Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Be Better

Be Better

It has been estimated that the average adult may make in the neighborhood of 35,000 decisions in a day. Young children may make around 3,000.  There is no way to accurately measure this but you get the idea that we make a lot of decisions every day no matter what your age.  I believe that one decision we need to make every day is quite simple.  Be Better.  

For the last 9 months I've worn a band every day with that simple phrase.  Here's why.  At the 2016 National Athletic Directors Convention an Athletic Director from Tampa, FL by the name of Lanness Robinson was running for a seat on the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association Board of Directors.  During his brief campaign speech he talked about his uncle, the late Freddie Solomon who had a fantastic career in the NFL.  Freddie had been the main target on what would become one of the most famous plays in NFL history called "The Catch".  What you don't see on the highlight is Freddie Solomon slip as he makes a cut.  The rest was history as his teammate Dwight Clark made the leaping touchdown catch that propelled the San Francisco 49er's to the Super Bowl.

After the game, although thrilled with winning the NFC Championship, Freddie's family and friends could tell he was troubled.  When asked about it he simply said "I have to be better".  He was upset that he had slipped and not been able to do his job at an important time of the game and was determined to be better.  In honor of his uncle, who died of cancer in 2012,  Mr. Robinson had made that a goal of his every day as well.  The story moved me and has motivated me ever since to try and live it out daily in my professional and personal life.

We can all try to be better today than we were yesterday in some area of our life.  Is it something we need to be better at physically?  Do we need to be in better shape?  Do we need to get better at a skill in a sport that we're playing?  A song we're singing?  A part of a song we're playing in the marching band?

Do we need to get better mentally by studying a little bit more to make sure our grades stay where they need to be?  Do we need to read more to stay sharp and challenge our self to grow personally and/or professionally?  Is there a course I can take to help make me better at my job?

Do we need to be a better:

  • student
  • daughter
  • son
  • mother
  • father
  • sister 
  • brother
  • teammate
  • wife
  • husband
  • teacher
  • coach
  • doctor
  • lawyer
  • banker
  • laborer
  • stay at home mom
  • grandparent
  • athletic administrator
  • _______________
You get the idea.  Keep filling in the blanks.  

As mentioned earlier we can be faced with thousands of decisions in these roles but let's get up in the morning, remember one simple phrase and make the most important decision of the day to just BE BETTER.  If we will make that one decision I believe we will be on our way to fulfilling those roles to their fullest, being the best we can be and in turn make ourselves, Roughrider athletics, activities and Roosevelt High School an elite place to be each day.

As a way to remind you of that the photo above is of a little band we've had made to help remind us to be better. If you would like one please stop by the Activities Office to get yours.  We'd love to give you one.  If you're a Roughrider alumni living away from Des Moines let me know and we'll send you one.  (If you're not a Roughrider we'd be happy to give you one too because we want everyone to be better).

Riders, let's make the most important decision we can make today and every day.

Let's Be Better.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Show Up No Matter What

Show Up No Matter What

This is Jim Thorpe.  Look closely at the photo and at his shoes and socks.  Thorpe competed in the 1912 Olympics in Track and Field in the pentathlon and decathlon.  Before he competed his shoes were stolen so he rummaged through a garbage bin and found two different shoes.  One was bigger than the other so he wore extra socks.  He won two gold medals.  

So what's holding you back?  Don't think life is fair?  Whatever you started the day with or happened to you during the day doesn't have to keep you from showing up, doing your best and finding a way to be better than yesterday.  What  happens to you doesn't need to define you.  You make that choice.  

Control what you can control - You're attitude and your effort.  


Sunday, April 30, 2017

When Opportunity Knocks

You've probably heard the phrase about opportunity knocking and how it may "only knock once" and then it's gone.  I believe that it knocks more than once and is sometimes non-stop.  The key for us is to recognize the knocks and act responsibly and accordingly.  

