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

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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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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

Grow Up and Accept Responsibility!

The Los Angeles Clippers started the season hot, sparking debate about "who's the best team in L.A. But things have changed and if not careful, they'll find themselves with a new coach, victims of the 'the coach lost the team' epidemic.

I was watching ESPN the other day while working out (I can hear all of my bootcampers telling me to ‘Stop Bullshittin’!) and one of the stories was about the Los Angeles Clippers, who after a start to the season that promised (and showed) great potential, have seemingly taken their rightful seat next to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers as the ‘other’ team in Los Angeles.

No one would argue that the loss of newly signed Chauncey Billups, a proven veteran with skins on the wall, was significant in curtailing the team’s ascension to the NBA elite. Still, they have Blake Griffin, one of the league’s brightest young stars whose aerial assaults on the rim are renowned. And they do have DeAndre Jordan, as athletic a center (at 6’11”, 265) as there is in the league. They also added the much-needed outside shooting of Mo Williams, who only a few years ago teamed up with Lebron James in Cleveland to lead what was before and has been since a mostly moribund franchise to the NBA Finals. And for toughness and the dirty work that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, I present to you the salty veteran Kenyon Martin. Oh, and by the way, Chris Paul, a perennial All-Star recognized as one of the top handful of point guards in the league, came over this season in one of the year’s few blockbuster trades. A lineup with talent, right? Young talent. Exciting talent. So what’s the problem? The coach! Read more of this post

Calculated Decision-Making

Cracking the code to the safe is hard enough. You better write down the misses as you go along!

If you were trying to break into a safe that had a five-digit combination, how would you do it? Would you haphazardly guess at the sequence of numbers, hoping you’d stumble upon the correct digits in the right order? Not very efficient, right? Would you try to uncover any clues that might help you decipher what those numbers might be? A better approach, certainly, but still difficult. Knowing on what the combination was based—birthday, favorite numbers, anniversary maybe—is difficult enough. But then you’d need to figure out what the answer to those clues might be. Whatever approach taken, cracking the code of any safe is almost impossible. That’s a good thing, right? Unless you’re a thief, that is. With 100,000 combinations (10 possibilities, including ‘0’, for each digit, raised to the power of 5 for the number of digits in the combination), you have a better chance of becoming a pro athlete (a good thing: 1 in 22,000) or getting audited by the IRS (a bad thing: 1 in 175). But if you were stupid enough to try this feat, what would be the one thing you would have to do? Document all of the failed attempts. After all, if a combination is not correct, you surely don’t want to repeat it.

But that’s exactly what happens a lot of times in business. Especially in small businesses. Often, even, in successful ones. Let’s be honest; the reasons entrepreneurs start businesses are many. But one of the more common ones is to escape the rules, policies, and overall bureaucracy they have faced as employees in other companies. And as we can all attest, there are certainly reasons to dislike these rigid systems, often designed more to play ‘big brother’ and keep employees in line than to get real work done. Read more of this post

Bad, BAD lessons from the NFL Draft

Leaders in business seem to follow a lot of lessons from the NFL.  Some are good, of course.  But some are bad, bad lessons.  The 2011 NFL Draft, which commenced last night (Thursday) with the first round of selections, provides a perfect example.  While there weren’t a whole lot of huge surprises, there were indeed a few.  (Hint, the #8 pick) That is always the case.  Some players drop further than projected, while others get selected sooner than even they may have expected.  Some teams address the exact positions they need, while others operate under the philosophy to take the best player available, regardless of position.  I mean, what do we expect?  It’s human beings evaluating human beings.  What could go wrong?

Tom Brady was the 199th player taken because he didn't pass the eyeball test..

The NFL and those who make their name and reputation, not to mention a lot of money, from the draft like to pretend it’s a science, this evaluation of players.  Like business and financial analysts, they have all the data they could possibly need- some (like me) would argue too much.  They measure these players, weigh them, and watch hours and hours of game film.  They check their body weight and test their physical strength.  They have doctors evaluate the severity of any past injuries and look for the potential of future ones.  They even claim to effectively test the cognitive abilities of prospects with a test known as the Wonderlic. (Click Here to see how you measure up) Read more of this post