Our jobs as coaches, teachers, and parents

Our sole job as coaches, teachers, and parents is never easy and rarely appreciated. But as Allyson Felix and Bobby Kersee showed us in the 2012 Summer Olympics; it’s worth it!

Leave it up to the Olympics to help me get this writing thing back on track. And leave it to one of the darlings of the games- along with Gabby Douglas and the Golden Girls of Women’s Beach Volleyball, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh—to inspire me and this post.

I certainly enjoyed watching other sports and athletes during the Olympics. Watching the American hoops team bring home the gold was fun. Watching Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee from South Africa who advanced to the semifinals in the 400 meters, was nothing short of amazing. And watching a human being run as fast as Usain Bolt had the feeling of watching something that could, or at least should, not be possible. But Allyson Felix is the one who got me off my you-know-what, prompting me to pull out my laptop and write.

She did it for me. More importantly, she finally did it for herself. After finishing a close second in her signature race, the 200 meters, in both Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), she grabbed the prize that had mercilessly alluded her, bringing home her first individual Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. The joy and jubilation on her face was almost as telling and transparent as the relief in her voice during the interview that immediately followed conquering what must have seemed like the most insurmountable of obstacles. You could tell she’d struggled with it, the disappointment of failure. You could almost feel it, the pain she had to overcome each time she fell short. And watching her, we all knew that she’d wanted to give up at least once or twice during the eight years that must have seemed like eighty between her first failure and her ultimate triumph. Read more of this post

When in Doubt, Hire Corporate “Athletes”

My nephew and I got into a discussion a few years ago about soccer and its popularity—or lack thereof—in the United States. I was teasing him, pretending I didn’t much care for soccer. It just so happens that I played “American” football my whole life, so like him in the other direction, I was biased toward the oblong-shaped pigskin rather than the perfectly round ball used in admittedly the most popular sport in the world. But while I respect all athletes and, truth be told, probably didn’t play much soccer growing up for the sole reason that it happened to be a fall sport just like football; I purposely poked and prodded, doing my best to annoy him. I am his uncle, after all, and that is at least part of my job.

The foundation of my argument was basic, though. I completely respect soccer players, who are as conditioned as they come and tougher than most casual fans give them credit. But the teams put together in America, I contended, would never be as good as their counterparts in other countries around the world. And for one simple reason: the best athletes in America don’t play soccer.

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Hunger and Fear- the Greatest Motivators

Whether you are a lion or a gazelle, you better wake up every morning RUNNING!
(image courtesy of PhotographersDirect.com)

There is a famous quote, captured so beautifully in wall-mounted, framed photos in offices across America. The Successories brand of motivational and inspirational products has made a fortune over it and similar products and while many people think they are corny and stupid, I find these phrases captured in artistic photography have a way of capturing the strength and promise within all of us and the methods, sometimes reasons, which bring out that potential. I have not purchased any of these products, but often find myself remembering the ones that I have seen and which have resonated with me. There is one phrase in particular that came to mind this week.

I am in the eye of what appears to be one those few storms that happen in all of our lives. You know, those moments that we feel deep in our stomachs may change the course of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The proverbial forks in the road that keep us up at night, unable to eat, and overly irritable. These several words–and the images they conjure–are one of many sources of inspiration I will need to weather this storm. Far from the sole, or even main, source of confidence; they nonetheless help me understand an essential part of the human condition. Read more of this post

Run it Back!

Me: “Run it back!”
Him: “You want to switch the teams up a little?”
Me: “Run it back!” (this time throwing, the ball at–um, I mean toward–him)

Anyone who is a competitor, and we all have a little bit of that in us, can relate to that scenario.  You’ve just been whooped.  And at something about which you care at least a little bit (why else would you be playing the game?).  And rather than go home, or sit on the sidelines, or worse yet, take the easy way out and change your team, you want nothing more than to play again.  You want to start over, hit sport’s equivalent of a reset button.  You want to, as they say on the hoop courts, “run it back”.   Read more of this post

Always at the Summit(t)..Always

If you were looking (and listening), Coach Pat Summitt doled out lessons on a lot more than just basketball.

“That’s a bad woman!”  I remember saying that to anyone who would listen after I read Reach for the Summitt several years ago. (Of course, as Run DMC would say, “Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” I’d heard about Pat Summitt and respected her as a coach and a leader, mostly from afar since women’s sports weren’t nearly as visible nor as popular as they are today.  She, in fact, was one of the first women in leadership–sports, business, or otherwise–that really captured my attention.  That stare.  That intensity.  Her will to win was unparalleled and the main reason I believe she could have been successful as the first female coach of a major men’s college basketball program, something that has been debated for years.

Today, Pat Summitt officially stepped down as the head coach of the Lady Volunteers (‘Vols’ for those in the know), for more than a decade as popular a draw to the University of Tennessee students and fans as the football or men’s hoops programs.

She leaves behind a remarkable slate of success.  Included on her coaching resume are 8 National Championships; 18 Final Four Appearances; 7 NCAA Coach of the Year and the Naismith Coach of the Century Awards; and the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a United States civilian can receive. Read more of this post

What separates a business from a company?

When I finished college, and realized I was done playing football, I immediately turned the focus of my attention towards entrepreneurship.  I’d earned a degree in Business (Managerial Economics, actually) and obviously loved sports enough to devote most of my life to them.  There seemed, then, to be no better path for me to pursue than that of entrepreneurship.  With my passion, desire, and commitment; how could I fail? (That was rhetorical, of course; you’ve probably already got several ways and reasons, but hold your questions for after the program, please.)

I quickly enlisted the help and support of like-minded individuals who I knew shared my thirst for competition and success, no matter the setting.  Not unlike with many a startup, these friends and former college teammates became executives and key cogs to NextLevel, the name we branded the company.

NextLevel was supposed to be the ultimate destination for high school and junior college student-athletes, providing myriad services to help them continue their athletic–and academic–careers.  Based on three tenets, what we coined the 3 E’s, NextLevel addressed the Educational, Exposure, and (Athletic) Efficiency needs of these kids by offering academic assistance and guidance, recruiting exposure to viable opportunities via connection with coaches, and training tools to help maximize athletic potential. Read more of this post

Andrew Luck unleashing some business advice

I was just watching ESPN SportsCenter this morning (while doing some work, of course) and the feature known as (Jon) Gruden’s Camp came on.  In this Exclusive Special ESPN segment, Jon Gruden, the former Super Bowl winning coach, grills college–soon to be professional–quarterbacks.  While footage of the the NFL combine and individual school pro days are meant to showcase athletic ability and skill, this regular segment on ESPN is meant to give fans an idea of the information these quarterbacks are expected to digest and the mental makeup and capacity that is necessary to be successful at the professional level.

This episode’s guest: Andrew Luck, the former Stanford University Quarterback considered by most to be the #1 QB prospect of his generation.  That may be true, but I’m still not convinced I’d pick Luck over Robert Griffin III, who will still probably be selected #2 but is at least now being considered a possibility at the top overall selection.  My thoughts and opinions aside, though, I was very impressed with Luck’s interview with Gruden.  Here were some of my takeaways: Read more of this post