Last night my wife and I went and watched the movie “42” while in Phoenix and was disappointed that there were only a handful of viewers. There are great lessons in the movie for everyone but especially for athletes. In fact, I really think that every coach and athlete, regardless of age or gender or sport should go watch “42.”
Of course the movie only tells part of the real Jackie Robinson story. For example, Jackie competed in four sports – including basketball - in high school, junior college, and then at UCLA.
Football was probably his best sport although he did win an NCAA Championship in the long jump. Surprisingly, baseball was his weakest sport and he turned out to be a much better pro player than he was in college.
After World War II ended Jackie spent a year as the men’s basketball coach at Sam Houston College in Texas before joining the Kansas City Monarchs, which is where the movie “42″ starts telling his story.
I know it sounds silly but knowing that he had a basketball background both as a player and a coach has made me feel even more connected to him and the things that he experienced.
I realize that Jackie Robinson went through more adversity that first year in major league baseball than anyone should ever have to experience, but after leaving the theater I couldn’t help but think that we all owe Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, some gratitude as well.
There were several African American athletes who were capable and willing to be the first baseball player to break the color barrier but there was only one owner willing to give someone that opportunity.
I don’t know what Branch Rickey’s ulterior motives were and truthfully I don’t care. All I know is that every sport, including the one that I love the most, has benefitted from his decision.
Thank you Jackie Robinson. Thank you Branch Rickey.
The NCSA is a recruiting service that matches enrolled high school athletes with interested college coaches.
Not too long ago the NCSA surveyed their database of student-athletes in order to find out why athletes commit to a particular school.
Here are the top 5 responses:
Awarded a scholarship
Culture (campus, social scene, reputation, etc.)
Location of the school
Cost of the school
What’s interesting to note is that academics, majors offered, or career preparation aren’t listed amongst the top reasons why athletes choose to attend a school.
Athletes seem to either forget or ignore the facts that coaches leave all the time and that scholarships can be rescinded and that it is much easier for those things to take place than it is for athletes to transfer.
With the Spring signing period just right around the corner, Senior basketball players everywhere (and their parents and coaches) should not make their decision based solely on emotions. (I know a player near my home town who made her college decision based on the fact that it might put her in a position to be reunited with an ex-boyfriend.)
Instead, the decision should be thoroughly thought out and all pros and cons carefully considered. The decisions made in the next month or so will undoubtedly have an effect on the rest of a student-athlete’s life.
About five years ago, Louisville coach Rick Pitino wrote a book called “The Rebound Rules” which offers a great deal of advice on how to make a comeback after facing life’s difficulties and how to pick yourself up after being knocked down.
As you read the following excerpt from the chapter entitled Gaining Perspective, think of Louisville player Kevin Ware and how he is handling the tragic injury he suffered last week.
Tragedy will test you like nothing else. Keep your faith and rely on it to help you through – even if you’re questioning it at the time.
Let your emotions out and work through them. Catharsis is necessary to avoid bitterness.
Turn your grief into good. Let your hard earned new perspective be the catalyst to a more humble, charitable you.
Don’t demand answers tot he inexplicable. Sometimes there are none.
Don’t miss the lessons you can learn in these trying moments. A child’s act of grace can teach you so much.
Don’t marinate in bitterness or preoccupy yourself with revenge. Both are unproductive.
In the Final Four being able to win the last four minute segment of the game is often the difference between being named National Champions and being disappointed for life.
To win this segment of “crunch time” and ultimately the game it is always extremely helpful to have at least one timeout remaining at your disposal.
Because of this fact, there are several situations during the course of a game when players should NOT call a timeout – even if their mom is screaming for them to call one from the stands.
Players should not call a timeout in the first 90% of a game -
When they are tired
When they are being trapped
To “steal” or prevent a possible jump ball situation
To prevent a 5 second violation
As they are trying to save a ball from going out of bounds
Several times I have seen teams call a timeout in the first minute of a game to prevent a jump ball being called only to find themselves a timeout short in crunch time.
Granted, every possession is important but at the end of the game there is usually more pressure and more emotion involved and so having a minute to get everyone back on the same page is often invaluable.
Timeouts need to be called for a specific reason and to make specific adjustments. Instead of using one of your irreplaceable timeouts to protect a possession early in the game, get the ball back by playing great defense.
Essentially this will allow you to “save” the possession while still saving an all important timeout.
Despite all the excitement and enthusiasm that teams like Florida Gulf Coast and LaSalle have generated over the past several days, all news coming from the NCAA Tournament has not been good.
In the past two days UCLA’s Ben Howland and Minnesota’s Tubby Smith have been fired from their jobs for supposedly underachieving. Howland, who had previously taken the Bruins to three Final Fours, guided UCLA to this year’s regular season Pac 12 Championship.
Smith, who won an NCAA Championship while at Kentucky, took over an abysmal Minnesota program and brought it back to respectability if not national prominence. The Gophers were ranked as high as #8 earlier in the season and beat teams such as Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Indiana.
