I've always had a great love and admiration for young men and women who are managers. There is a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice they make in order for the team to be successful. They are at the gym before the players and long after. The NCAA has a required day off for student-athletes but not so managers. My friend and mentor Dale Brown once said that if he owned a business the first people he would look to hire would be student managers.
Think about it. They obviously have a great work ethic. They have a strong grasp of time management. They understand and accept roles. There is no job too great or too difficult or too dirty for them. They work together amongst others. They don't need the limelight or the headlines to be motivated. They celebrate the teams victories and, believe me, they hurt when the team loses. They are a special group of people.
It reminds me of a story about a man name Charles Plumb. Captain Plumb was a graduate of the Naval Academy. After 74 successful missions he was shot down in North Vietnam. He parachuted to safety but was captured and tortured for nearly 6 years.
Through courage and perseverance, Plumb would go on to receive the Silver Star, Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and two Purple Hearts. He took from his experiences and used them as a message, speaking to many groups across the nation.
One day, Plumb and his wife were eating as a restaurant when a man from a nearby table approached him and excitedly said, "You're Captain Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam off the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"
Obviously Plumb was caught off guard that he was recognized and said, "How in the world did you know that?"
The man replied, "I packed your parachute."
Plumb looked up with surprise. The man pumped his hand, gave a thumbs-up and said, "I'm glad it worked."
Plumb rose to shake the man's hand telling him, "It certainly did work. If it had not worked, I would not be here today."
Captain Charles Plumb had a restless night thinking about the encounter. He wondered if he might have seen him at some time while serving and not even said, "Good morning, how are you?" He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent bending over a long wooden table in the bottom of the ship, carefully folding the silks and weaving the shrouds of each chute, each time holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn't know.
And while it may not be life or death, managers, student-trainers, student workers and a variety of staff often do thankless jobs that make such a big difference in the success of a basketball program.
What I've done in the past with some of our teams is given them the Charles Plumb passout and ask them to write at least one thank you letter to someone who has "packed their parachute" this past year. As a coach, I never miss an opportunity to let these people know how important they are to me and our team. I meet with them to learn what their dreams and goals are so I can help them along the way. I have them over to my home. I work hard to help them find jobs. It's the least we can do for such a dedicated group.