SportsLeader is a virtue-based mentoring and motivation program for coaches. This blog shares stories from coaches all over the country transforming lives. For more information contact Lou Judd -

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to Handle Parents of Players

As a coach, if you have spent any time on the job at all, you know that dealing with parents comes with the territory. It’s unavoidable. But, handling overzealous parents really isn’t covered by most coaches pay scales. In fact, the number one cause of coaching resignations in this country is conflicts with parents.  These are the parents who show up at practice demanding to know why their son or daughter isn't getting more playing time. Or, the ones that come up to you at halftime to let you know the plays you called during the first half aren't working, and they have some ideas that might win the game in the second half. I know, you would just like blink your eyes and make “parent problems” go away, but that isn’t going to happen. The best thing to do is to take some steps to minimize parent problems before they happen. Here are some proactive steps you can take to cut down on parent issues and build positive relationships with moms and dads. 
  • Recognition: Parents are an important part of your team. You need to publically recognize how important a role they play on your team. You need to thank them for their commitment to their son or daughter and everything they do to help them with their team role. Recognize that few people have more influence over your player’s performance on Friday night than mom and dad. 
  • Organization: Get your stuff together. Write a formal program guide for your football program that details all the ins and outs of your program. Print it and give it to your players parents. Cover team philosophies, discipline, schedules, routines, team standards, etc. It puts parents at ease to know you are organized and have a plan. Let parents know that football is simply a context to teach their sons about “virtue” and that your care for their player goes well beyond the playing field. If parents know that you care for their son or daughter as a person first and not just as a body in a uniform, you will have strong parent support. 
  • Communication: Parent meetings are critical. Letters, emails, texts, face book, and your cell phone, use them all to communicate with parents.  Make sure that every parent has complete contact information for each coach in your program. Open lines of communication and nipping parent rumors and back biting immediately at their source goes a long way to minimizing parent problems. 
  • Expectations: A lot of parent and player problems are caused by parents and players not having the same expectations regarding their participation in sports. Son is playing for fun and to hang with the guys while Mom and Dad are anticipating all league trophies, a college scholarship, and a shot at the NFL draft. Most parents only know what they see on TV about sports.  You need to educate them about the real purpose of sports and the realities surrounding their son or daughters athletic career.  Do they know that less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football at a NCAA college?  
  • Education: As a coach, you know more about team participation than a parent will ever know.  You should spend quality time teaching mom and dad how to be “great athletic parents”. Cover topics like equipment, proper hydration and nourishment, rest, and academics. Make sure mom, dad, and son are all on the same page as to what sons “role” is on the team. If mom and dad come to the game expecting to see Johnny starting at QB and his role is to write down the plays called from the sideline, you might have a problem.  Everyone should understand their role, and take pride in it. When determining player roles and playing time, it always helps me to remember that mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, and uncle buck and aunt betty have driven 100 miles to watch Bobby play. Bobby is the pride and joy of their lives and we should do everything we can to get him in the game. 
  • Inclusion and Involvement: Get parents involved with team meals, water, academic counseling, etc. Parents want to help but they often don’t know how.  Give the most overzealous parents something constructive to do and you will be amazed at how quiet they get.
Finally, and most importantly, as a coach, I always tried to treat parents like I would like to be treated as a parent of a player. Over the years I have coached two brothers, four sons, and several nephews.  I think in most parent’s eyes, it’s hard to go wrong when you treat every player with the care you would extend to your own son.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Okay, Fine, My Father Was Right

