Friday, November 15, 2019


On this date today, 49 years and a day, I was sitting in my living room on a rainy Saturday evening in Teays Valley, West Virginia (approximately 40 miles from Huntington) when WSAZ sports broadcast Bos Johnson broke in local programming. Choking back tears, he reported that Marshall's football charter plane had crashed on approach into Huntington.

Over the next half of century, the story of Marshall football has been an amazing journey of overcoming the most difficult of adversities.  The rise from the ashes was long and painful but it showed the greatest of resiliency for a community and continues to inspire a nation today.  I could list wins, conference championships, a shining bowl record and even National titles since that tragic evening 49 years ago but the true testament is to the people who rebuilt not just a program but a community.

Yesterday was the annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony in which we turn off the Memorial Fountain on the Marshall campus.  I took time away from my work, which I do annually, to watch the ceremony on-line.  It is simply and without question one of the most moving and special traditions in college sport.  As a student at Marshall and later as a coach of the Thundering Herd women's basketball program, I was blessed to observed in person the wide range of emotions at this event.  To be there in person is to remember it at another level for the rest of your life.

Then this morning, as I read our local The Eagle newspaper, I am reminded that not everyone gets it -- or understands what sport can truly be about.  Each Friday, the sports department at The Eagle list "This Week's Games" and beside it they have people that predict the outcome of those games.  And each week, someone in their infinite wisdom chooses what they call "crummy game of the week."  I have never appreciated that category and can only assume that they have no idea what competing is about on the collegiate level despite level of play or records of teams or the hard work and sacrifice by the student-athletes and coaches involved.

Yet my disdain for the "crummy game of the week" went to a new level this morning when it listed the Louisiana Tech at Marshall game as their choice.  When the Marshall football team takes the field at Joan C. Edwards Stadium tonight there will be tears for will be represented of the loss we suffered nearly 50 years ago as well as the spirit and love that have helped us to move forward.  The Herd will wear special helmets with the number 75 representing each life lost that evening and they will play with a powerful "why."  It will be, as it is each season, an amazing day!

I can promise you, it will be the least crummy game played this weekend.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Our athletic department was blessed this opening week of school to have Tim Elmore speak to our student-athletes and then to our coaches and administrators.  While there was several great take-aways from Tim in our challenge to better communicate, teach and inspire a new generation of young people, one really resonated with me.

Tim held up a bottle of water and talked about the difference in "timeless" and "culture."  He explained that water is timeless -- it's been around forever.  Yet here we are today consuming water out of a bottle instead of a faucet -- that is the change in culture.

Water is the message we are trying to deliver to our student-athletes. The messages today are no different than the messages from yesterday -- commitment, work ethic, sacrifice, teamwork, etc.  But as teachers we have to change our "packaging."  We can't deliver water out of the faucet anymore and this needs to be an important consideration as we give thought to communicating and teaching our individuals and teams.

By the way, one of my favorite regular emails I get comes from Tim and you can sign up and get on the mailing list here.

Monday, July 15, 2019


I always like to pass on a good book when I run across one and "The Coach's Season" by Jason Fry is excellent.  My first thought is that a young coach just starting out in the business or a coach who just grabbed their first head coaching gig would find this an amazing resource.  But it's also invaluable for the veteran coach who is always looking to improve their program or take it to another level.  I would add that while this is a must-have for high school coaches, there is great information to benefit coaches at other levels from junior high school to college.

The structure of the book is unique in that Jason interviewed over 100 of the best high school coaches in the country to get an amazing variety of answers to key questions.

This is the first section of the book with Q&A's with 34 high school coaches. Here are just some of the sample questions that are asked of the coaches:

How do you balance family with team life during the season?

What advice do you have for a first- or second-year coach?

What did your pre-season preparation look like with your staff?

What are three responsibilities you have given your assistants?

What is one thing you do differently from others?

Again, the reader is getting answers to these questions from the best of the best.

The second section has a list of Q&A's from 30 outstanding high school coaches.  These questions have a lot to do with preparation and game organization:

How are you incorporating player development in the season?

