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 -

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Don't My Players Ever Listen to Me?!?!

Dear Coaches and Supporters of SportsLeader,

Sacrifice!  Brotherhood!  Commitment!  Focus!  Discipline!  Honor!

Great words, coaches, words to live by, for sure.  At SportsLeader we are consistently urging coaches to make these words a part of your team's everyday vocabulary. Stories, quotes, song lyrics, stories again, quotes again song lyrics again and again.....and again.....and again!  Many of you are skeptical at best, as to  the power or effectiveness of the SL approach-creating a culture of excellence for your team-through virtue.

I know one coach that was skeptical.  However, he is a skeptic no more.  Below is a senior captain's testimony to his team's motto.  Who would believe that the simple words of Brotherhood, Sacrifice, and Humility would impact this young man the way they did!  Please, take the time to read the following college entrance essay he wrote.  Even though your players may not appear to be taking in your stories, words of wisdom, and mentoring: they ARE having an impact. You still are skeptical?  Read below:

Fridays are different now.  I sob alone in silence. 

We are all taught a hidden curriculum:  brotherhood, sacrifice, humility.  We glean, throughout our learning, these abstract attributes that separate good people from great people.  Ironically, what I thought these words meant were not what these words mean.

I thought that brotherhood meant being close to my friends that I played football with.  Brotherhood was this fraternity of young men who stuck-up for each other at school and was a place you could go when the pressures of being a teenaged boy were too much – and you just needed to be a boy again.  I realized after my season-ending injury that brotherhood meant TRULY being happy for my brother as HE carried the ball across the line when it should have been me.

I thought that sacrifice meant giving-up my time to practice six days a week rather than screw-off with my buddies.  It though that sacrifice was that determination that I had when I forced my broken body out of bed on Saturday mornings to go watch film and listen to my animated coach chew-up and spit-out pieces of that broken body.  That, I learned, is not sacrifice.  Sacrifice is dragging myself up from the self-wallowing hole that this injury threw me into because my team still needed its captain.  I became the parent – the twin sophomores, who looked to me…looked to ME….for comfort in the training room when it became apparent that I was done, were my concern.  I needed them to see that I was strong and that I was still their leader.  I eased their sympathetic pain by assuring them that I was going to be ok – much like a parent does when he or she is sick.  The child’s emotional needs supersede the parent’s emotional or physical state - always.  I was becoming a man, right there on that gurney, as I wept into my broken future.

I thought that humility meant not “show boating” after one of my many touchdowns.  I thought that humility was giving credit to my linemen during an interview, praising their part in “allowing” me to score four touchdowns in a game.  Coach required humility, and I thought I was humble. My humble moment came when the state champion 4x400 sprinter lay on the thirty-yard line after a quick cut forced my knee to decide which way to go.  The decision was too quick for this knee that has carried me to glory for 12 years.  This knee that has stabilized me in a many a huddle to listen to countless victory speeches had forsaken me.  This knee that could sacrifice no more for me selfishly abandoned me on August 31, 2012.  It is, nonetheless, MY knee and this foe will be with me always – both to remind me of my greatness and to remind me that I am human – a human being with limits.

My knee and I will – together – go back into the weight room this winter to rediscover each other.  I will be the parent, patient and impatient.  My knee will be the child in need of nurturing and tolerance.  Together, we will strengthen ourselves and persevere through our little bump in the road.  We will be back stronger than ever - and with a few life lessons under our belt.

Be the difference you want to see in the world!

Questions/comments send to


Suicide is one of the most tragic elements of human existence. The causes are too numerous to count and a "one size fits all" solution is not possible.

But three things that I believe can HELP are purpose, mentoring and virtue ... and these are the strengths of SportsLeader and coaching.

1. Purpose - the motto of your team, the goals (daily, weekly, season), the speeches ... all speak to THE PURPOSE of your team and the PURPOSE of each individual on that team. Reason and passion for being-living.

2. Mentoring - talking to a player, listening, understanding, showing that you care, helping them improve and focus.

3. Virtue - interior strength, positive qualities that make you a better person, traits that help you serve others around you.

Of the statistics below, the one that surprised me the most was the age group with the highest rate of suicide: Men ages 45-54.

That age group is where a lot of us on this email list fall - male coaches between the ages of 45-54.

Let's all take this seriously. There are true LIVES depending on us. If we can give purpose, mentoring and virtue to every one of our fellow coaches and players, we will help lower these horrific numbers described in more detail below.

Virtue = Strength,
Lou Judd

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From 1993 - 2009 there have been between 29,199 and 36,909 suicides every year.

Every 14.2 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide. Think about that - during a typical 2-hour practice, 8 people commit suicide.

