2012 New beginning, same Goals

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Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The countdown had begun 5,4,3,2,1 as my wife and I gathered in front of the television to watch the ball in Times Square rapidly descend.  As the clock struck Midnight the start of the new year began as we watched the huge crowds celebrate and shout “Happy New Year” complete with confetti, noise makers and of course first kisses.  The first thought that came to me was only a year ago, I was eating pizza and sharing laughs with the student-athletes and coaching staff as we sat in the hotel lobby in Key Largo , FL to usher in the New Year. Now with that chapter closed behind me, I focused on how God has assigned me to another location.

It was the perfect time to reflect on my journey, one of which has been filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, yet continues to progress.  As I described the infamous TPC principles in the book “An Unsung Coach” the talents and purpose we all have will never change, the “C” is the one principle that brings forth change and growth if you are willing to embrace it.  I refer to the “C” as the place where you are called to share your talents for the purpose they were given to you.  And here I sit just 12 months removed from the experience in Florida embarked on a new journey and giving God all the credit.

One of the many lessons I gathered from my experience as a student-athlete, was that change can and does happen at any time, those who are prepared are the ones who seize the moment and work it to their advantage.  Yes I am no longer on the sidelines as a coach, but in many respects I’m still coaching and influencing young adults which after-all is the mission.  There is no way to know how this phase of my journey will end, but what I can share is that the young people I encounter on a daily basis have further confirmed that this is the place God has called me and he is in complete control.  Until next time!

A Rainbow is still present through the clouds

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“Do Not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom”

Luke 12:32

How did I end up in this situation is the question that keeps rewinding and playing over and over again in my mind. Its like having the same track on a CD loop continuously and there’s no one to turn it off.  What situation you may ask? How did I end up in the position of making a transition in my career with no sure back up plan.  There’s no easy answer to the question, as many of you can attest life just happens, there are peaks and valleys we all experience.   For me it’s a matter of timing one day I’m working at a college institution doing what I love administration and coaching the next day I’m tired of the same routine and feel a strong desire for a change and a move to the next level so I leave.  Is this God’s plan? was I crazy to take this leap of faith, believing that the doors of opportunity would open once I left my previous job in search of greener pastures. if so how can this be?  I battle the spirit of fear constantly, yet there is a sense of adventure in all of this.  I’ve made the final cut for the position of Athletic Director at two institutions, which is encouraging yet disappointing after not landing either.  God are you sure my next stop is to become a full time administrator I ask?

This time in my life is what I like to call my “Job” moment.  Job was a man of character in the Bible who had everything going for him, until the Devil convinced God to remove the protective hedge from around his life. It was at that moment the Devil was confident Job would curse God once he was overcome with calamity. Have you ever asked the question why do bad things happen to good people?  Instead of blaming God for allowing all of the terrible things that took place, Job proved to be a man of incredible faith. He sought God’s presence even more during the trying times and continued to give God thanks for all that he had, can you imagine that you lose everything and continue to thank God?  A pastor of a local church that has become a good friend, put it this way, “Most people shrink or move further away from God when tough times strike, and they should do the complete opposite, that’s the time to move closer”

I have to disclose when I did not land the positions I was in no mood to celebrate God, however over the past few weeks, things have been put into perspective, its not the end of the world and quite a number of colleague, friends and others who care about me, have said there is something better for you. I have a hard time believing that, but if I’m really a man of faith it is now “D” day.  Do I believe in the word of God that he will reward my faithfulness and take care of me or do I believe that he has abandoned me?  The world did not end when I received the disappointing news, the sun continues to shine, my family loves me, I’m still impacting young people, I’m not broke (yet) and my health is very good. Despite not knowing where this journey will take me and where I’ll land, when I think about everything that I have going for me there is plenty to give thanks for.

Graduation is the start of a new journey

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Wow It’s been a long time since I had the chance to post a new article. I’ve been busy studying and writing for the Ministry Classes, there has been little or no time to write for fun and relaxation.  This time of the year is always a busy, yet joyous time for many people as they prepare for graduations and similar ceremonies. During this time of the year I often receive invitations to speak to groups during their commencement exercises. This is something that I humbly look forward to as I still can’t believe people think I have something noteworthy to share with the next generation.  My next event is coming up in four days, I plan to share the following Wisdom Nuggets that I’ve adopted and crafted over the years with the graduating class.

