The Rebirth of a Nation by the “Now” Generation

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Sometimes when you are in the midst of watching an historic event unfold, you don’t know what or how to feel, such was the case for me as I watched the culmination of what was nothing short of miraculous, an African-American male became the 44th president of the United States. As the build up to the election approached I could not help but think of how men like D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation) must be turning in their graves at what is taking place in their beloved country, while the restless souls of the thousands of nameless people who lost their lives during the middle passage to this country in cargo ships, discarded overboard like trash, those souls of individuals who did nothing wrong except be born with the wrong skin color and were hung from trees or the internal and external wounds inflicted on the freedom riders, how they must have danced and shouted at this monumental occurrence.

In between answering the barrage of text messages I received from my athletes, friends, and family my feelings were put on ice, I wish there was something in me that could produce tears of gladness, but alas there were none, there was just this sense of surreal numbness and a discreet pessimistic eye watching the TV screen as the poll numbers kept streaming by, I was anticipating something or someone to come in and pull the plug on the entire festive moment, any moment someone was going to come on the air and say” wait a minute we have a recall or large numbers of voter fraud have been discovered”  the next president elect is not Barack but John McCain.

 As a black man in my forties, I grew up hearing and thinking there will never be a black person as president of the United States in this lifetime, and until recently that statement was true, outside of the fictitious characters in television and movies, even then I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that an African-American president was something that could actually happen, so what changed? I’ll tell you; the young people of this generation changed, they said enough is enough, they asked the question that many of us never did, if not my generation then when? And they answered the bell, this helped to propel Obama over the top, given his credentials if he were a white male, this race would not have been a race at all, but a large segment of the population could not get past his race, leave it to the youth to show us the way, this generation for all of its criticism stepped up and got to work. “Yes we can” was not just a catchy slogan on a button or t-shirt it was a blue print of how to roll up your sleeves and integrate the small parts into the larger sum. They didn’t want to listen to another sermon, speech or lecture about the pie in the sky fallacy of how one day this country will rise up and come together or how they should be change agents, they made it happen now. Also while I’m at it lets give a loud round of applause to the women of this country who refused to have the Republicans insult their intelligence, by simply placing any woman on the ticket.

As a coach I know there is always a defining moment for any team during the season, the point in the season that reveals the true character of the individuals in the room and determines if we’ll accomplish our goals by sticking together or just play the string out, looking forward to the end.  For the country that defining moment will forever be marked as November 4, 2008.  Barack’s transition to the white house will be met with great challenges, fear for his safety and skepticism that you can be sure, but this country has finally come to the realization that there is nothing inferior about black leadership, and the sports world with the success of the black athlete set the tone for this truth. The recent accomplishments of men like Tony Dungy, and Doc Rivers, showed us all that if given a fair opportunity and the resources needed we can get the job done, and the same will hold true for President Obama. 

Defeating the Giant Within

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2 Timothy 1:7 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

What a powerful sermon the young pastor preached today about that four letter word that begins with “F”.  That special word that has robbed so many of their dreams and evokes such negative emotions the minute you hear it. Of course I’m talking about the word FEAR.  The atmosphere in the church was electrified as the pastor stood on the pulpit exhorting the congregation on ways to overcome their anxiety and how our lives would be greatly enriched once we mastered the technique of tuning out those negative voices in our head. You know that voice the one that comes when you are about to embark on something new and step out of your comfort zone.  That voice that penetrates your subconscious and is begins to discourage you from taking action and moving forward to realize your potential.  It suddenly came to me how often as a coach I’m called upon to help the young athletes in my program get through this paralyzing emotion on a regular basis.  In a competitive sport like basketball there are pressure situations that manifest throughout the contest, particularly during what is known as “crunch time” the end of game moments in which one play or lack thereof could determine the outcome. I think It’s amazing the time many of today’s athletes spend going through rigorous physical training to get their bodies in peak conditioning, yet, spend very little time preparing for the mental challenges of facing and handling pressure situations. Many of these individuals would rather not face the ridicule and scrutiny that’s sure to follow should their efforts fall short, (missed shot at the buzzer) the pressure to perform when it matters most, is scary and a situation many try to avoid.

