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, August 31, 2012


Never underestimate the importance you have as a coach. You can never replace a young person's father but you can be a leader and a role model who steers them in the right direction.

You are desperately NEEDED!

Embrace mentoring!

Sam Becker shares his third testimony below.

Virtue=Strength, Lou Judd


Wade Horn, Ph.D., President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, had an intriguing article entitled “Of Elephants and Men” in a recent issue of  Fatherhood Today magazine. I found Dr. Horn’s story about young elephants to be simply fascinating, and you will too.

Some years ago, officials at the Kruger National Park and game reserve in South Africa were faced with a growing elephant problem. The population of African elephants, once  endangered, had grown larger than the park could sustain. So measures had to be taken to thin the ranks. A plan was devised to relocate some of the elephants to other African game reserves. Being enormous creatures, elephants are not easily transported.  So a special harness was created to air-lift the elephants and fly them out of the park using helicopters.

The helicopters were up to the task, but, as it turned out, the harness wasn’t. It could handle the juvenile and adult female elephants, but not the huge African bull elephants. A quick solution had to be found, so a decision was made to leave the much larger bulls at Kruger and relocate only some of the female elephants and juvenile males.

The problem was solved. The herd was thinned out, and all was well at Kruger National Park. Sometime later, however, a strange problem surfaced at South Africa’s other game reserve, Pilanesburg National Park, the younger elephants’ new home.

Rangers at Pilanesburg began finding the dead bodies of endangered white rhinoceros. At  first, poachers were suspected, but the huge rhinos had not died of gunshot wounds, and their precious horns were left intact. The rhinos appeared to be killed violently, with deep puncture wounds. Not much in the wild can kill a rhino, so rangers set up hidden cameras throughout the park.

The result was shocking. The culprits turned out to be marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants, the very elephants relocated from Kruger National Park a few years earlier. The young males were caught on camera chasing down the rhinos, knocking them over, and stomping and goring them to death with their tusks. The juvenile elephants were terrorizing other animals in the park as well. Such behavior was very rare among elephants. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Some of the park rangers settled on a theory. What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of the large dominant bulls that remained at Kruger. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls provide modeling behaviors for younger elephants, keeping them in line.

Juvenile male elephants, Dr. Horn pointed out, experience “musth,” a state of frenzy triggered by mating season and increases in testosterone. Normally, dominant bulls manage and contain the testosterone-induced frenzy in the younger males. Left without elephant modeling, the rangers theorized, the younger elephants were missing the civilizing influence of their elders as nature and pachyderm protocol intended.

To test the theory, the rangers constructed a bigger and stronger harness, then flew in some of the older bulls left behind at Kruger. Within weeks, the bizarre and violent behavior of the juvenile elephants stopped completely. The older bulls let them know that their behaviors were not elephant-like at all. In a short time, the younger elephants were following the older and more dominant bulls around while learning how to be elephants.

When Prisons Replace Families

Once in prison, this system is very hard to leave behind.

The New Hampshire prison system just released a dismal report two weeks ago.

Of 1,095 prisoners released in 2007, over 500 were back in prison by 2010.

Clearly, the loss of freedom does not compensate for the loss of fathers in managing the behavior of young men.

At least Eighty percent of the young men in prison grew up in homes without fathers. The problem seems clear. When prisons and police replace fathers, chaos reigns, and promising young lives are sacrificed.


I hope all of you enjoyed reading about my experience on my school’s retreat. Now that I have had time to relax and school has officially started I can focused on school and of course, football.
This year my high school football team, the McNicholas Rockets, have been blessed to have the mentor system started by Mr. Lou Judd. From what I have seen the mentoring by our coaches has been working wonders for the team. We all seem to getting along better and finding out what we really want to accomplish this season.
I was selected to be in Coach Paul Romulo’s mentoring group. Every Thursday we meet together and talk one on one about how life is going, how I think the team is doing, and how can I better accomplish the virtue of the week. Coach Romolo and I have a great relationship. He is one of the younger coaches and teachers I have so it’s easy to relate with him. Sometimes we will randomly start quoting movie lines together. Most importantly, he is always more concerned about you as a person than as a football player.

