Olivia came home from school recently and informed me that the annual Biddeford High School Dodge Ball Fundraiser was the next night. “We are going to win the whole thing,” she declared. Who is ‘we’ I asked. She responded, “The Supah Fly Ladies of course.” I didn’t need to ask more – I knew she meant herself and her five best friends, Autumn, Desiree, Olivia H., Mariah, and Justine – they are nearly inseparable. Super heroes I’m not quite sure – but I have to admit they are close.

“Did you hear me? We are going to win the whole thing,” she said. I chuckled and told her I liked her confidence but if I remembered correctly there was only one open division and they would have to play both the boys and the girls. “Doesn’t matter, we will win it,” she said confidently. I then expressed to her that there would be some excellent teams consisting of players from football, hockey, baseball, basketball, and the cross country teams. “Stinks to be them,” she responded. She is too funny and her confidence and belief certainly is contagious.

Psychologist and philosopher William James emphasized that “there is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true self.” People who believe in themselves get better results in all areas of their lives and in particular in their work lives. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted research at a major insurance company and found that the salespeople who expected to succeed sold 37% more insurance than those who didn’t. Researchers also assert that in a school setting, there is greater correlation between self-confidence and achievement than there is between IQ and achievement.

In John Maxwell’s book Talent is Never Enough, he tells the story of what sports enthusiasts now call ‘the guarantee’ – a story that has become an American sports legend. At the time, it seemed little more than an outrageous statement – bravado from a high-profile athlete whose team was the underdog before the big game. It occurred on January 9, 1969, just three days before the third world championship of football, the first that was called the Super Bowl. And it was just eight simple words uttered by the Jets’ quarterback, Joe Namath; “The Jets will win Sunday. I guarantee it.”

That boastful statement may not seem remarkable today. Ever since the career of Mohammed Ali, bold statements have been commonplace. But people didn’t hear those kinds of boasts from anyone playing in the upstart American Football League (AFL). The eight year old AFL was considered to be inferior, and in the previous two world championship games, the AFL teams had been trounced. Most experts believed it would be many years before an AFL team could compete at the level of an NFL team. The NFL’s Colts were favored to win this third championship by 18 points.

Namath’s guarantee might have seemed outrageous, but it was more than a hollow boast. It wasn’t out of character for him either. Despite the fact that Namath was often quick to take the blame in interviews when the Jets lost, he always displayed self-confidence. He believed in himself, his team, and their ability to win the game. The ability to believe in himself was something that could be traced all the way back to his childhood where his father taught an often undersized kid that he was as good as anyone else and watched as Joe went on to become a stand out high school baseball, basketball, and football player. He then went on to the University of Alabama where he won a National Football Championship.

Coming out of college he was heavily sought after by the NFL’s New York Giants but it was the Jets who got him. For the next three years, Namath played his heart out, broke passing records, underwent knee surgeries, and led his team to losing seasons. But he never lost faith in himself. In his fourth season the Jets won the AFL title and Namath made the infamous guarantee and backed it up with a 16-7 win in a game that many people consider to remain the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.

Olivia didn’t offer a guarantee with her daring statement but it was bold none the less. The girls stepped onto the floor for their opening match against a pretty solid boys team and found themselves down to one sole player left on the court – Mariah Hebert against three boys firing missiles at her – it seemed Olivia’s declaration was going to be a little short lived as the girls didn’t seem to be presenting a problem for the boys. The problem for them however was that Mariah is a standout athlete – voted the best volleyball player in the State of Maine while leading the Biddeford girls to the State Championship game. Mariah dodged and tossed – fighting her way back to knock the three boys out and take game number one. Game number two pitted the Supah Fly Ladies in a dogfight with another one of the girls’ teams again falling behind before clawing back for the win. Ugh! I thought – I had a meeting at 7pm which was fast approaching. Game three looked like my ticket out – a team consisting of many of the best male athletes in the school and definitely a favorite to win the whole thing.

The game came down to Olivia and Mariah against two guys – Nick Leblond, the quarterback of the football team, and Matt Cote, one of his favorite receivers as well as a pitcher on the baseball team, who both bombed away at them. The girls again chucked and ducked with Mariah getting knocked out leaving Olivia to battle back to send Nick and Matt camping and propel the girls to the winners’ bracket final.

While Matt, Nick and the guys did end up battling back through the losers bracket and redeemed themselves against the girls later in the tourney – the Supah Fly Ladies did make it an exciting night finishing 3rd out of 16 teams while offering support to the assertion of William James, “The one thing that will guarantee the successful conclusion of a doubtful undertaking is faith in the beginning that you can do it.”

As John Maxwell states, “The first and greatest obstacle to success for most people is their (lack of) belief in themselves.” Do you see what is or do you see what could be? When we put a limit on what we believe, we put a limit on who we can be and what we can do leaving us far from our potential. As Charles Schultz quipped, “Life is like a ten speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use.” I may have missed a meeting but I gained a reminder that to accomplish anything worthwhile we must first believe.