If you listen to or read comments from most coaches after a contest, they may say things like "we had our opportunities and just didn't take advantage of them" or "we had opportunities and couldn't score". Many times we here those comments after a heartbreaking defeat, but if a win is the only opportunity we are looking or working for, then we are not getting the full value of participation in education based athletics and activities as a coach or player. 

There are always opportunities to show good sportsmanship to opponents and officials.  There are opportunities for leadership if you teach a skill to a teammate..  There is the opportunity for personal growth after an agonizing defeat or even a big victory.  There is the opportunity to show up and do what is required in the classroom every day. These examples just scratch the surface of the opportunities that may be knocking at your door every day.  

The Challenge: Don't make the only opportunity you look for be a win on the scoreboard.  Look for the many opportunities you have to grow in your leadership, your ability to show responsibility, your ability to communicate and your ability to show sportsmanship.  The list could go on and on.  

The opportunities are knocking.  Are you listening? 


Monday, April 24, 2017

But or And

But or And

In 32 years of being involved in the world of athletics as a coach, athletic director, parent and fan I've seen a lot of teams and individual players.  I've been blessed to see some fantastic players and teams in a variety of sports and levels of competition.  Some of those individuals have gone onto play at the professional level but the greater majority of those used their experiences to help prepare them to be doctors, lawyers, business owners, mothers and fathers.

One of the ways to make the value of sportsmanship personal with athletes and coaches is by using the following phrases.  You can insert the word coach, player or team into this phrase to make the point.  "He/She is a good player BUT ________" which may be followed by statements like "is not a good sport", "is not respectful to teachers" or "does not treat opponents respectfully".  All are negative statements about the character and sportsmanship of people and teams.

The other and more positive statement is, "He/She is a good player AND ________" which could be followed by "displays good sportsmanship", "is respectful to teachers and adults" or "is a positive leader for the team".

The point is simple.  People may say you and/or your team are good, but how they follow up that statement is more important because it will describe values that last and have a lasting impact on those you interact with.  If you only have once chance to make an impression what will the next phrase start with?  But or And?

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Way before the current campaign designed to highlight the benefits of participation in high school athletics and activities there was this team back in 1980 from Griswold, IA. As I look at this group now I see a lot of guys who are now in their 50's and are working in a variety of professions. We've scattered across the state and country but what we went through for a couple of seasons together still binds us together today and when see each other around the streets of Griswold at reunions or holidays I think there is still an extra smile and heartbeat when we greet each other. I know there is for me.
This was our Griswold Tiger boys basketball team from 1979-80. As you can tell we were trendsetters. You'll notice the Marquette style uniforms that were made popular by the 1977 National Champion Marquette Warriors. Yes, we had matching away uniforms as well. The high socks, low cut Adidas Superstar shoes were in as well, but fashion is not why this group was so special.
The season before one of our seniors, Jon, who was one of the best all around athletes to go through Griswold High School was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 1979 during the baseball season and died just a few months later. It was a tough time. Then, around that same time another young member of our team, Paul, was diagnosed with cancer. You'll notice him standing by our head coach in the back right wearing #20.
The team you see in this picture played angry. We were tough nosed, tough minded, and played with a real purpose. One game in particular stands out to this day. We were playing an away game and I honestly don't remember if Paul was playing or was just sitting on the end of our bench. We were winning the game comfortably and the starters were out of the game as our teammates were playing toward the end of the game. All of a sudden, Roy (#52), no doubt our muscle guy, got up and walked down toward our opponents student section and we all followed. Roy had heard a few of the opponents students making comments directed toward Paul so Roy addressed it. We were there with him. There was no physical confrontation but I have no doubt the message was clear what could happen and we returned to our bench.
Not every team has to go through the loss of teammates to make their athletic experience memorable, and thank goodness they don't have to, but we did and I know we probably got through it a little better because we went through it together. The reason why I'm still in this profession is because of the experiences I had with these guys and our coaches.
To those still working in the education field in some capacity or another don't miss the opportunities to teach, through the good times and the tough times that happen throughout the different seasons and years. That's our call and opportunity to lead. To those who work in other professions outside of the world of education I encourage you to look back on your athletic and activity experiences and think about how they helped to shape and mold who you are today. I hope you are able to point to some lessons learned that still impact you today and use them daily. After all, no matter what we do we have an opportunity to lead and impact others.
You may wonder how the team did. We finished 19-5, were Western Iowa Conference Champions, and I believe to this day would have gone to the state tournament had our sixth man, #34, not suffered a broken foot late in the season in the conference championship game. However, while the wins and championships were fun that's not what I remember. I remember a group of guys who played together and played with a purpose bigger than themselves. Success is not about the wins, it truly is the journey that makes the lasting impact. That's what I hope we can still help young people experience in 2017 and beyond because the impact of my experiences in the 1979-80 are still in my mind are definitely #myreasonwhy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Doing The Right Thing