Below are a few strategies I share with my athletes to help them prepare and overcome FEAR (on and off the courts)

1.At the beginning of the season I have the team write out specific goals they want to achieve for the current season this exercise helps them to set clear, concise and attainable goals it also helps to train their minds to focus on how they will reach their objectives. Many people can envision what they desire, but have difficulty in seeing how to get their dreams to materialize there’s something powerful and unlocking when goals are written. Utilizing visual images (a picture or physical sample) are also effective. For a team you could use a replica championship trophy or banner as the visual. At the beginning of each season I to write down specific goals for the team, This blue print helps me formulate practice plans complete with special situations, specific drills and exercises needed to help the team prepare to face challenges.

2. Another exercise I put the team through is to have them share their goals out loud in a group setting for accountability. I believe if you feel so strongly about obtaining something you want and desire, you should have no problem sharing it publicly. What I often notice is a growing confidence that emerges through this activity as individuals stand up in front of the group to share their goals at first with trepidation that quickly dissipates into strong conviction, after all if they don’t truly believe in what they are saying how can they expect others to? This is important as they begin to paint a picture for the audience to follow.  It’s important to note that I also point out to them that not everyone will share their enthusiasm, or zeal. But they should not let that discourage them. 

3.  I encourage them to face Fear head on, you have to desire something so badly or develop an intense yearning to change your current situation that nothing will hold you back. If there is a particular team I know we have a difficult time matching up with, they may have better athletes or play a particular style that gives us problems (press style defense) I try to get the team to breakdown what they view as insurmountable into manageable parts and learn how to aggressively attack the GIANT. We still may not win the game, but the outcome won’t be as a result of being intimidated.

4. Lastly when all else fails in preparing them to confront their fears my goal is simply just getting them to start the process. You see many people become so paralyzed by fear that they never begin taking actions that will lead to the desired results. By taking some type of action toward a specific goal signals progress this could be as simple as starting an enhanced strength and conditioning program to the memorization of a document filled with motivational quotes or specific drills to improve their individual performance. Just by taking that first step helps quell those feelings of anxiety and doubt.  A Large percentage of individuals never reach their goals and overcome fear, because they never take the first step!

©2008 Tony Price Unlimited LLC

Reflections of a Father

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Matthew 10:33 “Who ever denies me before men, I will also deny before my father who is in heaven”

The day has finally arrived the day my daughter finally left home for college,this time of the year thousands of young people are going through this same experience, but what make this case unique is that she’s moving to the campus where I work. Not only will she be a student, but she will also play basketball, the sport her dad coaches, can you see the interesting dynamics that we both tried to avoid? I haven’t coached her since she was 9 years old, but here we are facing a dilemma that is sure to be a challenge for both of us. I’ve already noticed how quickly she like her siblings at various times in the past is trying to distance herself from the connection to her dad. This is a very common occurrence for my children especially my sons, they want to prove that they got to where they are on their own merit and that I had nothing to do with it. The love of a father is critical for the development of young people and I know my children love me and I them even if the words are seldom spoken, and growing up the relationship between my father and I was vastly different than the ones I’ve developed with each of them. So I try to understand their perspective, however its perplexing at times to witness them make every effort to down play their association with their father.

My children have experienced some benefits as a direct result of being my child that others can only dream of, tickets to sporting events complete with locker room access, entrance into social functions, travel and the opportunity to attend one of the best private colleges in the country. My prayer is that one day they’ll learn to appreciate the sacrifices endured to pave the way for them and the respect I’ve earned in doing so; took many years to achieve. This recent experience of helping my daughter move into her dorm room caused me to stop and reflect on the following, how many people are like my children when they experience blessings in their lives, get that opportunity they desired, the promotion at work or financial increase and yet try to distance themselves from the affiliation or connection to the “Heavenly Father”. They place more emphasis on what others may think and crafting the perception of a self made person who made it by their own accord, through hard work , perseverance and talent with little or no assistance. I imagine at times God must feel like I do, proud to see his children mature, gain a sense of independence, enjoying the fruits of his labor and the burdens he bore only to have them do their best to keep their relationship with him private. As a parent it’s my responsibility to provide for my children and I take that commitment seriously and if some perks come along with that, so be it. Hopefully as they continue to grow and develop into productive citizens and one day start families of their own they’ll fully comprehend what it means to have a good name and how important the right associations are in opening doors for the next generation.