1. There are two critical words you should have in your vocabulary as you climb the ladder of success (Help & Thank You)

2. As you move forward, don’t forget to look back there are always others in your family, neighborhood, community and block that need you to reach back

3. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way, and if there are none create one by volunteering and being of service to others (you can’t go wrong with this one)

4. Make a habit of finishing and completing whatever task, mission or goal you undertake, no matter how long it takes or the cost. Seeing it through to the end takes discipline but it’s well worth the effort. Many people never get to experience the benefits of a project or goal because they simply walk away or move on to the next thing that excites them.

Congratulations to all of the Graduates of 2011!

Lest We Forget those who paved the way

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If you were to ask the casual fan of either college or professional basketball, who was the “Father of Fast-break” basketball, You undoubtedly will hear names like Wooden, Riley, Auerbach, and Smith etc and though those coaches had distinguished careers and experienced varied degrees of success on the hardwood you would be wrong. If you polled the same group and asked who was the first African American to Coach in the professional leagues the list would be relatively small with most shouting the name of the legendary Bill Russell who on April 18,1966 became the first African American coach in the NBA.

During that season Rusell served as both player-coach for his beloved Boston Celtics” Bill Russell is a good guess however you would still be wrong.

The correct answer to both questions is John McLendon (1915-1999).  Coach McLendon was a pioneer whose contributions have remained largely ignored, which is hard to imagine given today’s up and down style of play that is exhibited and played at all levels. In fact many of the coaches aforementioned earlier owe some of their success to Coach McLendon.  Unfortunately Coach McLendon remains virtually anonymous to the main stream media and fans of the game.  As a writer whose personal mission is to highlight the “Unsung Heroes” and in honor of Black History Month. I have decided to profile Coach McLendon.

To learn more about Coach McLendon

http://www.hoophall.com/hall-of-famers/tag/john-b-mclendon

Is it time to retire the National Anthem?

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A symbol of Patriotic Pride or a useless ritual?

As a college basketball coach one of my essential duties is to recruit high school student-athletes that I believe will positively impact my program while helping the student prepare for life with a college education. You spend countless hours on the road, sitting in the stands, interacting with people from all walks of life etc. During a couple of recent trips to high school gymnasiums, I noticed something that to some may seem trivial, but it has caught my attention.  At the start of each game as is customary for most athletic contests the national anthem is either sung or played.  This tradition began during World War I & II. Take the time to Google the history of playing the national anthem at sporting events while you’re at it look up the history of the song and its meaning to this country in case its been a while since you took History 101.  What I’ve observed during this time honored tradition amongst today’s youth was both appalling and disappointing.  In one incident a school administrator had to walk over to the bleachers and ask the students to be quiet and rise as a fellow student began the first verse.   As the singer weaved through the anthem it was hard to focus on her singing as the students continued conversations, texting, and kept moving throughout the gym .  I happened to sit next to a young woman who recently graduated from high school and at the conclusion of the anthem she remarked “What a shame, you should not have to be told to stand and be quiet during the anthem” I agreed and asked why did she think the students have no respect for the anthem .  She chalked it up to lack of maturity and ignorance.

 A few nights later in another gym this same phenomena took place, people were engaged in conversations filled with laughter, looking at their phones, and so on.   I could not help but wonder if as a country have we failed to educate the next generation on the symbolic importance of the national anthem or perhaps we should take the cue from this generation and eliminate the tradition which has become routine. In essence skip the preliminary and get right to the main event.  Does anyone really care what takes place after the introductions of the players and coaches?  After all today’s society is all about speed , we live in a world that dictates the need for quick replies, swift responses, and fast download or upload times.   As a young man growing up whenever the anthem began you observed it in the same manner as the men and women of the armed services (United States Code 36 USC 301-Sec.30), .  I mean you stood perfectly still and whatever you were doing prior to the start of the anthem was irrelevant you would stop, you would not dare engage in a sidebar conversation for fear of the wrath of the crowd.    But as we turn the clock on a new year I have to ask you my friends how do you feel about the anthem? What does it represent to you? Is it an outdated ritual? I look forward to reading your replies in the meantime; I’ll continue to endure another high school student’s off key rendition of Francis Scott Key’s lyrics while her peers continue with business as usual.