The virtue of the week for week 1 was SELFLESSNESS. Being a team manager in my position is a very selfless job. Some of my coaches and teammates including coach Romolo told me I was an example of this virtue for the whole team. I know what I do is selfless, but I still wanted to try and be more selfless for my team and school. I wanted to find one or two ways I could accomplish being more selfless but I didn’t know how at first…..

Leading up to this past Saturday’s game was a very emotional week. Knowing that I couldn’t be out on the field with my teammates in our school’s first ever game in our new stadium did hurt me. On top of that we had Father-Son jersey night on Thursday. We ate pizza and hung out as with our dads or whoever was representing us. At the end of the dinner each senior father/father figure went up in front of the team with his son, said a speech about how proud of them they were, (many which were very emotional resulting in a few tears shed) and handed them their jersey….

I did not plan on wearing a jersey again this year. I thought it would be too hard to bear knowing I couldn’t wear my number out on the field with pads underneath competing with my teammates. I only wore #18 last year in honor of my cousin who was in coma at the beginning of the season due to a fall at his college house. 18 was and still is his number in college. I know I am as important as any other play on the team, but to me wearing a jersey was an emotional obstacle for me.

….As the fathers were giving their speeches to my teammates I said to my dad, “You don’t have to do this, you tell me all the time how proud of me you are, and I am not wearing jersey anyway.” He just responded OK. It turns out as I expected, the coaches noticed I was the only senior not to go up in front of the team. Head Coach Mike Orlando looks at me and says “So Sam, you thought we forgot about you?” I responded, “I was hoping that was the case.”

My dad and I walked up to the microphone. Right when he started talking about everything I have overcome and how I was hero I started to cry. It was hard enough having the jerseys being handed out to all my teammates, and this being thrown on top of it was over whelming. At the conclusion of his short speech, my dad handed me one of the jerseys on the table, but I refused to put it on. I walked back to my chair with tears my eyes listening to my teammates and their fathers give me a standing ovation. Some of my teammates met me with hugs shedding the same tears I had in my eyes….

The next day we met in the locker room before school started to be surprised with our new gray, green, and gold Adidas Tech-Fit jerseys which we spent all off season fundraising for. I walked in to return the jersey I was given the night before, while the rest of the team was going to wear theirs to school like we do every Friday. Coach Romolo told me to put on my jersey like the rest of the guys, I respectfully declined. After receiving a weird look from him, I told him we would talk about it later. So as my teammates walked out to school in our old green jerseys I was in my regular school uniform. I was still on the fence about whether I should wear one for the game Saturday or not. Throughout the day my teammates asked me why didn’t have a jersey on and if I would wear a new one for the game. I still had no idea. Before our team mass after school I explained to Coach Romolo why didn’t wear a jersey that day and how difficult it was for me during jersey night. He completely understood and told me it was my decision, but that I deserved to wear one just as much as the rest of the team.

After thinking about it that day at practice I found out how to better achieve the virtue of the week: SELFNESS. I decided to wear a jersey at the game this past Saturday not only for my coaches and teammates who wanted me to, but for my father. I know how much it means to him that I wear jersey. He was a big football star back in high school breaking all of his school rushing records. He asked me many times during the off-season what number I would wear this year. I just told him I wasn’t planning on wearing one. But as I thought about it being selflessness is also about allowing others to enjoy your accomplishments and stepping outside of your comfort zone for them.

This week the team was told repeatedly to find someone to play for. In addition to play all of the past players who never got to play at our new stadium. To play for the guys who wore your jersey years ago. As was in the equipment room picking out my jersey I decided to wear #32. It was wore by Austin Ernst’s (who I referred to in my last article) older brother Eric, 2 years ago. I wanted to wear it so Eric, my ex-teammate, would be represented. Another way I tried to improve my selflessness.

Throughout practice and before the game on Saturday some of my senior teammates told me that they were playing for me. They expressed  how bad they wanted me out there with them. I didn’t find out until after the game that many of them wrote my initials on there cleats so that in some way I was on field with them. This gesture meant the world to me. It was the ultimate act of selflessness. I felt honored.