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
-Mark Twain
For most of my life I refused to admit that I was wrong, especially when it came to advice given to me by my father. I now see, with naked clarity, how right and caring and sensible my father's cornerstone advice has been from the very beginning.
Perhaps the most consistently contentious issue between fathers and sons is the question of work and how to be successful in the real world. Right from the get-go, I thought I should start at the top. I was a talented young man and I thought everyone around me should realize this. With an air of entitlement and a growing grandiosity, I did not believe that I should have to pay my dues like other people. As a result, I constantly tried to find a short cut to the big time.
The baseball metaphor my father always used was that I was trying to hit a home run rather than focusing my efforts on getting to first base. In fact, I expected to hit a game-winning grand slam in my first major league at bat, resulting in immediate enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. As most of us have come to learn through the lens of life experience, such ridiculous expectations lead directly to strikeouts and dead ends, failures that take place without the honesty of a nuts and bolts beginning. But my father and I came from very different backgrounds, and that is the genesis of our conflicting outlooks on life.
My father is a prototypical example of the American dream come to life, a self-made man who achieved success through hard work. In Denver, Colorado, he grew up in a middle-class family that often experienced a roller coaster ride of economic ups and downs. Focusing on the promise of college, Dad won a scholarship to Brown University. Digging into his studies while forming a close-knit group of friends, he thrived at Brown.
Upon graduation, my dad married my beautiful mother at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and obtained an entry-level position at a Wall Street brokerage house. As the years passed and children were born, Dad worked with an unswerving determination, becoming a respected partner of the firm and the head of the sales team. He worked hard, but was also innovative, and eventually became a renowned expert in raising capital when others failed.
His most famous effort was captured in the book, Behind Closed Doors: Wheeling and Dealing in the Banking World, by Hope Lampert. Dad is a central character in a chapter on the challenge of raising money for the initial public offering of the computer company Compaq. Nobody thought anyone could go up against IBM at the time. But after interviewing the founders of Compaq, Dad found an angle to use to sell the company to the investors. By 1992, Compaq was the biggest supplier of personal computers in the world.
In contrast to my father's hard-earned success, I grew up as a privileged Upper East Side New Yorker who expected everything to be handed to him on the proverbial silver platter. Like my father and both of my sisters, I went to Brown where I majored in literary theory, and partied until the wee hours of the morning. After college, I headed out to Los Angeles where I fed into the dream of selling a big screenplay. Although my partying became habitual and out of control, I always thought the next big script sale would change everything. If only I could hit the legendary game-winning grand slam home run, life would fall into place and the prison cycle of addiction would end.
Seeing my attitude firsthand, my father told me that there were no short cuts, and that everyone had to pay their dues. I never listened, always trying to convince him and myself that the next big thing was waiting just around the bend. Eventually, I lost my house and my marriage and wound up at a drug rehab facility. Never listening to the sound advice of my father and insisting on following my own path toward self-destruction, I ended up in a terrible place.
My father, however, never gave up on me and has been remarkably supportive throughout my sobriety. When I helped start a nonprofit investment company, my father accepted a place on the company's board and did everything he could to help us get off the ground. Since I had never worked in the past, I made a lot of mistakes. But with the faith 22of my family and the support of my father, I have been able to pay my dues and help get my career as a technical writer and a website optimizer off the ground. Unlike some old friends, I have not won an Academy Award or produced hundred-million-dollar films, but I have discovered my own sense of personal dignity and integrity.
What remains so amazing is that so many of the lessons I have learned have come directly from my father. Listening to him, I have come to realize that none of my successful friends were ever given a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Rather, all of them, whether they were lucky or incredibly gifted or both, paid their dues and worked hard to achieve their success. Like my father tried to teach me from day one, there are no shortcuts. No matter how talented or fortunate you may be, success is the product of sweat in the form of hard work -- showing up each day and doing your job to the best of your abilities.
This may sound like a bunch of awful clichés from a self-help manual. But each of these so-called clichés has been proven to work in the real world. My father still works hard, even after all of his success. Every weekday, at an age when many of his contemporaries have retired, my father wakes up early in the morning and sits down at the computer to see how the market is doing before launching into hours of networking and conference calls. I have such gratitude that my father has stuck by my side and believed in me even when I was unable to believe in myself. Learning from his example, I have finally embraced the challenges of being an adult. Without my father's consistent love and support, this might never have been possible.
BY: John Lavitt
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Dad

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When Your Players Are not With You

I dropped off two of my wrestlers at Jeff Jordan’s State Champ Camp Sunday evening up in Urbana, Ohio.  It’s a tough camp!  The kids go hard against great competition for four full days.  It requires total courage, total patience, total focus, total perseverance….and as much help as you can get!

Earlier in the summer I stayed with my wrestlers when we attended, so I could help them, personally, through the week, but this time I was going back to Cincy and would not be there to motivate them.  As I drove Moges and David up to Urbana, I thought, “How can I help these guys, even though I won’t be here?”  I came up with a few things.  I think these things helped my guys this week and might be an aid to others who want to “encourage” loved ones when they are away from your personal care.
1. The first thing I did was talk to both my guys, individually.  I told them one-on-one, that they could do this week.  They had the strength, they had ability to make it.  We went over goals, what they needed to focus on, and I tried to convince them to enjoy themselves.  This camp was about getting better and just by being there, they were getting better.  Relax and enjoy the experience!
2. The second thing I did was talk to the coaches at Jordan.  I enlisted their help.  I explained to them that I wanted my guys to really push themselves.  Could the coaches make sure my guys pushed themselves?  Could they “watch over” them?  I needed people looking out for Moges and David, encouraging them when they were struggling, praising them when they were performing.
3. Thirdly, I decided I would pray for the guys.  I would ask God every day to watch over them.  Give the guys fortitude, courage, perseverance, faith, patience, etc…  I would not ask God once, or twice.  I must pray for the guys, UNCEASINGLY.  I would pray in the morning, I would pray in the afternoon and I would pray in the evening.
4. Finally, I decided I must sacrifice and suffer with Moges and David.  They would suffer this week.  They would have doubts, they would hurt, they would want to quit.  God let me participate in their suffering to help them through it.  This way, it would be like I was at camp with them.  So I got up and ran Monday morning, Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning.(I will get up and run tomorrow morning too!)  The runs were tough but I felt good about it.  
Then, WHAM!, God decided to really give me some suffering, He decided my leaky kitchen faucet needed to be replaced.  After 24 hours and $500, the faucet and kitchen sink were replaced by my wife, ( Krista), me and friends Jeff Sweeney and Craig Filipkowski.  If you know anything about me, I have no idea how to fix anything around the house and I don’t like parting with money that we don’t have, boy what suffering!  But God helped us through it and I KNOW that it helped Moges and David.  I can only imagine the pain they went through!
I can’t wait to see the guys tomorrow on their last day, to find out how they conquered the week.  I want to see the glow in their eyes, the confidence in their voices, the poise in their step.  I know they will have grown as men, I know they will have done something difficult and succeeded.  I know they will be more ready the next time they have a difficult challenge.  And I know that I helped them through the whole ordeal.  What a joy!  May God grant you the same opportunity!
Coach Willertz
Winton Woods Wrestling:  Wisdom is gained only through suffering!
“Character is what you do when nobody is watching”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not Just Tim Tebow

You can only imagine how proud I was to read this. Mike is an assistant wrestling coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati studying to be a doctor. He was captain of the Harvard University wrestling team. What a great example for your young men.