A Christmas Carol for Today’s Athlete

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A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching a college basketball game.  When one of the athletes took a charge and as he was falling you could see a quick glimpse of his compression shorts complete with padding in the thigh area and my wife immediately asked what is he wearing? I proceeded to explain to her that’s the latest trend now days. Today’s athletes not only wear padding in the gear under their uniforms, with the advancement of technology they are almost covered from head to toe with moisture control and padding for the ribs, thighs, rear end etc.

What she exclaimed next really caught my attention and gave cause for reflection to my days as a young athlete. “That’s what’s wrong with today’s athlete’s, this is why they are too soft” I found that statement both humorous, yet profound. So in the spirit of the Christmas season (I’m unashamedly Christian) below I’ve listed my 12 days of Christmas good tidings for today’s athlete’s.

On the first day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could go back to a time when working up a sweat was a symbol of hard work and the term “Hit the showers” actually meant something.

On the second day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience what it feels like to get excited for the game just because; voiding the need for a can of energy drinks.

On the third day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience a time when you depended on the natural foods you ate to fuel the body instead of relying on vast supplements

On the fourth day of Christmas I wish today’s athlete’s could experience the benefits of good old fashioned calisthenics to make them stronger, run faster and jump higher instead of spending a small fortune on strength shoes and fancy equipment

On the fifth day of Christmas I wish today’s pampered athletes could experience traveling to the games packed like sardines on those yellow buses instead of luxury coaches. This would force them to interact with teammates instead of entering their own world of texting and I-pod’s.

On the sixth day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience what it feels like to play Pop Warner, little league, and recreational basketball, or hockey for fun. A place where they can be a kid, without the pressure of being the next great?

On the seventh day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience what it feels like to play for a coach who really has their best interest at heart and that was the norm

On the eight day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes were encouraged to accept responsibility for a poor performance based on their choices to stay up late, not get enough rest or properly prepare instead of people using psycho babble to understand or give them a built in excuse.

On the ninth day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience a time when making the high school varsity team was quite the honor and college athletics and education were the dream instead of the pros.

On the tenth day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience what it feels like to attend a sports camp to learn new skills, meet new people that become lifetime friends and not auditioning stages for recruiting services

On the eleventh day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience the true definition of loyalty, commitment and integrity

On the twelfth day of Christmas I wish today’s athletes could experience a time when the only protective gear you wore was a mouthpiece, goggles, knee pads, shin guards and jock straps.

And a Partridge in a pear tree…

 Happy Holidays

 

The wonders of putting on a pair of old shoes

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            Jeremiah 10:24 O Lord correct me, but with justice; not in your anger lest you bring me to nothing.

        What happens to a person who is used to being at the forefront as a coach or teacher instructing others,when they take a step back and become the pupil again? I’ll tell you HUMILITY! That is exactly what has taken place with me as I write this article. A few months ago I made a conscious decision to enroll in a distance learning program to obtain a ministry diploma. Up to that point I have never been a proponent of taking on-line courses, I reasoned that I was from the old school and needed to attend a brick and mortar establishment so as to experience the human interactions of both my peers and the instructor. So I hesitantly registered for the class, I figured what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll try it for the semester and if I don’t like it, I am done.  I had no clear idea of what the school expected from me in terms of time, assignments, cyber classroom participation etc.  The answer to those questions appeared quickly with the assignment of the first homework. I soon discovered that the school was serious about preparing its students for ministry and not just another diploma mill out to make a quick buck. 

     I also realized another important factor; it has been almost two decades since I last sat in a classroom as a student.  A lot has changed since then including the various writing styles that are required.  That brings me to my main point of the article.  My peers and I are required to complete weekly readings along with the submission of written response papers on what we have read.  At first I thought no problem, what’s the big deal, (can you see the arrogance), that is until I got my first paper back, I didn’t fail in fact I received a B- however the paper was marked up so much I thought it was one of the pages out of my playbook complete with the X & O’s . Are my writing skills that rusty?  After all I recently published a book and people across the world visit my website to read my articles. This occurrence reminded of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of constructive criticism and how crushing it feels believing you’ve hit a home run only to learn that you missed the mark. My ego took a hit and I felt the air of false confidence I had entering the program slowly dissipate.  It was getting to the point that I did not want to look at my papers when the instructor returned them. I agonized opening the email with the paper attached, anticipating the worst.  To escape this trap of doubt and fear, I had to remind myself that correction and constructive feedback though not enjoyable are critical for improvement and growth and the Bible has dozens of scriptures that speak of the benefits of correction. 