©2008 Tony Price Unlimited LLC

The Magic of Black Men

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“The Impact of seeing positive Black Men”those prophetic words kept ringing in my consciousness as I drove home after completing my second basketball clinic in 3 days. Over a 3 day span I had the pleasure of interacting with 200 inner city youths, teaching, speaking, laughing and having an overall great experience. A common theme ran as an undercurrent while teaching the participants the fundamentals of the game, the importance of them seeing black men in roles that counteracts the media’s constant bombardment of negative portrayal and stereotypes. The awareness of this initiative is nothing new, but it’s value can’t be underestimated. As a basketball coach I was not surprised at the turnout of young people who came to the clinics, as I wrote in an earlier article “Sports The Unspoken Drug of the Black Community” about the powerful stronghold sports has on the community. The role of Sports in the black community is sacred, and too many of our future leaders and change agents think sports or entertainment are the only keys to unlock the doors of opportunities.

Yet there is something mystical that takes place when you are in the midst of these great minds. I can’t really explain it in words, but there is a spirit coupled with a light of internal optimism and trust that shines within their eyes. This is the stage of their lives when they are the most vulnerable, receptive and influenced. I really treasure the girls and young woman who attend the clinics, there will never be a shortage of boys at sports clinic especially basketball, but the importance of having female participation can’t be overlooked, our young sisters have to overcome a lot to participate in sports, many of them want to play but don’t have the opportunities the boys have , they have to avoid the pitfalls of drugs,alcohol and pregnancy, often times they help raise younger siblings, can’t find enough girlfriends interested in sports, not encouraged to play because it will make them too masculine, etc.
Quite a few of these young woman, have no meaningful relationships with their fathers or have been hurt by men they trusted including family members, not just the playa’s, gangstas or thugs. So when I interact with them on the court I make a concerted effort to engage them with the balance of a disciplinarian to motivate them to work harder and not expect anyone to give them preferential treatment because of their gender, and blend that approach with the gentle touch and words of encouragement that comes from a father or uncle,(not ready to be a grandfather yet). This is an opportune time to show them that there are men in the community who love them unconditionally and not trying to “Get at Em”

The longer I’m in the athletics business the greater my appreciation grows and the realization of how blessed I am to be in a position to effectively change the lives of so many ,even if it’s just for a day! I tip my hat to the hundreds of black men who are making a difference in the community with no fan fare or positive media coverage, keeping taking back the community one child at a time, when black men step up and give back the effects on young people are simply Magical!

©2008 Tony Price Unlimited LLC

T.P.C. (3 Words to Unlock your Destiny)

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Proverbs 18:31 “Death & Life are in the power of the tongue”

Translation words that are spoken, written and received are powerful . As a coach no one understands the impact of words more than I. I have personally witnessed the impact words (positive & negative) can have, particularly on young people. All across the world coaches are either lifting up or tearing down someones dream, this is a great responsibility that should not be taken lightly. It should be noted that coaches are not just athletic personnel, they can be parents, teachers, supervisors, mentors, and older siblings. Over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing from a series I’ve put together over the years titled “A Coaches Words” this is a collection of motivational affirmations that I’ve come up with based on my own personal experiences, sermons, casual conversations and literature. I often share these with athletes, youth groups, ministries and others when invited to speak at events. Let me start off by saying that TPC doesn’t stand for Tony Price is Cool or TP’s Chill as the youngsters say.

Talent- These are the gifts you were born with(you did nothing special to obtain them) you came pre-wired with them interwoven into your fabric. Your talent often lies within things that come naturally to you, things that others admire or have to practice for hours to become competent. i.e singing, organization and athletic ability. Your talents are often discovered when you engage in activities you have a passion for.

Purpose- This is the reason why you have the talent(s), they were meant for you to fulfill a plan and to share with the world. For instance let’s take the talent of singing, there are lots of people who call themselves singers(some really can carry a tune, while others?). Once people discover they have the gift of singing, they must then decide what type of music they are led to sing (R & B, Soul, Country, Classical, Opera). It is here that they must ponder the impact they’d like for their musical gifts to have on those who hear, gospel singers realize their voices are instruments designed to create an atmosphere of praise and worship.

Calling- This is the place or physical location where you exercise and display your gifts for the reasons you have discovered. Your calling could be your place of employment, neighborhood, church, city, on a team, etc Someone who is gifted in teaching, realizes their purpose is to educate, enlighten and empower others in their specific area of expertise, the place where they display their talent for its purpose could be a classroom, board room, football field or a recreation center.

I conclude by explaining that the first 2 letters (T & P ) will never change, you will take them with you when you pass away, but the “C” calling is the area that requires the most flexibility, often times the place where you currently are may be temporary or not the location where you can be most effective. As you develop your talents and mature into the understanding of your purpose, you will experience a series of callings(places) Keep an open mind!

©2008 Tony Price Unlimited LLC