In 2009: 36,909 total suicides
29,089 men
7,820 women

Age Group       Number of Suicides    Population          Rate
5-14                        265                          40,583,198          0.7
15-24                     4,371                       43,077,396         10.1
25-34                     5,320                       41,566,322         12.8
35-44                     6,677                       41,529,956         16.1
45-54                     8,598                       44,592,483         19.3
55-64                     5,808                       34,786,949         16.7
65-74                     2,917                       20,792,067         14.0
75-84                     2,063                       13,147,862         15.7
85+                         878                            5,630,661         15.6

Suicide is the cause of more deaths than car crashes, according to an alarming new study.

The number of people who commit suicide in the U.S. has drastically increased while deaths from car accidents have dropped, making suicide the leading cause of injury death.

The results were compiled using National Center for Health Statistics data gathered from 2000 to 2009.

Army suicides hit a new single-month record in July, when 38 active-duty and reserve soldiers took their own lives, according to official figures released Thursday.

The toll, up from 24 in June, prompted a wave of renewed anger and frustration among Pentagon leaders and veterans advocates. Army officials said 187 active-duty and reserve soldiers have committed suicide so far in 2012. Last year’s total was 283.

Gen. Lloyd Austin, the Army’s current vice chief, said the military is focused on trying to reduce the stigma associated with asking for help and address the mental health issues facing U.S. troops after more than a decade of war.

“Suicide is the toughest enemy I have faced in my 37 years in the Army,” Austin said. “And, it’s an enemy that’s killing not just soldiers, but tens of thousands of Americans every year.”

“That said, I do believe suicide is preventable,” he said. “To combat it effectively will require sophisticated solutions aimed at helping individuals to build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills. As we prepare for Suicide Prevention Month in September, we also recognize that we must continue to address the stigma associated with behavioral health. Ultimately, we want the mind-set across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness.”


Some coaches are afraid that SportsLeader won't "work" with their players ... that they won't like it or even worse they will ridicule it.

Ayden Opfer of Sandusky St Mary Central Catholic, OH,  is an example of a young man who is the opposite. He has embraced the virtue program and is doing everything he can to help his teammates do the same. He recently started making a poster for the virtue of the week. Last week his football team was working on dependable. No one asked him to do. He chose to do it.

To view the poster click on the link:

Also, here is another testimony from Dave Simon, Linebackers Coach at Cincinnati Archbishop McNicholas, OH.

Virtue = Strength,
Lou Judd

Iron-will. What is it? How does it feel? Where do you find it? When does it show up? All questions people ask whether about themselves or another person they hear or see about.  If you want a definition to read about iron-will, well iron-will is sheer, powerful determination in one self. Iron-will really can’t be written down or even defined.  Iron-will can be raised through the love of another, it can be raised upon spite for critics in one’s life, or iron-will can be set off by an unsubstantial amount of determination to fight for a purpose in one’s life. Iron-will is something that you can’t teach; it can be something that is inspired upon in one person’s soul. Iron-will is almost the fight or flight we all have inside of us that makes us accomplish something in life so great that it’s almost unexplainable.  It’s the passion inside of us that makes us rise up to the occasion. What occasion am I talking about you might ask? Whatever it is, that pins you up in the corner and has you against the ropes. The one thing that smacks you right in the face, and in that moment something arises inside of us to fight back and make that corner bigger and bigger until your not in it anymore or against the ropes.  Iron-will is that soul riser that brings strength to overcome whatever life throws you.

Kyle Maynard was a gentleman we read about for our virtue of the week. Kyle Maynard was born March 24, 1986 with a condition known as congenital amputation (no arms or legs). Kyle’s athletic journey began as an 11-year-old that wanted to wrestle and a coach gave him an opportunity to try. After losing every single match his first year and most his second year, Maynard, with his iron will and parents who wouldn’t let him give up on himself, found a way to win 36 varsity matches his senior year; defeating several state place finishers and state champions during his final season. Kyle later became a motivational speaker about his disability traveling all around the country. He said in an ESPN special, “ for about 45 minutes that I was speaking I was happy and felt good because I was inspiring young people to achieve their dreams and goals but right after my speech would end, I would become depressed, and alone. It was like I needed to find a purpose in my life.” I sat there hearing this and saying to myself, wow! A purpose? This man has already accomplished so much, what else can he accomplish?

So, he goes on talking about sitting in an airport one day, waiting to board his flight to another city, and he comes across two soldiers badly burnt from Iraq. They recognize him and walk up to meet him and say how much his story inspired them because they had made a suicide pact when they returned home. What stopped these two men from ending their life, was Kyle, his story. He then decided in that moment, his life would change even more.

