“The team that plays the hardest, longest wins! The team that plays the hardest, longest wins!” – Tom Izzo, Michigan State basketball coach

In 2015, I was doing horribly in the March Madness contest at PalletOne. I have a college degree from Michigan State, but I anticipated they would get knocked out early because it just wasn’t their year.

I should have known better. Under Coach Izzo’s leadership, his team is ready at tournament time every year. No matter what they do early in the season, they seem to round into form in March and become a hard team to beat. This was the seventh Final Four in 20 years. Three of those seven teams were seeded not to get past the third game.

The network broadcasting the tournament caught a glimpse of Coach Izzo’s pre-game speech. I had been reflecting upon his quote on productivity when I heard that speech.

It could be restated this way: “Play with more energy for more minutes of the game, and you will win.”

That advice has merit. Playing harder longer communicates so many virtues.

Build your endurance so you can meet the physical demands.

Watch your habits, so you don’t waste minutes.

Concentrate and do the things necessary to succeed.

Izzo gets his team to buy into creating the energy needed to win and employing that energy for longer than their competitors.

They weren’t the most talented team by any stretch. They found themselves in the Final Four with three other teams with more accomplished records, but they summoned greater energy and extended effort. That’s what sets them apart.