"...had a doc tell me today to be careful because when I get married my wife will take half of my money when she divorces me.  I replied that I wanted to get married once and then just stay married.  He then literally told me, in colorful language, to have sex with as many women as possible before getting married. 

In my head I just started thinking I could laugh it off or I could be a little more bold in my stance and, tired of seeking the approval of men, I told him I was one of those guys who is waiting until marriage to have sex.  

To my surprise he said good for me.  It just showed me how crass and careless the world is.  And to keep me humble, the Lord brought to mind my own failings, to remind me that "but for the grace of God, there go I."   Let's keep preaching his grace so that men can enjoy life with him eternally and enjoy the fruits of a life that is pleasing to him now."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Midnight Ice Cream and Comic Relief

I was talking with a coach a while back about family life during the season ... He said in the past he unfortunately pretty much forgot about his wife and kids once 2-a-days started but last season he tried something. He decided that he would do something special for his wife on Tuesday, his daughter on Wednesday and son on Thursday.

They loved it. His wife liked red wine - so "Wine with Wife on Tuesdays". His daughter - ice cream. Many times he would get home insanely late on Wednesdays ... so he would wake her up and they would have "Midnight Ice Cream". His son was going through a checkers fad .... "Checkers with Chad.

It was the best season of his life. His kids would go to bed a little earlier on "their" night knowing that Dad would come and wake them up to spend time with them. He was tired but he wouldn't trade it for the world now.

For some comic relief, here is a rap for all Dads - "Dad Life". Thanks, Bob Dwyer!

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Run a Commitment Ceremony

Part of the SportsLeader program is to have your coaches and players commit themselves to each other publicly to strive to live a life of virtue.

The commitment card is a symbol of that commitment.

I was blessed to be a part of a team virtue camp last week with Parkway High School of Rockford, Ohio.

Above is a video clip showing how they did their ceremony. Head Coach Ed Kuhn gave a great intro.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Simple and Free

Remember to look up once in a while. Now that we are outside at practice so often ... take some time to appreciate God's creation ... the sky, the clouds, the sunset ... At times we only complain about the heat.

These are all "simple and free" gifts that God gives us to put life and sports in perspective. It also gives the kids a great example.

These are two shots I have been blessed to see over the past week.

God bless you and your team, Lou

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Professional Boxer Puts the Needs of His Wife Ahead of Championship Gold

Here is another GOOD example of a man being a real man - putting his wife before himself. Our kids NEED to see and hear these examples. I highlighted some parts that moved me the most.

God bless, Lou

Robert Joseph Guerrero (born March 27, 1983 in Gilroy, California) is a professional American boxer. He is the former IBF Super Featherweight champion and a former two-time IBF featherweight champion of the world. Nicknamed The Ghost, Guerrero's current record is 26 wins, 1 losses, and 1 draw, and 2 no contest with 18 of his wins coming by way of knockout. He vacated the IBF Super Featherweight champion due to his wife's battle with leukemia.

Currently in production, "THE GHOST" (2010) chronicles the life of Robert Guerrero. He returns to the sport after vacating his world championship belt to be by his ailing wife's side as she battles Leukemia. An uplifting and refreshing story of love, life, and an eternal fight to be the best fighter, father, and husband. "The Ghost" shines a light on a boxer breaking the stigma and misconceptions of boxing life.

Guerrero’s biggest win came outside the ring
By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports

Robert Guerrero put the needs of his ailing wife, Casey, ahead of boxing championship gold.

Robert Guerrero had showered and dressed one day in March 2009 when he bumped into his trainer, Bob Santos, as he was preparing to leave the gym.

In a few days, Guerrero would meet Daud Yordan in an important super featherweight bout in San Jose, Calif., that would be broadcast nationally on HBO.

Santos said Wednesday that he recalled watching as Guerrero peacefully strode through the door on his way home, carrying a smile on his face and offering a friendly word for everyone he passed on the way out.

“I’ve been with him for a long, long time and I remember thinking that if I could mold a human being after someone, to make that person I’d want my son to grow up to be, it would be Robert Guerrero,” Santos said. “Just looking at him, watching him leave, he was so relaxed and so at peace and I felt he was ready to put on a tremendous performance.”

Guerrero, 27, is an athletic and courageous boxer with surprising hand and foot speed and a lanky body that has made him a difficult physical match for the world’s finest featherweight and super featherweight fighters. Santos had grown to admire him, both for his athletic skills as well as for the type of person he had become.

“Just a great, humble, wonderful human being,” Santos said of Guerrero. “We’ve shared so much together. I think he’s looked at me as a mentor. We’ve confided so much in each other over the years. That was the kind of relationship we’d built.”

They didn’t share everything, however. Guerrero had kept one secret to himself.