This experience also helped to remind me of the range of emotions that some of the athlete’s that play for me go through on a daily basis. I have become keenly aware of the need to balance feedback, encourage, availability for one on one consultation or clarity and making sure that directions and expectations are clear and concise.  Another area that I glossed over the past few seasons was to remember that each of the athlete’s has a different learning style and one size does not fit all. Lastly I was reminded of how much students, athletes, and subordinates rely on those of us with more experience to guide and instruct them on how to be successful.  By placing my feet in a pair of old shoes as the student has made me a better prepared coach.

 

 

Are you ready for some football?

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The NFL has done a great job of branding that tag line into the psyche of the American public even the occasional sports fan has heard that infamous line shouted in bar rooms, restaurants and living rooms across the country.  This is why it immediately came to mind after receiving a targeted email from a member of an organization called “Color of Change”.  The email was detailing the bias of Fox TV and its rightwing platform that allows individuals like Glenn Beck unlimited access to the airwaves and a captive  influential audience, the organization was encouraging everyone including businesses to launch a boycott of Fox TV programming, by simply not tuning into the station.  My initial reaction was what a good idea, especially since Fox does not have the best reputation of quality programming featuring or targeted towards people of color.

I wrote back to the organization expressing my thoughts of their initiative, but I cautioned them that this mission won’t be difficult for many people of color during the week due to the above mentioned reason, however the fall equinox is upon us and that signals the start of football season and Fox Sports is a major carrier of NFL games, this is where the challenge of the boycott will be difficult. To put it bluntly people of color are and will tune in on Sundays to watch the games, therefore giving Fox a tremendous ground swell in ratings, therefore nullifying the effectiveness of the boycott, unless the organization can effectively  reach , educate and inform the public of its mission even so that might be enough. Let me confess and say it will be a challenge for me not to press the buttons on the remote that is designated to the Fox channel in my area; I’m a huge pro football fan.  

Coincidentally as this campaign is starting, across my laptop came news of a recent blowup in the NFL involving the legendary football great Jim Brown and his role or lack thereof within the Cleveland Browns organization, now that Mike Holmgren was brought in to make changes. You have to wonder what the players many of them African-American must feel or think about these recent events or do they even care? after all this is their job and they have families to feed, cars , houses and bling to acquire, for some it may be a case of leaving the political and social agenda’s to others, why rock the boat.  As a passionate fan, I am left in a quandary, one side of me strongly supports the boycott, not because I am a liberal or democrat, (I happen to be an independent) but I do feel that Fox has served as an instigator fanning the flames of bigotry and instilling fear which has led to an increase of racial tensions in the country, and the level of disrespect for Jim Brown does not sit well, though I do not have all of the details of the meeting between the two. On the other side the love of football coupled with my understanding of the First Amendment which guarantees an individual the right to freely express their opinions are putting up a fierce battle. A decision will have to be made soon, as I sit in my favorite spot on the couch armed with the remote in hand accompanied with an assortment of snack foods.  Alas what’s a person to do?

The World Cup Games- compels Americans to look in the mirror!

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As the world cup has reached its version of the final four with Uruguay, Netherlands, Spain and Germany all vying for a shot at the Championship match held in Cape Town, South Africa.   I could not help but wonder if the games really made much of an impact here in the USA, sure the TV screens were tuned in at the local bars, taverns and restaurants across the country as team USA tried to advance on the big stage and the media blitz of snapshots we experienced of the often talked about but never really appreciated melting pot of fans rooting for the team , while I expect a few secretly enjoyed watching the demise of the team as there is still a hint of anti American sentiment that was prevalent in the last World cup games. Unfortunately for team USA their hopes and aspiration were once again dashed, as they were defeated for the 2nd time in 4 years by Ghana and with it went the viewership.  The pundits will point to the increase of Patriotic pride and overall revenue as a direct result of the world’s largest sporting event, but let’s take a closer look and examine this phenomena, I find it hypocritical that we saw so many images of fans Black, White, and Hispanic sitting together with a rooting interest, when after the camera’s lights turn off and the hoopla fades these same individuals will travel back to their segregated neighborhoods and blame the others for their roles in the decline of the moral fabric and economic downturn. This country has a real challenge with race, yet for some reason it seems there is at least one thing that can pull us together at least for 2-3 hours and that is our common interest in rooting for our favorite team to win.  Secondly despite all of the hype surrounding the world cup I believe it will do little to elevate the status of soccer as a primary sport in the US, joining the family of baseball, football, hockey and basketball.