Kyle found his purpose finally and decided that he would do the impossible. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Kyle spent hours and days across this treacherous and dangerous terrain where at times he felt as though he was so exhausted and tired he might just give up. But, Kyle did not, he felt his iron-will and purpose and reach the summit of the mountain to where he would spread the remains of one of the fallen soldiers that was in the same platoon of the two men he met in the airport. Kyle found his purpose, he accomplished his mission, the mission of impossible is nothing and iron-will defeats all in its way.

After reading and watching about this story I tried to relate iron-will to my own life and the people I’m surrounded by. I try and do this to help my player’s better get a perspective of my life and something they can relate to maybe. I choose to talk about the people in my life because it helps my players get a more in depth look at who Coach Simon really is. Iron-will really struck me with three people I know. When the word iron-will came up as I read the definition to my players, these same three faces stuck right inside my head and really my heart. These three people are my nana, papa, and step-dad. These three have shown so much iron-will throughout their lives that I am proud to say they are my family. Iron-will has made these people go beyond their calling in life and truly inspire other people and keep the harsh critics still wondering.  These people have shown that iron-will is something so extraordinary, that it overcomes all obstacles and shines light upon any situation.

My nana and papa, yes I say nana and papa, not grandparents because they are different, they chose not to be grandma or grandpa, because they truly are special and not ordinary. I don’t say this because they are my family but because of the people they truly are. Special, selfless, determined, compassionate, and inspirational are just some of the qualities they share with everyone they meet. My nana and papa have had some iron-will in their life living the life they have, to be the people they are today. My nana and papa have raised four children. Two boys and two girls. One of their children has intellectual disability (sometimes called cognitive disabilities or mental retardation). My nana and papa both were very hard working people trying to provide for their family as well as a child with a disability. Pretty hard if you ask me and ask my aunt and uncle as well as my mom. You could say a lot of words come to mind with how they lived their lives as I described my nana and papa above, but iron-will really strikes me because these two made major sacrifices. Not just then, but they still are even as I speak. My uncle is in his mid 50’s and my nana and papa still are helping take care of him today.  My papa is retired as well as my nana today, but these two worked not just one job but sometimes two , coached, took care of their children, paid the bills, put food on the table, helped with homework, and still made time to be great parents and especially great grandparents to us grandchildren. The iron-will that pushed these two through just everyday life not just to get by, but achieve what they have now is absolutely mind blowing to me. These two had the iron-will to create a life for all of us that is never repayable.

The other person I mentioned before, my step-dad, is another person that has shown a lot of iron-will throughout his life. My step-dad went through hell and back and took on responsibilities later on in his life that not a lot of men do, but great men like him step up to the occasion and rise above. My step-dad was a single father of three children. Three boys to be exact. He was not of a background with a college degree, but he strived every day to become a better person and man by working his way up in the company that he has been working for, for over 25 years. He took on the responsibility of adopting my older brother and raising him as his own. He took on the responsibility of raising two more boys, my younger brothers, and not just being a dad every day, but a coach, teacher, mom, mentor, friend, etc.  He would later take on the responsibility of being a man in my sister’s and my life as well, when he married my mom. He has shown iron-will with juggling job, house chores, bills paid, being a loving husband, and ultimately a great dad and man to us children. Iron-will has helped reflect to us children never missing a day of work, being a hard worker, being a good listener, and yes, putting up with all the mishaps we children have caused to create gray hair. But, the iron-will that has helped him rise to occasion on many levels in his life has made me not just respect and love him, but be amazed in what he has accomplished in life so far.

The one player I talked about iron-will with in my one on one session was absolutely lifting and rewarding for me. Now, this player is a special young man. He’s a great young man. With that being said, I think most of the time he puts too much pressure on himself and doesn’t get to enjoy the game of football and life. We talked about iron-will and how he needed to use it in his life to just enjoy the simple things. I told him, make sure you take time to take a deep breath and savor the moment, whatever it is. Being an average height and weight at his position, puts him in a category of college recruits that push a stack of paper s on their desk aside, or even highlight tapes. I tell other coaches all the time, one program, one coach, is going to take a chance on this young man and not be disappointed.  The sheer, powerful determination that this young man shows not just on the field but off as well, is so impressive for any 17 year old I’ve ever met. I’m not only honored to be able to coach him, but be his mentor as well. His parents have done one heck of a job raising one of the most humbling young men a mom and dad could ask for. His iron-will that he has will overcome any obstacle that is thrown his way and I can’t wait for the day that he has his moment in the light and turns around to others who doubt him now, because he is going to open eyes and inspire others that are around him. He’s a leader; he’s a student of the game and a student of life as well. His iron-will he brings to the table inspires me every day I’m around him. Words really can’t describe this young man, but I tell you this, he is already making a name for himself and he doesn’t even realize it.