Just days before he was to fight Yordan, a bout which could have significant implications for his boxing career, Guerrero learned some awful news: His wife Casey had leukemia and was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. There were no donor matches and the sands were quickly escaping from Casey’s hourglass.

Only a few months earlier, doctors had drilled into her brain to give her chemotherapy treatments. But now, less than two full months later, she was facing the bleakest moments of her life.

If a donor wasn’t found quickly, doctors told Robert that his young wife would not survive much longer. The mother of his two young children, the woman from whom he had been inseparable since they met when they were each 14 years old, was fighting for her life and Robert had said nary a word to Santos.

A devoutly Christian man, Robert Guerrero had often spoken publicly of his deep faith. This, he said, was one of the times he had to prove it.

“It was devastating, of course,” he said Wednesday. “I had a lot of sleepless nights where I’d cried myself to sleep. You can’t help but think of what’s happening to this person you love more than life itself. And we were helpless in this. That’s where my faith came in. It was in God’s hands.”

The doctor’s harsh words weren’t the last he’d hear. But Guerrero, who fights Joel Casamayor on July 31 in an important non-title super lightweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on HBO Pay-Per-View, had long since proved he could handle it.

“You need a lot of mental strength to be a boxer and I’ve been fighting for a long time,” said Guerrero, who was a natural at boxing almost from the first time he pulled on gloves at the age of nine. “The discipline you need to succeed in boxing has helped me. Ninety percent of the people, they’ll turn to drugs, alcohol, something like that, to get them through something like this. But fortunately for me, I had the discipline to know that this was going to be hard but that it was something I was going to have to do.

“This was going to be my most important fight.”

Robert and Casey Guerrero grew up in Gilroy, Calif., and attended Brownell Junior High School together. By the age of 14, Guerrero’s boxing exploits were well known around town and he was a popular figure in school who had little trouble attracting attention from the girls.

Casey lived around the corner from Robert. The daughter of a roofer, she’d noticed him. “I pretty much had this really serious crush on him from the minute I’d seen him,” Casey said giggling.

Robert felt likewise, but Casey was different from the rest of the girls in his school. She didn’t approach him. She didn’t fawn over him because of his boxing achievements.

“At that point, I was in the local newspaper a lot and a lot of people in town knew who I was and pretty much everyone in school did,” Robert said. “Everybody wants to be around you and be next to you and be your friend. But Casey, she was different.”

Of course, the one playing hard to get was the one he wanted to meet. A mutual friend introduced them and they have been together ever since.

Almost from their first days as a couple, all of their thoughts about the future always included the other. Robert was less than a month past his 18th birthday when he turned professional, and Casey was always there for him, cheering him on at his bouts and encouraging him to train hard.

“She never said, ‘Oh, you’re always training, always at the gym. You never have time for me,’ ” Robert said. “She was great. She understood right away what a boxer needed to do. Nobody could have given me more support.”

With only a few minor obstacles slowing his ascent, Robert zoomed up the rankings. He was beating tough guys early in his pro career and convincing Santos that what he’d seen years earlier in the amateurs was still there.

“He was in just his 10th pro fight and he was still just a baby, just [20] years old and he fought David Vasquez, who was coming off a fight with Paulie Ayala, who had just been the Fighter of the Year,” Santos said. “He was a hard, rough guy, especially for a young kid just getting going. A couple of fights later, he fought Enrique Sanchez, whose only two losses were to (world champions) Nestor Garza and Marco Antonio Barrera.

“He didn’t have it easy. They put him in there with a lot of really good guys and he just kept knocking them off, one after the other. I knew he’d be special.”

Robert won the International Boxing Federation featherweight title on Sept. 2, 2006, when he stopped Eric Aiken in Los Angeles. He was just 23.

“He was so excited,” Casey said. “He dreamed of winning a world title for I don’t know how long. That was like he’d accomplished the goal of a lifetime.”

He lost the belt in his first defense, but the defeat to Orlando Salido was changed to a no-contest when Salido failed his postfight urinalysis and tested positive for the anabolic steroid Nandrolone. The IBF vacated the title and Robert won it right back, reclaiming it in Denmark after stopping Spend Abazi on Feb. 23, 2007.

And then, almost a year to the day after the Salido fight, Robert was set to defend his title against Martin Honorio in Tucson, Ariz., on Nov. 3, 2007. During the last month of his training camp, Casey wasn’t feeling well. He said it was like she had the flu and couldn’t get rid of it. She said it felt like she had an ulcer.

“My stomach hurt badly,” Casey said. “I was tired all the time. I didn’t want to eat.”

About a week before the fight against Honorio, Robert had enough of Casey’s illness. He decided to take her to the emergency room and have her examined thoroughly. Her white blood cell counts were extremely elevated.

“[The doctor] sat me down and told me she had leukemia,” Robert said. “In boxing, you take a lot of abuse, deal with a lot of aches and pains. But nothing really could help you deal with that. It felt like the hardest punch I had ever been hit with. I was literally sick to my stomach. A million thoughts go through your mind at that point, but I knew I was going to do whatever I had to do to be there for Casey.

“It didn’t matter to me what it would be, I would do it. She’d always been there for me and I said to myself, ‘You know what, Robert? It’s time to pay her back. You have to be there for her.’ ”

Later that week, Robert retained his world title by knocking out Honorio in the first round. He vacated the belt in June 2008 and soon was making a run up the rankings at super featherweight. The Yordan fight would be a tough test in front of a national television audience. A win could lead him to another title bout.