Saturday ended up being a perfect day for the McNicholas community. Austin, as our quarterback, lead the team down the field for a touchdown caught by junior Matt Curran with 43 seconds left in the game. Right after the score Austinran over to me and said that was for me, that I was on his mind every play of the drive. The game was sealed by sack from senior Todd Gula and a few nice defensive plays by our secondary.

I believe we were a great example I selfless team. We not only played for each other, but for our school, alumni, and most importantly God. As we take on New Richmond high school next week I know we will approach this game with the same selflessness we showed this week.

I encourage all of you to do something selfless for someone else each day. You don’t even have to know them. Give back to those who have given everything for you whether it is a coach, parent, or friend. Write to you soon
God Bless,
Sam Becker

Monday, August 27, 2012

Home for Dinner

ESPN did an interesting article on Urban Meyer, the President of the SportsLeader Coaches Association. The link below has the whole article.

I wanted to highlight one portion of it.

Urban Meyer signed two agreements when he was hired by Ohio State: one with the school that demands performance and another with his family, which demands much more.

Framed above his desk hung the contract he signed with his kids, written on pink notebook paper.

1. My family will always come first.

2. I will take care of myself and maintain good health.

3. I will go on a trip once a year with Nicki -- MINIMUM.

4. I will not go more than nine hours a day at the office.

5. I will sleep with my cellphone on silent.

6. I will continue to communicate daily with my kids.

7. I will trust God's plan and not be overanxious.

8. I will keep the lake house.

9. I will find a way to watch Nicki and Gigi play volleyball.

10. I will eat three meals a day.

Some people may read that, snicker and say, "He'll never fulfill that."

But - have you and I written out a contract like that to fulfill with regard to our personal family?

Do you go home after 9 hours?

Maybe this can be an encouragement so for all of us, myself included, so that we too always keep our priorities in order.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Miracles Do Happen

There are 24,000,000 young people in the USA living without a father in the home. This is a catastrophic tragedy that too many sweep under the rug.

The teams that have been courageous enough to step up and work together with SportsLeader are doing something real, concrete and powerful to counteract that tragedy.

Many of you know about it, have participated in it and lead them with your own teams.

I wanted to share a few photos from different teams in the mid-west who have had these amazing ceremonies. The teams in the photos are Sycamore 8th grade, Mason HS, Xenia HS, Milford HS, Franklin County HS, McNicholas HS.

You can see the photos on our web site at this link

I was blessed to attend a number of them, Chris Willertz others, and there were miracles at each one. 

What has moved me the most this year is the number of players - the young men - who have been so emotional during the experience ... Seniors who are welling up even before the first Dad steps up to the microphone. You can tell that this means so much to them.

Last night in particular, a young man wet with tears, comes up to me and gives me one of the biggest bear hugs I have ever received saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this. This meant so much to me. I'll never forget it."

I am truly proud of each coach who has made these happen with their teams.

Please help us spread the word!

Also, I'd like to share Sam Becker's second article - a testimony from his experience leading a retreat at his school.
Lou Judd

I hope all of you enjoyed my last article. It should’ve given you a basic background of who I am, where I’ve been, and where I plan to go. Over the next few months I have been given the opportunity to write weekly about how the McNicholas Rockets quest for their first state championship is going,  my insights,  future plans in athletics, and life.

This summer I was selected to lead 39 members of senior class on our summer Kairos retreat. It was an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience. I went on my own Kairos back in March so knew leading would be very different. I was blessed to lead with 7 of my friends, including my teammate, Josh Jubak.

The most nerve racking part of the retreat for me turned out to be my favorite and most rewarding experience of the week. Each leader, teacher and student, is required to give a 20 minute talk on a subject chosen for them. The teachers decide this by pray.   I was chosen to give the talk “Leaders.” (Ironically) I have always considered myself as a leader but not a great public speaker. I knew the pressure was on me to deliver an impactful talk to classmates because not only was it one of the last talks of the retreat, but it has been known to be one of the more emotional talks of the retreat.

From April to July I spent hours working on my talk, trying to find words to inspire, interest, and open the hearts of my 39 friends.  When I finished writing my talk in late July the two people who I let read it first, my Freshman basketball coach and teacher Jack Kaneicki and my best friend/teammate Austin Ernst. Both enjoyed it greatly and said everyone would enjoy it. They gave me the confidence to know I had something special and impactful to share with my class in this 20 minute speech.