What adjustments do you make at halftime? 

What are roles do your assistants have in practice as well as games?

What is one thing a coach can do to...
     ...learn each day? relationships?
     ...grow their feeder systems?

An example of a great question in this section is "What do you do during the month of January to improve team morale and keep spirits high?"  Legendary coach Don Showalter responded with these gems:

--Cut practice time to an hour and a half or even an hour as January progresses
--Take a practice or two and play whiffle ball or dodge ball for the last 30 minutes
--Allow your players to plan a practice session and have the coaches sit and watch practice
--Take the team bowling, to a college or NBA basketball game, or have a pizza party
--Work on skills only for a couple of practice. 

There are responses from 29 outstanding coaches in the third section which deals largely with how you are growing and improving your program in the off-season.  Some great Q&A's include:

What are your priorities during the off-season?

What are you seeking to learn in the off-season?

How do you prepare players for new roles?

What does your evaluation as a team/player at the end of the season look like?

There is also a brief section at the end of resources such as player evaluation forms for the off-season

One of the bonuses of the book I enjoyed is that all 117 coaches that were interviewed gave their favorite motivational quote -- that alone makes the book invaluable.  Click here for more information.

Monday, July 1, 2019


The following is a great passage from "What Drives Winning" by Brett Ledbetter and makes a profound point about opportunities where we create value without being involved in the actual action.  It's the "time between actions."  What is your self-talk like at those opportunities?  Are you focusing on what's next or what just happened?

College golf can teach us a great lesson. I was working with a high-level college team and I asked the team a few questions:

Me: How long does it take for you to complete a swing?
Team: One second.

Me: How many shots will you take in a normal round?
Team: 72.

Me: How long does a normal round take to play?
Team: 5 hours.

Me: Let me get this straight, you’re only swinging a golf club for one minute and twelve seconds out of 300 minutes?

Think about that for a second. The great golfers are the ones who can manage the other two hundred, ninety-eight minutes, and forty-eight seconds the best.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Yesterday I shared some bullet points from  Ed Molitor  I grabbed at the "Unleashing Greatness" seiminar and today wanted to do the same with the many nuggets I grabbed from Don Yaeger. I've known Don for over 20 years including one season where he spent the year with our LSU team and he is sincerely one of the most genuine people I have met that cares deeply about helping people -- a great writer and a great speaker.  Here's what I learned from him back in April:


Cubs culture - “fun” - disco ball in locker room for post game wins—relieve pressure

Theo Epstein: Must have the guts to have uncomfortable conversations — “truth”

Great teammates are…
             David Ross asked his Braves teammates and they wrote on chalkboard
             Accountability checklist

“Ultimate servant teachers”

Ross played only 35% of the time in 4 years with the Braves.  400 games he did not play
             Would be on the top step high-fiving teammates between innings
             50% of MLB wanted to sign him — a back up catcher
             “Glue guy” — created value
             Started 4 times in the World Series

DY: “Being a great teammate is a learned behavior.”

Glue guy: Shane Battier — 2-time NBA Teammate of the Year

DY: “Being a great teammate is hard work.”

Asked Becky Hammonds about some of great accomplishments and she replied that she had had 11 different players that were all-starts on her team.  About taking teammates with you.

Upon her first meeting with Jayne Appeal, Hammonds said: “I’ve studied your game and I know how I’m going to make you better.”

When manager Joe Madden first took over the Cubs he had t-shirts made that said “Try Not To Suck.”

DY: “Be invaluable without being the most valuable.”

Epstein: “My great fear is that we are more driven by analytics and guys like David Ross get lost.”

DY: “Celebrate great teammates.”


Camaraderie - “I appreciate you.”

The key to USA Basketball — they understand their why
Success leaves clues

Successful people that Don has studied all had one common request — share with us what you see in us and what your learned form others.

Enron listed “integrity” as their major core value.  There’s a different between declaring it and living it.