But days before that fight, disaster struck again when he learned of the desperate nature of Casey’s condition. Without a bone marrow donor, she was living on borrowed time.

Robert fought Jordan, but was cut badly when he and Yordan inadvertently clashed heads. When the bout was stopped, Robert came under intense criticism from many who said he’d quit after the ringside physician asked him how he was and he said he couldn’t see.

“I would have fought on and I know I’ve received a lot of criticism for what happened,” Robert said. “But after what I’ve been through, that kind of stuff doesn’t matter and it doesn’t affect me. If I had the opportunity to keep fighting, I would have. The doctor made the decision to stop the fight, not me. But whatever criticism came my way was fine.

“I recognize everyone has the right to their own opinion, but what anyone else thought about it didn’t affect me because I had a lot more important things to worry about.”

Robert eventually got the opportunity at the super featherweight belt and claimed it when he beat Malcolm Klassen in Houston on Aug. 22, 2009. Golden Boy Promotions saw a star in the making and planned a March 27 fight this year for him against highly regarded Michael Katsidis. A win in that bout would have propelled him to big-time status.

Robert Guerrero, though, was forced to make the decision he wished he’d never have to make.

The chance to have a championship belt wrapped around Guerrero’s waist was the one thing that kept pushing him every day. But in January, as the fight with Katsidis was looming, he was conflicted.

A bone marrow donor in Europe had been found for his wife. She was preparing to undergo the transplant surgery, which was the only way her life could be saved. Yet doctors told the couple that Casey Guerrero’s chances of surviving were no better than 50-50.

Robert instantly decided to surrender his championship. The title had no meaning – he had to be at his wife’s side in her darkest days.

“I really didn’t have a choice,” he said. “My fight wasn’t going to be with Katsidis. It was going to be against [Casey’s cancer]. I couldn’t be away, I had to be there for her and with her. I needed to do what I did.”

Robert would commute 50 miles from their home each day to Stanford Hospital, taking care of their children, Savannah, 5, and Robert Jr., 3, and sitting by his wife’s side.

“I knew the kind of guy he was and I knew he would be with me,” Casey said. “I was really scared and having him there with me made it a lot easier.”

The surgery was a success. A little more than six months since the surgery, Casey, 26, has been declared cancer-free and her doctors have cleared her to travel to Las Vegas next week to watch her husband fight.

The couple does not have health insurance and their medical bills have soared beyond $1 million. Friends have held fundraisers for them and they get some financial assistance from Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program.

They’ve paid what they can out of their own pockets, but haven’t let the bills consume their lives.

“It might sound a little weird when I say this, but I feel I’ve been truly blessed,” Robert said. “I have Casey and she’s the most amazing person. She’s cancer free now. That’s more important to me than any fight, any title. We have a chance to grow old together and raise our children and live our lives.

“God has blessed me in so many ways. I’m thankful to him for what he’s given me and for the fact that he’s given Casey her health. And on top of this, I have a fight against a great champion like Casamayor that could do so many good things for me.”

He paused for a moment before continuing.

“Casey is a special person and she means more to me than I could ever tell you,” Robert said. “To see her now, and for her to have her health back and be cancer-free, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I am really and truly a blessed man.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Eddie Gaven - How to Stay Strong

Last week my son and I were able to attend a Columbus Crew soccer game against the NY Red Bulls. A friend of mine, Mike Burke, and the Badin High School soccer coach Kyle Kammer wanted to see if they could get Eddie Gaven could meet with the team after the game to give his testimony.

Jim Scmitdke of Athletes in Action very generously worked hard to make this happen - Thanks Jim!

After a great game, a 2-0 win, we were able to meet with him for a few minutes. It was an awesome experience to be around a professional athlete who takes his faith and his family so seriously. He is an excellent role model for our young people, not to mention an outstanding athlete.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brian Leonard – a Leap of Character

By Dan Duddy

        I recently had the honor to direct the third annual Brian Leonard Football Camp last week. As you may know Brian is one of the top “third down backs” on the offense for the Cincinnati Bengals. I am getting to know Brian more and more each summer, and like most people I once only knew him as the guy who would literally hurdle would-be tacklers as he carried the ball for the upstart Rutgers football program. Brian has made the famous “Leonard Leap” several times in the NFL as well, satisfying on-going bettors during his transition to “the show” by answering the question “Can he get away with that in the NFL?”
       Brian’s greatest leap was getting to the NFL. He comes from a tiny impoverished town in upstate New York called Governeur. Where there are Amish carriages pulled by horses slowing down eighteen wheelers on the two lane highways that cut through mountains, white puffy clouds and blue skies.
       Brian was with the kids every second of the four day camp. He wanted me and my buddy to bring a camp to “his kids” in his home town where he never had one growing up. When Brian spoke to the group of nearly one hundred everyday, he never left out “family” and “remembering where you’re from”. Mr. Leonard, his dad, was with him most of the time, especially at lunch where they would share a lunch packed by Mrs. Leonard. A conglomeration of sandwiches of tuna on wonder white bread, a baggie of chips, and a couple of home made rice krispie treats. This was the same lunch that I gave to my eight year old last spring. Brian saw me staring at the care package and innocently said “want some coach?”
       Brian is excited to know that the Bengals are putting him on the field more this year. He was told to lose weight so he can carry the ball on first and second down as well, so he didn’t eat the rice krispy treats.
       Brian not only made the leap from his barn- lined high school football field to national TV, but his coach who gets paid millions to WIN, is putting Brian on the field more in order to do so.
      Why is that? It’s simple, because Brian is a man of simple prioritized values. His family is number one; he serves others, and never will forget where he comes from. Character wins games, and character is founded in humility, like Brian Leonard’s.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Ladle or the Soup

