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 -

Friday, April 15, 2011

It Helps You Win!

I was looking back at some of the emails I had received from coaches over the past 7 years working with SportsLeader and I came across one that I'm not sure if I ever shared before.

It is a clear testament to the amazing impact of mentoring - how it changes lives most importantly 


Coaches, every week you are going to have at least one player who has something "big" happen in his or her life. It may not be this "big" but it will be big to them. If you and your staff don't have the AWARENESS and the RELATIONSHIPS to pick this up ... they'll still be in "the fog" come game time ...

"One week one of our starting outside linebackers named Mike was having an awful time at practice. He was sluggish, distracted, missing assignments … he just wasn’t playing well at all. 

He wasn’t a super player but he was first team and generally consistent and error-free for the most part. His typical stats were a few assisted tackles per game and he played his role pretty well.

Unfortunately, at the time, not all of the coaching staff had bought in to the mentoring. I was talking with as many guys as a I could but this linebacker wasn't in my group.

Most of the coaches were really getting on him and it obviously was not having a positive impact. It was rivalry week and the atmosphere at practice was tense to begin with ...

I approached him on the way back to the locker room after practice on Wednesday and asked him if something was bothering him. I said, "Mike, I know something is up. You aren't yourself."

Mike said, “Thanks so much for not screaming at me, coach. Coach, my grandfather moved in with us seven years ago. He became my best friend. Well on Sunday night he passed away and I just can’t get over it. I know I'm playing like trash, can't concentrate in school, can't focus. I don't know. I'm depressed and I can't shake it. I'm trying but it's not working."

He broke down. 

I talked him through it and toward the end of our conversation he mentioned that he liked reading books by Tolkien. I have no idea how we got on that but anyway.

On my drive home I went to a bookstore and found the cheapest book by Tolkien I could find. Money is tight. 

When I got to practice the net day, I teach at another school about 20 minutes away, I gave him the book and he was speechless. Somehow it changed him. He seemed more alert at practice during walk-through, like some of "the fog" had lifted.

The next day - on Friday night under the lights - he had the game of his life: 3 tackles for loss, a tipped pass, an interception and a sack. It was amazing! He had never had an interception or a sack before in his high school career.

He ran off the field one time after making a huge stop on 4th and 1 and I gave him the biggest bear hug I could muster. I was so proud of him.

We got the win and he got the game ball and all the coaches were shocked wondering how he could have turned it around like that. 

"Mike, you had the worst week of practice in the your life and then you have the best game of your life ... How?"

Mike said,  “Real simple, Coach talked to me.” He pointed to me.

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