Throughout the first two days on Kairos I could barely contain my emotions about my upcoming talk on the third day. At times I would even tear because  my nervousness and excitement was over whelming. Many of my friends and teammates would walk up to me and tell me how excited they were to hear my speech. I prayed that I could meet the expectations so many of the people had set for me.

The night before my talk everyone on the retreat, including the leaders, received letters from parents, loved ones, and friends, telling us how much we mean to them. I was in my room reading a very well written and emotion letter fromAustin. He told me how proud of me he was that was a leading this Kairos and that he knew everyone would be blown away from my talk. He said I was meant to give the “Leaders” talk Being not only my best friend, but an unquestioned leader on our football team, (who just recently committed to Ohio Dominican to play Quarterback) it meant a lot to me to hear that he looked up to me and thought that highly of me. Right when I finished the letter one of the teacher walked into my room asking if I was ok. He then told me my classmates needed to hear my talk. It was necessary for them to get most out this life changing retreat and said I would be able to get them to that point. I knew the pressure was on me to impact my classmates, and to be honest it made me feel less nervous. It felt like I was about to play a big game and all of my teammates and coaches were relying on me….

As I gave the “Leaders” talk the next day I shared with them how my CP and examples such Coach Steve Klonne, (now at Moeller) my friend Logan Shannon with Muscular Dystrophy, and my older brother Max shaped me into the leader I am today. I emphasized on service and setting a Christ-like example for all people who see and hear of you. You can imagine how emotional this was say. I didn’t know how my 39 classmates would respond. They saw the tears in my eyes during the 20 minutes, and by the time I said my last line and the closing song  came on I looked around the room and saw that many of my classmates, fellow leaders, teachers, and teammates were in tears. Nothing was more emotional for me than when a good friend of mine Danny Poole, whose promising athletic career ended when suffering a tore ACL 3 times, gave me hug crying right after I finished. Seeing how my talk hit home to a person in a very similar situation as I am made me realize how good of a job I did at delivering my message to them. It was like a dream situation, the talk couldn’t have gone any better. It felt like my coaches put the ball in my hand to hit the game winning shot and made I it as time expired.  After hearing about my talk, many of my friends and teammates who did not go on that Kairos, asked to read it. The responses have been incredible. I never knew I could impact people through my 8 ½ page paper. Words cannot describe how humbling it is.

The first game for McNicholas Rockets is this Saturday 1 P.M. at our home field, Penn Station Stadium versus Newport Central Catholic. Everyone in the McNick community is enthusiastic about the opening game. We have finally a field and stadium to call home for a full season. Despite our 2-8 season last year I am confident we will set the standard for what McNick Football should be for years to come. As we strive to make the playoffs and ultimately the State Championship, I will continue to lead by example in serving my teammates and my school. Whether I am recognized or not for my efforts, the only thing that matters to me is if the team as a whole succeeds not only on the field but off it as well. If this happens I know I did job right. As athletes we compete for the glory of God. I look at as a way to thank God for the talents He gave us.  If we all buy into this I know we will have a successful season.

I was privileged God gave me the opportunity to inspire my class, like I said it was extremely humbling. What I learned from this experience is that all of us, young and old, are called to help, serve, and lead others. No matter our struggles in life we all must set the example that Christ calls to. Everyone we meet is placed in front of us for a reason, it is our duty to lead and encourage them on the right path. You never know whose life you may change. We all have the capabilities to inspire and be a hero for someone else. Cherish the little things in life. Remember: Nothing is impossible with God; you just have to meet him halfway.

I look forward to writing again next week. Thank you

God Bless,
Sam Becker

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is Every Player on Your Team a Coach?

I have had the privilege of working with the Eminence (KY) High School football team for many years now. Head football coach Steve Frommeyer is truly one of the most humble and dedicated men I've ever met.

It is a very small school, about 60 boys in the whole high school. This year they started with 25 boys on the Varsity FB team. They don't have a Freshman or JV team ... if you're a Frosh you may be starting ... Lot's of playing time (smile).

Their motto for this year is "ALL IN" and it has been a constant reminder and a great source of inspiration.

