In basketball, there is a phrase used to describe the physical and psychological benefits that a player experiences when competing in his or her own arena: “the home-court advantage.”
In May, Liz Darger, a senior associate athletic director at BYU as well as a member of the Young Women General Advisory Council, spoke at Brigham Young University about the importance of creating a home-court advantage for those in our lives. The analogy originated with a home evening lesson Darger’s mother gave when she was young and has the ability to extend outside of the walls of our homes and to envelop all in our path with love and welcoming.
“Now is the time for us to commit to be season–ticket holders and loyal fans of those around us, including those whom we perceive as different,” Darger said.
Read more about the importance of creating this home-court advantage for those in our lives in the excerpt below. You can also listen to the full episode in the player below or by clicking here. Read a full transcript of the episode here.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: You gave a BYU devotional just recently, and you talked about this concept of home-court advantage. And I am a sports junkie–I know you are as well–and so I want to first have you tell us what you mean when you talk about home-court advantage, and what it means to you personally.
Liz Darger: Excellent, thank you. So, growing up, my parents—we were the type of family that had family home evening, we had family prayer, family scripture study—my parents were very intentional parents, lots of moments of learning. And I remember a particular family home evening lesson that my mom talked about how we could create a home-court advantage for everyone in our family.
And my siblings and I all really enjoyed sports, my parents actually weren't really into sports. And so it was even more meaningful that she found something that was important to her children to teach an important gospel principle, and that was, how can we create an atmosphere in our home where every member of our family feels like they have the advantage of being in a place that's familiar, that's comfortable, where people are there cheering them on, where people are forgiving of their mistakes, a place that we can feel peace and feel celebrated. And so, you know, we talked about examples of what we can do in our home.
And so as I've thought about that concept–and I have benefited greatly from feeling a sense of home-court advantage in many aspects of my life in my work, in church, in my family and in friend groups–[I] thought, How can we create that for everybody? How can we create that sense of belonging for everyone where they can feel confidence and peace, knowing they're surrounded by people that want them to be successful and want to help them be successful.
And when they're not successful, [we] are there to wrap our arms around them and be with them, and support them in those times when they are struggling, but also provide a place that is familiar, and a place that feels like home. A place that feels comfortable, where we can all be ourselves and be our best selves. And so that's something I'm trying to do in my life in every area; how can I help create that for the people that I come in contact with.
Morgan Jones: Well, I think this idea is profound. …I just heard something the other day and I wish I knew exactly where it came from. But they talked about how one of the biggest human needs is to feel a sense of belonging, and that when we feel that sense of belonging, we don't have insecurities. We feel comfortable and at peace–all those things that you described. And so I love this idea. I want to dig into it a little bit more. How did your parents cultivate a sense of home-court advantage, and then how have you seen that extend [to others]?–What does that look like?
Liz Darger: My parents were masterful at this. Even as we were growing up, my parents talked about us children in a way that that made us feel like we were much more important than we were. They would say things like, "How did we get into this family? Surrounded by all of you incredible children? How did we get assigned to be your earthly parents when you are such remarkable spirits?" And they meant it. It wasn't just throwing around praise, they meant it. And so we felt that.
We felt from our parents that they meant it, that they felt a sense of gratitude and awe of having this responsibility to parent these little souls that they were responsible for in mortality to help raise. And so that first and foremost. And because of that belief of my parents and helping us believe that, it showed in how they treated us. We were all about uplifting. . . . If we were tearing down a sibling, there was a very swift reminder that we don't do that in our family, that we build each other up.
I think one of the things I noticed about my parents is in public, if we were at church, or at a party, or somewhere else, I never heard my parents diminish each other in front of somebody, even sarcastically, even a joking–they never did that. They always uplifted the other in front of other people and talked about their strengths and talked about how much they loved them and what they had to offer.
And that modeled for me how we can do that as well. When you live with people and family, you know the best and worst of them, you see all these sides of them. But as we present to other people, choosing to share the best that people have to offer, and choosing to just honor and hold sacred those moments when people aren't at their best; that's not something that needs to be broadcasted to others. But we can privately be with people in those moments, but as we are with other people that we present the wonderful, best things about them. I think that's one concept of that home-court advantage.
And my parents modeled it greatly. And so did my grandparents, frankly, as I think about on both sides of my family. My grandparents are the kind of people that you felt like you were the most important person in the world when you were with them. They were specific in their praise. It wasn't just, a–"Oh, you're so wonderful." It was, "Let me tell you why you're wonderful. Let me tell you the things I've noticed about you that are wonderful." And so as I have taken that into relationships, later on in life, there have been really meaningful relationships for me.
I was a typical teenager, played a lot of sports, sang in the choir, did all sorts of things, and when I went to BYU, I had a really hard time. I really lost my sense of identity, as I imagine many BYU students might go through because it feels like everyone at BYU was on the high school basketball team or in the choir or in student government or an excellent artist or–[you] name it. Then you get to BYU, and I wasn't on the basketball team or the volleyball team. I wasn't in the choir, I wasn't in student government. Everything that I thought was who made me, I no longer was. And I went through a bit of an identity crisis. And there were loving people all around me that really helped me to still feel like I belonged to something.
And as I went to my Father in Heaven to understand, “Okay, who am I? Because I'm no longer doing any of the things that I thought made me who I was, so who am I?” The answer was very, very clear. And the answer was actually the theme that I'd recited over and over again growing up, the Young Women Theme, that I was a daughter of God. And that truth finally seemed to find a place in my soul, that I really was His. That I had Heavenly Parents, that I was beloved, and because of that, that meant that there were important things that God needed me to do.
And I may not know them all yet or understand them all, but I belong to something important because I belonged to my Heavenly Parents. And when I received that testimony for myself then, and it wasn't till later in life than I really sought a testimony to see that divinity in everybody else, too. If I received that witness that I really truly was a daughter of Heavenly Parents, then I needed to seek that witness that everyone else is a child of God too.
And when I did that with intention and faith and really received that witness, then that changed for me, how I look to treat other people. And I'm not perfect at it. In fact, I'm not great at it a lot of the time, but it changed my motivation to want to be so much better at it, so that I could really align my actions with my belief, which is what everyone that's on this earth chose. mortality and God's plan and covenanted to come down here. And so that's impacted all of my relationships, and it's something I'm striving to be better at every day, is to treat people in a way that it recognizes that I see that they are souls we're dealing with. That these are souls, precious, precious, souls to our Heavenly Parents.