” Ryman said. “It has been neat to see them change their focus. “
There are many things, often inconvenient, that are part of a softball season. One of those is sometimes receiving a 9 p.m. text on a cold, rainy or snowy night to tarp the field at Draper Diamond at Smith Stadium in order to practice or play the next day.
“It is easy to say I am in the middle of doing something or it is too cold to do it,” Ryman said. “You can come up with all kinds of excuses, but the field is not going to tarp itself.
“It is little decisions like that where you say this isn’t convenient for me, but it doesn’t matter because it is the best thing for the team. They are really latching on to that accountability…to be able to talk with each other and say something when someone says something that is not team-oriented. They are learning the deeper things about what we are doing.”
Ryman stresses that the motto isn’t just for the players. It applies to her and the rest of the coaching staff.
“I am never going to walk away and say, `yeah, we won that game because of me’, Ryman said. “It is not about me. It is about them. They are the ones out on the field and in the spotlight. They are the ones who deserve that credit.
“I may make the greatest squeeze play call in the world. But, guess what? I am not in the box. I don’t have to execute the play. So whether I make the call or not, the player has to do it. It is not about me and it’s not about any single one of them.”