With the start of spring sports it gives us two sports in particular where integrity and doing the right things come into play in a big, big way.  The sports of golf and tennis are, for the most part, controlled by decisions that the players make on the course and on the court. 

I believe that golf is the ultimate game of integrity.  The rules are set up to be self governing and those that have played or competed know how extensive they can be.  High School tennis competitions are set up so players are making their own calls in their matches.  There are no line judges, chair umpires, or even ball boys or girls that will toss you the ball when you need it.  Both games offer the ultimate opportunity for sportsmanship and integrity. 

Two of the bullet points of The Rider Way are tied together in one fantastic thread for these sports.  "Control What You Can Control" and "Integrity Above All Else".  In these competitive areas you will always have the ability to control your ability to do the right thing as you look at the lie of your golf ball in the rough or make the right line call on the tennis court. 

Can you control what your opponent does?  Obviously, the answer is no.  You do control your own integrity though and just because someone else improves their lie in the rough, makes the wrong call or doesn't apply a rule correctly never gives you the right to return the favor just to try to even the score. 

That's why educational athletics is such a great tool for teaching lessons that can make an impact for a lifetime.  There will always be people looking for shortcuts and a shadier way to get ahead.  We have to rise above that and do the right thing because the right thing is always the best thing to do.  This may mean that we may not receive immediate rewards or accolades, but in the end, if we do things the right way, and do them consistently, people will notice and the acknowledgement will come.  Besides we don't do the right thing for the praise, we do it because it's the right thing to do.

We should also keep in mind that the example we set in some of those situations not only reflects on who we are but also serves as an example for those that may be watching.  We need to use the opportunities where we have a choice of doing the right thing or the wrong thing to be a leader and stand for the right thing.  One right decision at a time could not only change your destiny but also help shape the person watching how you handle the decision. 

Don't miss your leadership opportunities even in times of difficult decisions. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Need Inspired?

I'm not sure how your day was.  Mine was good but it still doesn't hurt to be inspired.  I'm lucky to "work" in a fantastic environment that is alive every single day and you don't have to look very hard to be encouraged.  

My hope for those that are reading this is that you are able to be in a place daily that can lift you up when you need it or takes you even higher if your day is rolling along nicely.  If you're not, maybe see last weeks post (The Fab Five). 

My other hope is that you are in a place daily where you can lift someone else up as well.  If you've been encouraged pay it back by encouraging someone else.  Everyone can always use a little encouragement and you may be the person in line to offer it.  Remember, it costs $0.00 to be a decent human being.

I happened upon a Bridges2Harmony rehearsal a few hours ago and was able to just stand and be encouraged by the amazing talent and passion of this group.  They inspired me and I thank them for that.  Today it was a musical performance.  Tomorrow it may be an athletic practice, something I witness in the hallway, or a conversation with a student, parent, or coach.  Not knowing where the inspiration will come from and who may offer it is what makes each day special. 

Thank You Roosevelt.

Perfect? No.
Always easy? No.
Inspiring? YES!

So...need inspired?  Here's Bridges2Harmony from this year's Winter Concert.

p.s. You're welcome