We did a virtue camp with them a few weeks back and I was impressed with many things but one in particular was the whole team's ability to communicate without fear with one another. At Eminence every kid is a coach and a player.

I had never seen this so strongly before.

On many teams, when a kid does not know a play, which gap to cover ... they only look to their coaches ... or they guess preferring to get it from Coach instead of "looking stupid" in front of teammates and asking.

This culture is created by upperclassmen who make fun of the younger kids, complain or put them down when they do ask a question ... so within 1 or 2 days of practice no player dares open his mouth again.

It is here that boys and young men "learn" that communication = weakness in our warped culture.

How much better would your team be if the fear of communication did not exist?

Now Eminence has some talented players but ... by their first game last week: one player had quit because he prefers basketball and did not want to get hurt (guess he wasn't ALL IN), their best OL/DL player was out, their best RB/LB was out ... along with 4 other players injured. So they are playing a varsity game with 20 players, starting Freshmen ...

They won 22-0.

I'm guessing their strength of communication is pretty important at this juncture.

After the game, Coach Frommeyer, said the Father-Son Jersey night had as much to do with the win as anything else.

He has numerous players on his team with "difficult" family situations ... and the Dads stepped up. Hearing their Dads tell them they loved them, they were proud of them and that they believed in them filled their hearts, minds and souls with confidence and strength.

He also has a player on the team, a Senior, who just became a Father. This young man has never met his own father, has no idea who he is and whether or not he is alive.

He is struggling but he is constantly motivated "to not be a dead-beat Dad." He is going to school, working, playing football ... and all the while receiving no support from his Mom ...

His teammates are holding him accountable and are constantly reminding him that he needs to be 'ALL IN". No pity parties are accepted ... and he is making the effort.

It is safe to say that Coach Frommeyer and his staff ARE his life support right now along with his teammates.

So if you still think that communication is a weakness ... you need to wake up!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Making Virtue Go Viral

Here is an example of a HS football captain living and transmitting this virtue - making virtue go viral.

Minnesota teen, Kevin Curwick, got fed up with cyber bullying at his school and decided to do something about it.

The Osseo High School senior Football Captain started the Twitter account
@OsseoNiceThings and proceeded to spread kind and uplifting messages about his classmates. The account has over 2,300 followers by now ... and growing.

Kevin calls out individual students and tweets about their great qualities and what they do to make Osseo High a better place.

We love what Kevin is doing and hope more young people follow his wonderful example!

Charity - the strength to do good for others, is one of our core virtues.

Maybe you can encourage your players to create a Twitter account like this for your school to make virtue go viral in your community.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Power of a Motto

An important aspect of the SportsLeader program is establishing a team motto. It is a simple way to galvanize your philosophy, goals and hopes into a short phrase that everyone can bring to mind, heart and soul in an instant.

It also establishes the - "What our team is about" - that inspires unity in your program.

Here below is an awesome story about an olympic athlete and how his motto helped him in an extremely difficult moment in the heat of competition. There was no time to reflect, consider or devise a plan.

The plan-motto was already in his heart, mind and soul ... and it proved essential!

What is your team's motto?
Can every player tell it to you immediately?


Lou Judd

Runner finishes on broken leg
Associated Press

LONDON -- Manteo Mitchell heard the POP! and knew it wasn't good. "It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half," he said.

The American sprinter had 200 meters to go in the first leg of the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries Thursday and a decision to make: keep running or stop and lose the race. To him, it was never much of a choice.

He finished the lap and limped to the side to watch the Americans finish the race and qualify easily for the final. A few hours later, doctors confirmed what he suspected: He had run the last half-lap with a broken left fibula.

"I heard it and I felt it," Mitchell told The Associated Press. "But I figured it's what almost any person would've done in that situation."

Mitchell finished his heat in a more-than-respectable 46.1 seconds, and the United States tied the Bahamas in the second heat in 2 minutes, 58.87 seconds -- the fastest time ever run in the first round of the relay at the Olympics.

The 25-year-old sprinter from Cullowhee, N.C., said he was diagnosed with a complete break of the left fibula -- but it was not a compound fracture and the bone is expected to heal on its own in four to six weeks.

He knew what the stakes were when he lined up to run the first leg of his first Olympics. The Americans have won gold in the last eight long relays they've entered at the Olympics.