There once was a man who chose to volunteer at a soup kitchen. He arrived and was given a silver ladle. He was given his instructions and shortly thereafter people started coming in for some soup.

But this man spent all of his time thinking about the ladle ... that it was silver and not wood, no fancy etchings, it was too thin for his hand, it wasn't big enough ... and subsequently he never served any soup.

Finally another guy came over and asked him, "Dude, this is a soup kitchen. Why did you choose to volunteer if you aren't going to serve any soup?" 


Coaches, the purpose of coaching sports is to build young men and young women. Building virtuous men and women - that is the serving of the soup - the sport is merely the ladle, our "tool" to teach virtue.

We too can get so caught up with the X's and O's of our sport ... that we forget about virtue, willpower, character ...

Don't spend all your time on the ladle - serve the soup!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reverence for Humanity in our Players

By Randy Traeger
     It has always bothered me when coaches talk about their players and use the words “My kids” and “My guys”. Again, they are not YOUR KIDS.  They belong to their parents and their creator.  I think the “My” tag is symbolic of a basic lack of respect for our players humanity and our respectful relationship with each of them. Do we look upon our players as merely pawns, to be used, and manipulated as a means to reaching the end goal of victory on the scoreboard?
     For me, using the word “Reverence” when it comes to my relationships with our players has been an epiphany.  I define “Reverence for Players” as a feeling or attitude of deep respect for their “Humanity”. Do we have a genuine reverence for the basic humanity in each of our players? Do we respect and revere each encounter with players, each opportunity to teach, to know, to understand, to love, to serve? 
     Man by our very creation deserves regard and respect. This respect is our natural birthright, regardless of race, creed, color, or social status. I believe our modern society has done tremendous harm to how we respect each others humanity.  We have been de-humanized. Let’s re-humanize our players and revere each of those individual relationships. 
     Our “Reverence for Humanity” can be shown in three ways: words, actions and heart. These all are equally important.
      Reverence by words: Our players should be addressed in appropriate words and kind language. This creates harmony, peace and love on our team. There is no place for cuss words in sports.  It is essential to avoid insulting words; they ruin unity and cause hatred and animosity. Praise in public, punish in private. Public display’s of abusive language is not only an insult for the player; it is an insult for the coach as well, other people are listening. The wounds of our words are deeper than the wounds of knives. Watch your mouth!
      Reverence by action: Our Reverence for Players humanity can also be physical, material, and time consuming. If there is a player who needs any kind of help he should be supported. It should be regarded as a duty not just as a favor. This is particularly important when it comes to helping players with school, behavior, social, or home problems. Remember, our actions as coaches speak so loudly that they often can’t hear what we are saying. 
     Reverence by heart: Reverence by the heart means that we should foster only love in our hearts for each of our players. If our hearts are filled with feelings of love, empathy and kindness, our actions will be virtuous. If they are poisoned by contempt, belittlement, and animosity our actions will go the way of vice. 

     My personal dedication to this “Reverence” causes me to focus more attention on the “weak links” in our team chain, the players that outsiders sometimes refer to as the geeks, the nerds, and the trouble makers.  I try and go out of my way to reach out and connect with them every time we meet.  Challenge the strong and save the weak from discouragement. 
    I have also found that this focus on “Reverence” has spilled over into how I view my personal relationships with family and friends. I am going to try harder to revere more and cherish more each and every encounter I have with my wife, my children, my family, and my friends.  Who knows when it may be our last?

   “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another always as an end and never as a means only.”
                                                                                    ---- Immanuel Kant

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thirsty for Guidance

Last Friday I was blessed to be with the Eminence High School football team. They are one of the smallest schools in the state of KY that fields a football team. They have 25 players Freshmen-Senior and what an amazing group of young men they are.

Most of them have experienced a great deal of adversity in their lives. 85% of the team either lives with no parents, 1 parent, has a parent in jail ... etc. One might think that this would be an extremely difficult group to work with. NOT SO.

They were all THIRSTY for virtue, character and guidance. You could see in their eyes that they knew that this was for real and they wanted it.

Their head coach, Steve Frommeyer, is a big reason why. He has been at Eminence for 27 years. On 3 different occasions he had opportunities to join the coaching staff at Division Colleges such as North Carolina, Tennessee ... He chose to stay. "I love working with high school students. That is my passion."

He could have had more money, more championships, more ... "everything" from a certain point of view ... He was and is not interested. When he says he is in it for the kids - he truly means it. 

I was honored to sit back and listen whenever he addressed his players. I felt like an apprentice trying to soak it all in from the wise sage. 

Thank you to all you coaches out there giving so much of yourselves to help our young people. I at least really appreciate it.

