Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It is July on the Florida campus, which means by the time you walk from your car to the football building you need a towel and a sweet tea. The word "languid" comes to mind. Coach Urban Meyer's office is dark, its occupant stealing the last moments of summer on a coach's calendar.
And then Tim Tebow bounds up the stairs after a noontime workout. It is July on the Florida campus, but the word "languid" never applies to Tebow. He is wearing a black Gators T-shirt, shorts, blue and orange Crocs and a summer beard.
Not that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Tebow ever resembled a fuzzy-cheeked boy, but the beard is a subtle visual cue that one of the (already) memorable careers in the history of the game has begun its final year.
"It's gone by fast," Tebow said. "It's been a fun ride down here."
A fun ride? Two national championships wrapped around a 2007 Heisman Trophy is a hero sandwich, Gators-style. He has evolved from relief pitcher for Chris Leak to one-man backfield (32 touchdowns passing, 23 touchdowns rushing in 2007) to the more polished passer of last season. He has helped one mentor get an SEC head coaching job (Dan Mullen at Mississippi State) and welcomed another (Scot Loeffler, who recruited him to Michigan).
Tebow's value as a player -- he has passed and run for 8,427 yards and 110 touchdowns -- is surpassed only by his value as a leader. The time will come when his postgame speech after the Ole Miss loss last season will be recited daily by Florida schoolchildren.
That leadership has been needed since the Gators left Dolphin Stadium last January, crystal football in hand. Coaches who have won a national championship learn to dread the Year After and the sense of entitlement that pervades the locker room like a staph infection. Gators, have no fear. Dr. Tebow will see you now.
"When a team wins," Tebow said, "I think they get complacent." His speech raced and the pitch of his voice rose. "I think the great thing about our team is we haven't gotten complacent. We've worked so much harder than we did last year leading up to it, because we know what it takes to get there and we want to get there again. … You hear guys looking forward to two-a-days! You never hear that."
Great players can be found at the intersection of Talent and Passion. But that is an incomplete address for the Florida quarterback. He has what few 21-year-old athletes possess. He has what few 21-year-old anythings possess. Tebow has perspective.
"He's a vicious competitor, OK?" Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. "But yet his compassion is endless. How many times have you seen that?"
Through his family's evangelism, Tebow has seen the Third World. Through his own outreach, he speaks at prisons in Central Florida. He visits local hospitals."I think more so than playing football and being a competitor and trying to win," Tebow said, "compassion and love for helping people is so much more important than any of those other qualities can ever amount to being."
"Compassion" is not a word often heard in football, unless it's the fourth quarter and Florida is pummeling Charleston Southern. It is not a trait the sport prizes. Tebow has all the traits football prizes: toughness, competitiveness, desire. None of them is first on his list.
"Just helping, being someone who, when someone needs something, you're there for them; if it's a teammate, if it's a Make-a-Wish kid, if it's someone in the hospital," Tebow said. "And not just someone who does it here and there, now and then. That's my life. That's what I want it to be. When I'm done playing football, my life isn't over."
One of a quarterback's greatest talents is the ability to see the whole field. A month before he turns 22, a month before practice begins for his final college football season, Tebow sounded as if he is able to see the whole field -- in uniform or out. "I think a good way of explaining it is football is what I do but it's not who I am," he said. "So many people get caught up in 'This is who I am. I'm a football player.' No, that's what I do. I play football and I love playing football. … I'm so much more outside of that.
"I don't want to be labeled as a football player. I want to be labeled as someone who, when someone needed something, or when someone asked me to do something, I was there for them. I was there to support them. I wanted to help them genuinely, not because it looked good or not because someone was going to write about it, but because I genuinely cared about helping someone else."
All of which led to the question: If Tebow had never played football, what would be his normal life?
"I don't really think about normal," Tebow said. "I think normal is something I never wanted to be."
There was never any danger of that. No danger at all.
Friday, July 10, 2009
'Victory' in baseball -- on & off field
When Jonathan Voss started Victory Baseball, he wanted more than just a travel baseball program. He wanted kids to learn about more than just the game of baseball.