"Even though track is an individual sport, you've got three guys depending on you, the whole world watching you," Mitchell said. "You don't want to let anyone down."

He said he slipped on the stairs a few days ago in the athletes village but didn't think much of it. Training went well and he felt good when he lined up to kick things off for the Americans. He said he was feeling great, as well, when he looked at the clock while approaching the 200-meter mark, somewhere in the high-20 or low-21-second range.

"I was doing my job," Mitchell said. "But probably at 201 meters, I heard it and I felt it."

He credited something more than simple adrenaline for pushing him the rest of the way around the track.

"Faith, focus, finish. Faith, focus, finish. That's the only thing I could say to myself," he said.

Mitchell was a promising high school football player at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., when another broken bone altered his career. He broke his left arm, and his coaches -- seeing the natural talent -- pushed him over to the track.

Western Carolina coach Danny Williamson saw Mitchell finish second several times to a future Olympian, Travis Padgett, and offered a scholarship.

"He was a team person here," said Williamson, who received the first call from Mitchell after he got off the track Thursday. "As soon as he came to Western Carolina, no matter what the situation, he'd do anything we asked of him."

On the world's biggest stage, Mitchell took the team-first thing to a whole new level.

He is the 2012 version of Jack Youngblood, the Rams linebacker who played the Super Bowl on a broken leg. Or Tiger Woods, who won the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg. Or, maybe most appropriately, Kerri Strug, whose vault on a sprained ankle sealed the first-ever Olympic team gymnastics gold for U.S. women at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"I don't know how you write this, but I'd like to believe the only way he would have stopped is if the leg had fallen off," Williamson said.

Mitchell will spend the rest of the Olympics, and beyond, in a walking boot and on crutches. He'll be at the stadium to watch Friday's final.

The United States is no shoo-in to win a medal this time, because LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner -- Olympic gold medalists in 2004 and 2008 -- are also both out with injuries. But the medals ceremony is Saturday, and if the U.S. finishes in the top three, Mitchell would get one, too, since he ran in the preliminaries.

Forgive him if he doesn't leap onto the podium, though.

"I pretty much figured it was broken, because every step I took, it got more painful," he said. "But I was out there already. I just wanted to finish and do what I was called in to do."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

Thursday, August 9, 2012


As I had mentioned in a previous email, I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people in coaching and sports. Sam Becker is one of them.

He has agreed, with his parents permission, to blog with us about his experiences of life as a manager, a sports fan, a young person taking part in the SportsLeader program, what it is like having a coach as a mentor ...

My hope is that his perspective inspires you and your coaching staff, to embrace this mission of transforming lives with greater passion and enthusiasm.


Hello everyone my name is Sam Becker. I am a 17 year old senior at Archbishop McNicholas high school in Cincinnati, Ohio where I work as the football and basketball manager. My life hasn’t been easy growing up with Cerebral Palsy; through all the trials and tribulations, ups and downs, I have learned two things.

• God has a plan for me
• My Cerebral Palsy is not a disability it is a gift given to me to accomplish great things.

I was enjoying another day at afternoon practice last Friday when I met Mr. Lou Judd. After talking with him for a few minutes in between my water shifts, Lou asked me to write and try to inspire some of his readers. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Before I go any further, I would like to thank Lou for giving me this opportunity and to tell you how much I am honored to have a chance to share my story with you, I am truly bless.

I was born 10 weeks before my due date in Lynbrook, New York, a year and a half later my family was devastated to learn that I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The doctors seemed to have predicted many things that day. A few them were: I would never be able to walk , if I could walk, I would either need a cane, crutches, or walker, By the time I would be leaving for college I would need a wheel chair or scooter because my body wouldn’t be able to make it across campus.

You better believe that every time I step on an empty court at 5:30 A.M. to play basketball or walk into the gym to lift these prognosis’ are on my mind. Not a single one of their predictions came true. To most people I look, act, walk, and talk like a normal 17 year old. This is because I am. Throughout 13 years of physical therapy, 100s of doctor appointments, and 2 life changing surgeries, I overcame the impossible odds of some of the more debilitating results of  Cerebral Palsy……

But my life isn’t all sunshine and roses. I think this is because I love sports, they are like my drug. I can’t live without them. I love to compete. Sadly, I will never be the athlete I dreamed of, much less the athletes that are sprinkled throughout my family. As a little kid I looked up to my dad who played college lacrosse at national powerhouses Syracuse University and Cornell University. Along with my father, my uncles, cousins, and even my brother (who is only 13 months older than me) have enjoyed successful college athletic careers.