Both UCLA and Minnesota made it to the NCAA Tournament as “at-large” picks, something that even Kentucky could not do this year. Both UCLA and Minnesota chose to pay out millions of dollars in buy out clauses than keep their coaches, which has to make me wonder if there is something going on behind the scenes that no else knows about.
Anyway, here’s some sound advice that Tubby Smith once shared with author Pat Williams:
Be very involved with your players. Be able to adapt to your personnel.
Have a plan and work it. From top to bottom, everyone has to know what the goals are for your team.
Be highly organized and prioritize your schedule. Good time management is essential.
Do what it takes to be successful. You’ve got to have an outstanding work ethic to stay ahead of the competition.
You’ve got to have a sound philosophy and a certain image you want to project tot he public.
I enjoyed watching ESPN’s “Survive and Advance” so much the other night that I’ve already watched it a second time.
The thing that impressed me the second time was how much fun those former NC State teammates were having just being in each other’s company.
I don’t have any idea how long it’s been since those guys had seen each other but they laughed, and joked, and ragged on each other like it was only yesterday.
There was no mention of scoring averages, or All Conference, or future playing and coaching careers.
Everything was about the team, even though no one has been on the team for 30 years.
Watching those teammates interact reminded me of something that Coach Rick Pitino once wrote back when he was with the Celtics;
It’s the one lesson that all great teams have to tell us. If you read about great teams, and the people who played for them, the two things that connect all of them is 1) the team eventually became bigger than all the individuals who played for it, and 2) the players ultimately realized that playing for a great team was the best experience of their professional lives.
Love your coaches and your teammates and make the most of every single second you get to spend together.
If you’re lucky, really, really, lucky – you’ll get to sit around a table with your teammates 30 years from now and relive the journey.
I just finished watching ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary called “Survive and Advance” featuring the improbable 1983 NCAA Championship run made by the late Jim Valvano and his North Carolina State Wolfpack.
While Coach Valvano’s post NCAA Championship celebration has been shown hundreds of times since then, neither the championship nor the celebration is his biggest claim to fame.
On March 4, 1994, Coach Valvano, who was diagnosed with bone cancer nine months earlier, spoke at the very first ESPY Awards show and gave one of the most emotional and memorable speeches in television history. Here is an excerpt from that speech:
I’m going to speak longer than anybody else has spoken tonight. That’s the way it goes. Time is very precious to me.
I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say.
To me, there are three things we should all do every day. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day.
Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought.
Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. You do that seven days a week; you’re going to have something special.
With ESPN’s support we are starting the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And its motto is “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” I’m going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and hopefully, maybe, we’ll have some cures and some breakthroughs. . .
I know, I gotta go, I gotta go… I want to say it again. Cancer can take away all my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.
And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all.
If you haven’t done so already take the time out to watch “Survive and Advance.” You’ll laugh, you’ll think, and you’ll get emotional!
The following post was taken directly from an email newsletter distributed by Janssen Sports Leadership and certainly applies to basketball teams, coaches, and players everywhere.
Arkansas Softball has taken to heart a story about two dogs. As the story goes:
A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life… He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two dogs. One dog is evil – he is fearful angry, jealous, and negative.
The other is good – he is happy, peaceful, positive, and content. The grandchildren thought about it for a minute, and then one asked his grandfather, “Which dog will win, Grandfather?”
The Elder smiled and replied, “Whichever dog you feed.”
The moral of the story obviously is to choose to feed your mind a steady diet of positive and productive thoughts instead of the negative and destructive ones that often are starving for your attention.
To emphasize this positive approach and put a Razorback twist to it, Arkansas softball coach Mike Larabee has painted the words “Feed the Positive
Hog” on their dugout wall. He also made silicon bracelets with the mantra on it for everyone to wear.
How can you too use stories that convey and reinforce key messages to your team?
There’s been a lot of talk recently about NCAA coaches using advanced analytics to improve the performances of their teams.
In the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine, the University of Florida’s Bill Donovan talks at length about the importance of measuring and emphasizing his team’s DER (defensive efficiency rating) which reflects points per possession.
Donovan firmly believes (and has the stats to back it up) that his team cannot count on advancing in the NCAA Tournament unless the Gators have a DER below 0.9.
To emphasize this number in practice, Coach Donovan puts a group on defense for six straight possessions with the stipulation that they can’t allow a total of six points, which would translate to a DER of under 1.0.
If they allow only five points or fewer the defense gers to move to offense and a new defense steps onto the court.
If they allow six points or more, the defense has to run and then get back on defense for another six possessions.
“It’s about trying to get our guys to understand the mentality of moving from one play to the next,’”says Donovan.
“Let’s say you’ve given up three points in five possessions – that’s okay.
But now you can’t allow a three on that last one. All of a sudden you’re simulating a real endgame situation.”
While most of us may not have the rsources to use all the advanced analytics that the major NCAA programs have, we can certainly measure our DER and use it to strengthen our defensive presence.