Iron-will- sheer, powerful determination in one self. Iron-will is that spiritual lifting inside us all to rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion may be, a disabled young man climbing a mountain finding his purpose, a husband and wife raising a son with intellectual disability along with three other children, a man raising three boys by himself and taking two more children in like his own, or a young man who fights his way to get noticed. All of these stories have one common denominator, iron-will.

So, I ask you coaches, what iron-will in your life will rise up and inspire others or what iron-will, will inspire you? We are all surrounded by iron-will every day, but its something that can’t be taught, it really is something so deep inside of us all, that when it happens, nothing, I mean nothing, can stop us from reaching our goals and aspirations. Iron-will is something burnt inside us all that says stand up and fight, push your way out of the corner, and over come the adversity we all face. Our critics, our fears, our failures. Iron-will is simply this….impossible is nothing. Nothing is impossible and everything is accomplished through sheer, powerful determination, with the help of a great support system in our families and friends, and the support of our religious beliefs too. I’ll leave you with this…

Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself.
W. C. Doane

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Here is a testimony from a current College Freshman ... looking back on his football - SportsLeader experience.

Please think about at least 1 other coach at another school you could forward this to. Our world needs more virtuous young men like Tyler and SportsLeader can help.

Virtue = Strength,
Lou Judd


Sportsleader was introduced to my high school, Theodore Roosevelt, about a year ago when it was brought to my football team. Now as the season and graduation have passed, the lessons have remained. My name is Tyler Hamilton and I am currently attending the prestigious Case Western Reserve University. Here I am a freshman on the Spartan football team and am starting my study of aerospace engineering. In high school I graduated number nine in my class and was named male athlete of the year for playing three varsity sports (football, basketball, track), but football was where my passion was. The fans, the team, the brotherhood all meant more to me than anyone could imagine. As a senior I was named a team captain, which I took pride in, just like my fellow captains. The 2011 season was much anticipated for the residents of Wyandotte. The senior class was the biggest, strongest, and most successful class that has come through the program. As the first practice drew near, players were invited to the first annual Virtue Camp for the Wyandotte Bears football team. No one really knew what to expect, but what we learned from that 24 hours together will last a lifetime.

As a 4.0 (Grade Point Average) student, community leader, and well respected student, I did not expect the virtue program to teach me anything more than what my parents and coaches have taught me over the years. “Treat others as you want to be treated,” I thought would be the main message. Something that most players would look past and just say “Yeah, we know,” As the day started we all realized it was much more. Three moments that have remained in my mind from the virtue camp would have to be the father-son night, the emotions throughout the camp, and the team bonding.

Although father-son jersey night was not until after the camp, it was still a moment I cannot forget. This night was designed for the dads of each player to tell their son why he loves them and to present the varsity jersey to him for the season. As the players came that night they expected it to be a silly night with their dad’s but quickly it turned into the greatest night I have ever had with my father. As my dad stood up in front of his peers, my friends, and a room filled with 100 plus men, he looked at me and with a tear in his eye told me he is proud of all the work I have put into school. Proud of how I go through life and that he loved me. Realizing what it takes to tell your son that made me appreciate everything my dad has taught me over the years.

Also the emotions not only occurred on that night but during the camp as well. As young men who play the tough game of football, we are viewed as tough, strong, mean players who don’t cry, don’t love, don’t fear, but as that day went on, I remember coaches and players alike sharing their fears, their stories, and their struggles. As a player myself I saw every type of person discuss feelings they never had before. You had kids who were shy, who were “too tough”, who seemed like they didn’t care but they ALL contributed to this camp. From players who lost a loved one to players going through financial struggles, many issues were discussed and this in turn made our team that much closer and helped many young men move on in life.

With the day of intense feeling behind us, it was time for some fun. The virtue camp had many activities going on and all the players were to spend the night on the field. The pickup basketball games, the table tennis tournaments, and the bon fire on the practice field. All of it was the greatest team bonding experience we could have gotten. It was a great way to reflect and just be together as a family. Sleeping on the field just brought us closer to our “home” and our “brothers.”

The Virtue Camp that was held by SportsLeader will always be in my memories. It was one of the best high school experiences I had and helped me grow as a man.  Every day I dedicate myself to the virtue and the principles that were taught to me during my virtue camp. Just last week I was offered a job at a children’s museum and one of the main reasons I was hired was the fact that during the interview I brought up the virtue camp. They said that any man who is willing to improve himself everyday should have a place on our staff. SportsLeader’s program works!!! Thank you Sportsleader. Thank you for the new life I live every day. Thank you for making this world a better place.