A lot to live up to right? As a kid my parents couldn’t tear me away from sports, no matter how much my body took a beating, no matter how much they saw me struggle. I can now admit that I was never the most talented kid by any stretch of the imagination. But the one thing I did accomplish was being the hardest worker on the court or field each game.

By the time I got to high school the game had changed. Everyone got taller while my growth was stunted. I may have been stronger in the upper body but my lower body was lacking to say the least. I couldn’t keep up, the emotional and physical pain was too much and I knew the fall of my sophomore year that I had to hang up my dreams of playing high school varsity sports. Naturally, it was difficult for me to handle. I worked day in and day out for hours on end to maybe have an opportunity to step on the basketball court or gridiron. I was given the chance to be a team manager for the basketball and football teams. This was far from what I wanted, but like I said, sports is the drug I can’t live without. I hated the fact I couldn’t play, I hated giving water to my friends, and most of all, I hated going to every practice which I would do anything to participate in.  It took me three very emotional seasons of basketball and one season of football to really realize the blessing God and my coaches have given me.

I now go about my job with grace. I try to set an example for my teammates. Although I can’t physically lead them on to the field, emotionally I do my best to inspire them to be great and let nothing hold them back. Being a manager has not affected my work ethic. I work just as hard at serving the team as I would playing with them. I know the true privilege that comes with playing a high school sport. I would do anything to wear a jersey and run out of that tunnel knowing I was getting ready to go to battle with my teammates…who by now have become like brothers to me. Despite all the obstacles, I will never stop encouraging my teammates and I will never let them quit because they can achieve greatness no matter how much it hurts me to stand on the sidelines.  I am blessed to share my last year of high school with them. The obstacles I have over come made my vision  clear…..

My goal going into my senior year and for the rest of my life is to inspire people and help others. I find it extremely important to help all of those kids with CP especially those who face greater challeges than I. I know that although I can’t play high school, college, or pro sports like I dreamed of, I am thankful and grateful. I have out worked my disability and I now feel the need to help others. Not only have I been blessed with great doctors from Dr. Nuzzo in New Jersey, every doctor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and  every physical therapist, trainer, or coach that I have helped me reach my potential, but I have also been blessed with 3 great heroes: Jason McElwain the autistic basketball manger who scored 20 points in three minutes, Anthony Robles the one legged NCAA Wrestling National Champion, and Eric LeGrand the Rutgers football player who was paralyzed in his season opener and now spends everyday trying to walk. These 3 people have inspired me to push myself to the limit to accomplish all my goals in every aspect of my life.

I want to be that role model, that hero for the hundreds of children  with CP I have shared a waiting room and who may face far greater challenges  than I. For those millions of kids and families who feel hopeless and no one to look up too because of CP, I am now in the process of starting the Sam Becker Foundation For Cerebral Palsy. All the proceeds will go to the Cerebral Palsy unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the United Cerebral Palsy (stay tuned and more to come). Knowing that I have been blessed to be in the situation I am, I feel called to help and inspire people throughout the world. I have finally learned that my CP has only enhanced the possibilities I have in front of me, not limited them.

I plan on pursuing a manager position on a Division I college program for either basketball or football. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I am focused on helping the McNicholas  Rockets football team bring back their first State Championship to Cincinnati. We may have our doubters, but the one hope I have been  taught is that not matter how great the odds, nothing is impossible with God, hard work, and heart.

I look forward to writing to all of you regularly throughout this season. If you have any questions/comments about my journey, future plans, or anything else please email me at:

God bless,
Sam Becker

Friday, August 3, 2012



Please take a moment to read this letter from Urban Meyer. I know it will inspire you to continue doing what you are doing building up our young people.