From L-R: Coaches Larry Montgomery, Steve Frommeyer and Marcus Henderson.

Friday, July 16, 2010

From Males to Men: True Masculinity

In our season 2 of SportsLeader virtues for boys and young men one of the virtues we focus on is Sacrifice. Hopefully we are helping to build the great men of tomorrow.

By: Bryan Davis
Director of All Pro Dad,

What does it truly mean to be a man?  Ok, there's the Y chromosome thing.  But that makes you a male.  What makes you a man?  It's a question that can seem simple enough, but one that many cannot answer.

Let's start with the answer some mass media offers us.  Many movies or television programs have two sets of males.  One is the bumbling, stumbling Homer Simpson type who is generally buffeted about by his wife and children.  He is usually stationed in a reclining chair with half his gut hanging out over his pants.  He's harmless and cute and never taken seriously.

Then there's the action hero type.   This individual can't seem to put two coherent sentences together, but is able to string together many rounds of bullets without a problem.  Bulging biceps, foul language, and an appetite for fast women are his ontology.  He solves problems not by logic or conversation, but by blowing things up sky high.

While most people agree the two above male types do not and should not reflect what it is to be a man, many boys take their masculinity cues from the media.  Why?  Because their biological father is long gone and does not provide an example for his boys to follow.  And when I say gone, I don't just mean physical absence.  Fathers can still be in the household but emotionally absent.

How is a father emotionally absent?  By not making his kids a priority.  Nor his marriage.  Remember that the most alluring mistress is not a young secretary that works with the father, but the work itself.  We are a nation that engrosses ourselves so much in work to the detriment of our family that many of us can rightly call our jobs our mistresses. We can easily use the excuse that we're trying to provide for our family.  But it's not enough to provide our kids with financial prosperity.  In fact, that's not even in the top 10 list.  What does it profit our kids to gain the world and lose their soul?

So what is true masculinity?  If I had to choose just one characteristic, it would be self-sacrifice.  We often think of such acts of self-sacrifice (read heroism or courage) out on the battlefield with a soldier throwing himself on a live grenade to save another.  Or stepping in front of a tank to push his buddy out of harm's way.  But true self-sacrifice is a way of life, not an isolated event.

Self-sacrifice in marriage:  Wow, this is a big one.  But as men, we need to put aside our (perceived) needs and put our wife's desires ahead of our own.  And that means the little things too.  Like taking out the garbage.  Or cleaning the gutter we promised to take care of a couple months ago.  It means cleaning out your wife's car, vacuuming and detailing it just to show her you love her.  Will it be a big pain?  Yes.  But that's what real men do - sacrifice themselves for those they love.

Self-sacrifice in parenting:  One of the things about my dad I will never forget is his self-sacrifice on my behalf.  One of the many examples that comes to mind was my Algebra One experience in ninth grade.  I had switched schools and my new math class was way ahead of where I had been.  I was constantly making "Jacques Cousteau's" on my tests (below "C" level).  My dad would come home every night after a long day's work and tutor me in Algebra for hours on end.  Eventually I was able to figure out when Trains A and C would meet and numbers to the third power and so forth, but I learned a much more valuable lesson in self-sacrifice.  And while I think my math teacher misled me a bit by telling me I would be using all this Algebra stuff someday (is this something you can sue over?),  I try to use the example of my father everyday.

Self-sacrificing as a parent is making your time your kids' time.  It means turning off60 Minutes or putting away a company spreadsheet and taking your kids to batting practice.  Or piano recital.  Or helping them build a fort out of pillows.  It's putting aside what you want for what they want.  And eventually you find you enjoy hanging out with your kids more than you could ever have imagined.

So in a nutshell, I propose true masculinity is not found in the size of your biceps or the thickness of your wallet but in the depth of your heart.  And speaking of wallets and hearts, we can usually tell where our heart is by two everyday items - our calendar and our checkbook.  What's written in them the most?  You might be surprised.

Where your heart is, there your treasure is also.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thank them

Here is a short movie clip from "Bella" about thankfulness.