Culture = Behaviors
Behaviors = Habits
Habits = Success

DY: “Culture happens by design or default.”

Culture is…
...values, attitudes, standards
...acceptable to team environment
...common language of your team

Coach K: Adapt and embraced change...understand your “why”

Awe Factor: USA Basketball (Tennessee & UConn)

Jerry Colangelo: Wanted consistency in coaching USA
Coach K—assistant on Dream Team...great coach...began at West Point

Coach K in taking over USA Basketball: “walk in and do a listening tour.”

Coach K asked USA players to live, sleep, eat like soldiers for 3 days

Create “feel it” moments — Dog Tag Story

2012 London—Arlington National Cemetery with USA Team

“Know why” vs. ‘Feel why”

#1 motivation for millennials — work where it matters.  Pay was ranked #6.

Generation Z — “feel it” moments

Make-A-Wish — mission movement.

3 Action Items
   1. Ask your team the question
   2. Create feel it moments
   3. Think of impact


Michael Jordan Camp — $1.5 million for Make-A-Wish

Key to MJ — hated to lose.

Got up and shot at 4 AM the day after he got cut
When inducted to Hall of Fame, invited 7 kids from his high school team that beat him out

DY: “Loss is not a failure until you make it an excuse.”

4 Threats of Greatness
1. Greatness is available to us common things uncommonly well. Do extra
2. It’s not physical aptitude but mental, emotional and spiritual discipline
3. They are all extremely coachable
4. Greatness required proper “nutrition” — what are you feeding yourself?

Warrick Dunn struggled with depression.  Message from his mom: “Don’t be bitter — get better.”

Swen Nater-
Cut twice — never played HS ball
Goal - own an automotive shop

John Wooden: you will never outwork your inner circle.

DY: “Your responsibility is to grow your inner circle.  Know the value of associations.”

DY: “Be prepared for change before change is needed.”

Coach K: Had to change within before One & Done

Rooms One & Dones with an Upperclassmen

DY: “My life changed when I started seeking out mentors.”

Understand the importance of a shared vocabulary.

Internal language

All Blacks Rugby: “Stab me in the belly, not in the back.”

Lesson — Story — Application

DY: “If you learn and share it’s a good day.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


In April, I had the privilege of attending an "Unleashing Greatness" seminar that was co-hosted by Ed Molitor  and Don Yaeger.  It was a one-day conference on the campus of Texas A&M and a tablet full of notes later I wanted to share with you just a few of the great bullet points I got from Ed on topics such as leadership, culture, accountability and recruiting.

The 3 pillars to Authenticity

   Start with yourself — tell yourself the truth

EM: “Get access to the truest version of yourself.”

What are your core values?  Think of great accomplishments...what values show up in your best moments.

Challenge yourself to come up with 3 personal core values.

EM: “Leadership is not so much about solving a problem as it is finding a solution.  It’s a team mindset.”

Give ‘em a reason to look up to you...something that’s not on the stat sheet.

When you ask for help it…
...shows respect for the person giving the advice
...shows respect for the experience, skill, insight
...shows respect and trust by making yourself vulnerable

Leadership qualities:
   Risk Awareness

EM: “A team is a direct reflection of it’s head coach.”

Three concepts for authenticity:
1. Courage to say what you stand for
2. Able to behave in a way that’s aligned to your values
3. Able to recognize you need help


Culture: shared values, beliefs and behaviors 

Bad/poor cultures are also contagious.

“cultus” to pay for positive

Worth fighting for
“Believe in” vs. “Buy in”
Emotional Attachment
Safety — not soft

Championship Cultures
   Vision—Compelling (singleness of purpose)
   Process—Be present

   Self-discipline drives your self-control
   Self-control drives your self-confidence
   Self-confidence drives your self-motivation

Recruiting question: “Will they leave their jersey in a better position.”

How do people treat others than can not help them with their goals

EM: “Be your own accountability partner.”


What is my process?
What skills do I need to be working on by getting reps?
When is the last time I ran my feedback loop?

EM: “There’s a difference between intent and behavior.”