In his effort to build kids both on and off the field, he brought in the Sportsleader program. Sportsleader, which is a program designed to build the kids' virtue, has taken Victory Baseball to the next level.
"Our goal is to develop kids more from a social and character side other than X's and O's of baseball," Voss said. "We instituted it in all of our programs this year and are teaching them to accept responsibility and lead courageously. Baseball is the byproduct of communication for it."
Sportsleader was started by former Ohio State football player Joe Lukens and Paul Passafiume. It is endorsed by Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel and Chicago Bears co-owner Patrick McCaskey. It is used across the country and continues to spread. According to Voss, Providence Catholic instituted the program as well this year.
While Victory Baseball has been extremely successful with an overall winning percentage of .800, the program is more focused on building young men.
"The wins aren't important," Voss said. "Baseball won't determine who these young men are and will be in the future. Instead we are focused on getting good kids to be pillars in society. That is the legacy we are trying to lead."
Voss first heard of the program from Mike Cemeno, owner of Cemeno's Pizza. Voss and his coaches then attended character-building conferences in Cincinnati. Each coach went through a formal four-week training program.
"We have great coaches who realize they are in the mentoring-type role. It's their job to give the youth something more than just baseball," Voss said.
"We want to teach the kids how to not only be good baseball players, but more importantly good young men, adults, fathers, and sons," 12U coach Bart Pernai said.
There are three major aspects of Sportsleader that the coaches focus on -- charity, humility and courage. Pernai said the group is learning how to take ownership for their own game and own actions. The players have picked up on this aspect quickly.
"We work together and don't criticize each other if someone makes a mistake," catcher/infielder Drew Voss said.
"If someone gets down we always pick him up," Johnny Bylina added.
"We realize there's always another chance so just get it the next play," Brian Dusatka said.
The selflessness and charity have been evident. According to Brandon Kaminiski, the team volunteered at a Ronald McDonald House, where they served food. Also, Jim O'Brien and his 9U team have received national recognition for their jerseys. While most teams have the player's last name on the back of the jersey, the 9U team does not because they believe they are playing for the name on the front, not the back.
"We're just trying to be better people and set good examples," Drew Voss said.
Pernai's team has experienced some success on the field as well. The team is headed to Cooperstown this week to play against competition from across the nation. The winning could be a direct result of the Sportsleader lessons.
"It teaches the kids to give all you've got because you don't want to let your teammate down," Jonathan Voss said. "If the kids are able to do that, the winning takes care of itself. We say bust your tail for two hours and we will let the chips fall where they may."
Jonathan Voss has noticed not only a change with attitude on the field, but at home as well with his son, Drew.
"It's great to see his growth and maturity as he is being a good kid around the house, even if it's just taking out the garbage," he said. "He is taking a proactive role at home. I've seen all the kids bring that leadership they have off the field onto the field and it is raising their level of play."
For Voss, the biggest result from Sportsleader is the effect on family.
"The most important thing is the growth it brings as a family," he said. "Before the season we have dads hand out the jersey to their son and each dad told their son what he was proud of. It challenges the kids then to be leaders and take responsibility. This is the difference I want Victory Baseball to have on a young man's life, in any sport and in anything that they do."
Just because Victory Baseball won't be seen getting in another team's face or heard smack-talking, they should not be taken lightly.
"Some teams come in thinking we're soft, but I think our winning percentage speaks for itself," Voss said.
"We feel that anyone can go out and throw a baseball around and many teams are successful, but what matters is what the kids can do for the community and culture, and Sportsleader has taught us that. Not all professional athletes are positive so this is an opportunity for kids to get a positive impact. It's a process that we still need to get better, but it will only continue to grow."
Anyone interested in Victory Baseball should check out the team web site at www.leaguelineup.com/victorybaseballclubofjoliet. For more information on Sportsleader, go to www.sportsleader.org. There you can find more information on how to take responsibility as well as teach it, as Voss has done.
"I feel it's my responsibility to give these kids more than just a typical program, and Victory Baseball does that," he said.
Another great article can be found by clicking on the link below