You are who you are because of so many other people!
I could bench press 365 lbs. when I was a senior in high school…..way back in the fall of 1984.  Thanks to how strong I was and the work I put in.  Wrong!  Thanks to my brother, Steve who pushed me to lift weights throughout high school.
I had a 3.9 GPA in high school and a 3.4 GPA at Michigan State University.  Thanks to how smart I was and how hard I studied.  Wrong!  Thanks to my dad, sister, mother and brother who demanded excellence from me in the classroom.
I became a head high school football coach at the tender age of 28.  Thanks to my brilliant dedication to the program and coaching ability.  Wrong!  Thanks to my mentor and friend, Tim Odom and his dad and the coaches and administration at Simon Kenton H.S. who taught me and believed in me.
I am a loving father and husband, who is ranked in the nation for active and loving dads/husbands. Thanks to my overflowing love and complete selflessness I practice on a regular daily basis.  Wrong!  Thanks to God above, and my parents, friends (Matt Vanderbeek, John Murray, Jerry Angers, to name a few) and others who have encouraged and helped me. (C.J. too of course!).
Heck, the more I think about it, so many others deserve the credit for the accomplishments I have achieved in this life.  Wow, do I have talented friends!!
Why do we think all our accomplishments are all about us??  What makes us cherish our abilities so much, blinded, not realizing those people who have nurtured and shared their knowledge with us our entire life.  From our 1st grade teacher who taught us to read,(Mrs. Bethume) to our next door neighbor who taught us how to fix a toilet.(thanks Jeff Sweeney!)  
So many people help us every day.  So many people will help me tomorrow.  So many people will help me next year.  I have so many people in my corner, so many people rooting for me.  I am so blessed!  People encourage me from near and far, my next door neighbors, Ray and Nina Whittaker, to Father Eamon Kelly in Jerusalem.  People encourage me, dead and alive, Steve Furness and Ron Hughes to Maria Willertz, my 3 year old daughter.  There are SO many people who have made me the man I am today and are working hard to make me better tomorrow.  
The same is true for all of us.  Millions of people dead and alive are rooting for you, are pulling for you, are helping you in countless seemingly insignificant ways.
With the 4th of July just passing a week ago or so, I think we should think about this. So many people have given their lives for you and me, great Americans like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington who risked their lives in a hopeless revolt to give Americans a great life.  Listen people, a great life, not a good life, a great life!  Take the time to think about them.  Take the time to thank them.  
Take the time to think about the many people that have given their lives for you personally, fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers.  Take the time to realize everything you know or think you know was because of somebody else.  And once you start feeling really humble and grateful………. then do it for somebody else.  
Be a hero to a player, a next door neighbor, your great grandson that you will never meet in this life, the one that won’t be born until after you die.  Be a hero to the poor and the homeless.  Pray and root for others.  Share what blessings you have been given (not earned) and make somebody else’s life great.  It’s called the Circle of Life.  Watch Lion King and let Walt Disney remind you.
Coach Willertz
Winton Woods Wrestling-training Warrior boys into Championship wrestlers and Championship men!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Young men will become what you say they are

It is easy to become overly negative working with teenagers. Let us use our will to be more positive.

My family watched a movie last night together - "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs". Here is a scene that, humorously, shows in 1 minute what Dan describes so well below.

*July 31 Father-Son Campout

By Dan Duddy

        I am blessed with a unique and dedicated football staff that joins me in an organized man-to-man mentoring system within my program. Weekly, in just a three minute mentoring encounter between coach and athlete, a resolution to a specific and achievable action is agreed upon with a handshake relating to the team’s “Virtue theme of the week”.

For example one of my mentorees, Colin, confessed during “humility week” that he has yet to tell his younger “pesty” sister that he loves her. He also confessed that as a new young driver he would take her to games to lighten mom’s load, but sit in the car and listen to his music while she played her heart out, unnoticed.  At game’s end they would ride home with music blasting, and not a word spoken. Colin vowed to take responsibility as a man of humility and resolve to change this relationship. Closing with our “virtue handshake”, simply a firm, deep, strong, look- you- in-the-eye grip, Colin resolved to transport her, sit in a lawn chair at the field’s edge, take her out for pizza, and then tell her he loves her! He was to report back to me in one week.

He proudly reported his conquest, and said the affects played a tremendous role in changing the atmosphere in his home amongst the others, his example as a courageous young man infiltrated his other siblings and surely made his parents proud.

These mentoring sessions take place after every practice. I simply yell “Grab a Kid!” and the miracles begin. Each of our 10 coaches has a group of six athletes that they are responsible for. Every single young man in our program steps out of his comfort zone weekly and executes “Resolve”, the greatest deficiency in our youth today. On Thursday evenings, the day before our game, we then break out our sports bibles and present a bible verse or two that sheds a spiritual light on the theme with an energetic discussion that provokes dialogue amongst the players and coaches. A pertinent and inspirational film clip from a popular movie is shown; we hit our knees with our traditional team prayer, then we wrap it up with a team meal.

Blessed with the gift of Fire and Brimstone, I then light a flame to our weekly theme and present a pre-game speech that sends frenzied young men onto the game field with each and every player on our sidelines having already accomplished a relative and significant action in their lives. It is nothing short of the greatest integration of masculine spirituality and mentoring for a resolve to action that I have ever witnessed in athletics.

Our young men are in a war that they don’t even see and therefore they are losing abysmally. It is difficult to enlist a manly warrior and bring him to a battle that he doesn’t even know exists, unless of course a mentor takes the responsibility of spelling all that out for him, and that youngster is transformed into a battle – ready “Son of Thunder”.

I took this name, “The Sons of Thunder” and gave it to our brotherhood in a ceremony of flickering lights and shadows by the campfire of Virtue Camp last August. Young men will eventually become what you say they are and I wanted them to become Sons of Thunder.

It is so important that if we want our young men to really follow Christ by the example of those great men that did so in his actual presence, eventually giving their lives in martyrdom, then they need to really get a good whiff of the manhood that was truly required. For example, we can’t ask young tough men of 2010 to become inspired by the softly bearded depiction of the robed men in DaVinci’s “Last Supper”. 

As their inspirational leaders we need to make those 12 men come alive. We need to meditate historically on what the Disciples saw daily, study their travels, how difficult those travels were and the perils they faced. There was no GPS, no text messaging stuff like “Hey John, I’m really get my chops busted over here, send help”. There was no business rental car, just sandals.