Lou Judd

Dear Coach,

The challenges that all of us face in living today are daunting and energy draining.  To many young people just making every day decisions are mind blowing and for many the wrong decisions are often the answer.   The social connections of today’s world present a difficult challenge and without a road map navigation is very difficult.

My adult life has been a complex juggling between pursuing my professional growth and my family.  I have made numerous moves around the country to further my professional goals.  Every move has been difficult but it has been very difficult for my family.  Shelley and I were married in Ohio; my daughters were born in Colorado, my son in Indiana.  My parents lived in Ohio and I was making career moves every three to four years.  My daughter Nicki made 4 moves in 5 years and experienced some issues along the way. She was making some decisions and choosing to be around kids that would have had a negative impact on her future.

Then something magical happened. We moved to Gainesville, Florida and she's in 7th grade and we're starting to make the decisions where she is going to go to school and obviously I'm the second boss in that household. My wife says, "There's this high school volleyball coach named Jeff Reavis down in Gainesville. He has some collegiate experience, he was a great player, he's a great coach, he's really tough on kids and I want her to play for him."

It was Buchholz High School, a school of 2,800 kids, and I wasn't a big fan of that. I've recruited a lot of places, and a lot of times a school with 2,800 kids  is huge and not really what I wanted for my kid. I wanted my daughter to go to some private school with 10 kids so we knew what was going on in her life.

Well I lost that battle and it was the greatest decision we ever made. The same little girl who was starting to get difficult started to grow up. Well, who knows what I would have been dealing with today if this high school coach didn't enter her life.

So all these years of coaching and mentoring and getting involved in kids' lives finally came full circle for me. All of a sudden my daughter, mine, not yours, mine ... was going through some stuff and we get the perfect situation. We put her in this high school and this volleyball program and she's up at 6 AM with a passion for living.

And this coach is inside out, upside down on her. If she misses something, she's going to wish she hadn't and all of a sudden, overnight, I see this same kid being very respectful. She's getting up early and I'm driving her to these early workouts. I would sneak in and watch and I'm watching this coach and the way he's pushing these kids and the way he is treating these kids the same way, exactly the same way I coach.

Steadily, I see this little girl having a sense of team, of selflessness, of respect and I wish I could stand in front of you and say I taught her that ... I tried, I tried but sometimes they don't look at coach the same way they look at Dad. I'm just that coach. I'm that guy that moved them to all these different places ...

And because of that, my daughter just made Academic All-ACC at Georgia Tech; she's a 3.85 student; she's a very virtuous girl; she's one of the most respectful persons I've ever been around and by the way she's still my best friend.


Because this coach had a very positive impact on my little girl as she grew. Once again, with all due respect, not your little girl, my little girl and that's when things really started to change.

So that really started a change in me. I started to take a different approach to recruiting now and what we try to do for our players. I'm a living testimony of someone whose child was impacted by a coach who changed her life and I am forever grateful to this coach. If you've ever been through something like that, it's not a little overwhelming, it's very overwhelming.

Why am I sharing all of this with you?

Because I believe as coaches we can all grow stronger in how we coach and mentor the young people under our care and tutelage. There is an organization called SportsLeader that is helping coaches across the country by using a very practical coaches manual, in-person staff training, and an inspirational web site that can help impact the lives of your players more intentionally through a virtue program that can be used by public and private schools alike.

SportsLeader is an organization that encompasses the leadership components that are applicable to coaches at all levels.  I spent part of last year working with my son’s youth football team.  Coaches at every level of athletics have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives by living and teaching leadership, character and integrity.  As coaches give of themselves by actions and words, their sharing of their virtues becomes evident as selfishness goes out the window.  Young people can learn that being humble and living life the right way can be much more satisfying than being in the news for doing the wrong thing.

A life-long friend of mine, Dean Hood, Head Football Coach at Eastern Kentucky University has developed a great relationship with these men over the past few years now, does a Senior Virtue Camp weekend with them and his recommendation was enough for me to want to meet with them and work with them.

Please take some time to visit their web site at

A representative from SportsLeader will contact you to see if you would like to get involved.

I wish all Teachers and Coaches the strength, courage and wisdom to accept the position of Leadership and to positively impact the future of the young men and women we work with. They need you!

Urban Meyer

* These are my personal views and are not an endorsement of SportsLeader by The Ohio State University