Soccer in this country is still regarded as an affluent suburban sport; the word suburban is just another clever marketing term for white middle and upper class, in the same way as the word Urban is used to represent the Black population of inner cities. You don’t believe me? Quick what image comes to your mind when you hear the word soccer mom? See what I mean, I doubt many of you thought about the Ethiopian mom driving a caravan of youths eager to get to the soccer field. How many caravan commercials on television re-enforce this stereotype? One of the attractions of the world cup for the average fan is that you get to witness many of the teams from what are considered third world and under developed countries perform and compete at a high level while admiring the diversity of their rosters.  However when we think of the sport of soccer in this country, rarely do you think of the Salvadorian, African, Caribbean, and Asian athletes playing at the local dilapidated fields. Maybe it’s because it’ s a rare site indeed to see a group of youths just pick up and go to soccer field in the same manner you can watch a group of teens play pick- up basketball.

 I’m sure some of you are thinking, if the men’s team had gone further maybe it could have added some infusion of the sport in the same way the women did a few years back, with Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain who became an overnight sensation after taking off her shirt, much to the delight of males everywhere, funny how this was exalted as pure passion, yet when the Williams sisters wear revealing outfits they are maligned, but that’s another story for another time, also does anyone remember Briana Scurry she was the African American goal keeper on that championship team who never received the same adulation and endorsement deals as her white counterparts another missed opportunity to grow the appeal of the sport and embrace the diversity.

     

The energy and momentum of the women’s victory was short lived, including the now defunct professional women’s’ soccer league that soon followed sure there was an increase in girls youth programs, but the overall feeling and imagery of soccer has not changed.  Soccer has a long way to go to really be accepted in this country and join the Big Four, and that’s too bad, because it’s the one sport that actually cuts across many demographics and truly represents the face of America as we know it today.

The Values of Championship Teams

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Lessons to be learned from the 2010 NBA Finals

                                                      

As I sit inside listening to the thunder and rain that is pounding against the pavement of my front steps I’ve decided to reflect on a couple of questions that have arisen and how to connect them to the upcoming NBA finals. Why do people find it necessary to search outside of their circle for the talents and resources they need to get ahead? Why is it that so many don’t recognize or appreciate the talented people that are within their reach? I like so many others stand guilty as charged in acknowledging that for some reason it is hard to see those people, places and things that can help us achieve success because they are so close and people tend to overlook or take things we see on a regular basis for granted.  When it comes to contemplating what is needed to achieve success there is a broad mentality that somehow what we need is “Out there” if we can just connect with the right person place or thing then somehow all of the stars will align and we’ll be on our way. The problem with this philosophy is that it induces us to look beyond those valuable resources that sit right under our nose. There’s a proclivity to look toward the horizon for that superstar or something special that will lead us to the Promised Land.

As I prepare to watch the 2010 NBA finals between two of the most storied and successful programs in the history of team sports, compete for the right to be crowned champion, one of the traits I admire about them both is their ability to appreciate every person on the roster including the coaches and trainers and the strengths and talents each brings. A great example of looking within your circle occurs when a head coach goes to the bench to find that player, who can make things happen, give the team a spark and change the tempo of the game, hence Nate Robinson’s performance in the pivotal game 6 of the Eastern Conference Championship.  This is why theCeltics and Lakers are consistently vying for championships and not sitting home.  These two teams understand that every person has a job to do and the team that maximizes and receives the best output from their respective units will bring home the title complete with a parade. Championship teams master living in the moment, they don’t waste valuable time and energy looking beyond their current circumstances, or gazing into the future for answers. At the conclusion of the season they will address any shortcomings and make moves to correct them, but while they are at the doorstep of greatness they have learned to appreciate the individuals within their circle and live or die with that.  I think we as individuals should take a page out of their playbooks and begin to appreciate those individuals within our grasp, stop looking past your bench players who may already possess the talents you seek. Tap into the treasures in your backyard and begin to recognize the unlimited potential of others; the answers you seek to help you achieve victory in life may stand just a few feet away.