Sport and the Growing Good
By Peter Miller
Sport and the Growing GoodJan 30, 2020
#129 Verona soccer coach Dave Perkins learns, grows, builds bonds and won the state championship
Coach Dave Perkins led Verona High School to the state championship in 2022. He was also named the WSCA Coach of the Year and, in 2021, the Big Eight Conference Coach of the Year. Dave has a long track record of success playing and coaching at multiple levels, including club, college, and high school. Dave joined SGG to discuss his leadership journey, including what he's learned along the way, why he coaches, and what he aspires toward as a leader of young people.
#128: DSHA H.S. (WI) volleyball coach Caitie Ratkowski impacts lives and led her team to the state championship
Coach Caitie Ratkowski is the 2022 state champion (Division I) volleyball coach at Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) High School in Milwaukee. She was honored as the 2022 AVCA Girls high school coach of the year. Among Caitie's many other awards was her 2016 induction into the DSHA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. Beyond her impressive success on the court, Caitie is committed to leading the people in her program toward holistic life success. She's impacted many lives through her coaching efforts.
#127: Columbus HS (WI) football coach Andrew Selgrad won the state title and his program keeps building
Coach Andrew Selgrad led Columbus High School to a 14-0 record and the division 4 state championship in 2022. For his efforts, he named Wisconsin Associated Press/Packers High School Coach of the Year. Coach Selgrad has a long track record as a coach in the state -- and even grew up on the sidelines when his father was a head coach. With a motto of "keep building," he focuses on "teaching the why," learning, trusting and growing every day.
#126: Kettle Moraine H.S. (WI) football coach Matt McDonnell’s program treats kids well and won state
Coach McDonnell leads the 2022 Wisconsin State football champions at Kettle Moraine High School. He is also a special education teacher at the school. Coach McDonnell focuses on treating the members of his team well. In doing so, he's cultivated a successful program where young people can thrive on and off the field. He joined us on the SGG podcast to discuss his journey and his perspective on coaching.
#125: Kaukauna (WI) H.S. softball coach Tim Roehrig fosters love of the game and wins championships
Coach Roehrig is a social studies teacher and the head softball coach at Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin. His team rides a 51 game winning streak and has won back-to-back state championship. Coach Roehrig's impact goes beyond softball victories. He's shaped a thriving community around softball. He develops rich relationships with players and families. Opportunities flow in, through, and beyond the Kaukauna softball program thanks to his leadership. We enjoyed a great conversation on the SGG podcast. Thanks, Coach Roehrig!
#124: Bill Schultz led the way for the Miracle League in Dane County: "I see myself in them."
Bill Schultz is the founder and leader of the Miracle League in Dane County, WI. He joined us to tell his own story of growing up with physical disabilities, staying resilient, and ultimately impacting many lives in positive ways. The Miracle League provides children with disabilities -- and their families -- with opportunities to play sports and have fun together. Bill's story is inspiring. Our SGG conversation included conversation about:
1. Bills sports experiences when he was young.
2. The coaches and adults who impacted him growing up.
3. His experiences as a manager in college.
4. His career.
5. How the Miracle league came to fruition in the Madison area.
6. What happens at Miracle League games.
7. A couple of "miracle stories."
8. What comes next.
#123: Pulitzer winning sports journalist George Dohrmann on the historical underpinnings of USA men’s soccer failures…and hopes for a better future
George Dohrmann is senior managing editor for enterprise and investigations for The Athletic. Previously at Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where in 2000 he won a Pulitzer Prize, he is the author of multiple books. Play Their Hearts Out, George’s book stemming from a ten-year immersive journey with an AAU team, was winner of the 2011 PEN/ESPN Award and was named by GQ as one of 50 best books on literary journalism. On this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. There’s a picture of you coaching kids in soccer on your website. Do you coach? What’s your coaching style? (2:40)
2. What drew you to the topic of your new book, Switching Fields? (5:25)
3. Historically, what have been some of the signature differences between how men’s and women’s developmental systems have worked in American soccer? (7:47)
4. How UNC coach Anson Dorrance created a successful soccer program (10:27)
5. What was noteworthy about the development of American soccer in Southern California? (14:30)
6. Why have there historically been so few Black soccer players in the USA program? (20:40)
7. Who else has been left behind… and why? (21:30)
8. You documented some really horrible coaches in PTHO. But it sounds like you’ve found hopeful coaching models in these years that’ve followed. In soccer, what are the promising youth coaching practices that you’ve found? Would these translate across sports – including to youth basketball? (25:05)
9. Latino influence on coaching (29:10)
10. You’ve long been advocating for “junior NBA/WNBA leagues.” Why? Is this a logic of talent capitalization? How can we concurrently democratize healthy, high-level sport opportunity? (34:20)
11. Looking back on what you know now, would your analysis of the PTHO kids’ world change in any noteworthy ways? What are the “big questions” we should be asking to make youth sports better in the US? (39:53)
12. What would he do differently if he could do Play Their Hearts Out again (43:10)
#122: Sidney Moncrief on using the private and public platforms of sports to work for justice
We continue our SGG conversations with Sidney Moncrief, whose perspectives on leading for justice are rooted in years of competing, leading, and learning at the highest levels. In this episode, we discussed:What Made Don Nelson special: he understood the value of having a good support team and he made sure to be authentic during his interactions with both his assistant coaches and his players to create sincere relationships with them. (9:08) “The wisdom that I had when I played came from humility and self awareness” (13:30) “When he became a leader on the Bucks he eliminated hazing because he wanted the new players to be able to come to him and not be looked down upon or pass judgment… he would just give them the facts” (15:23) “It’s easy for anyone to become insecure about a number of things and as a coach you really need to guard against that.” (19:38) The negative effects of social media on athletes. (24:47) His perspective of diversity, equity, inclusion throughout the sports landscape while playing at Arkansas. (28:30) Learning from his experience playing tennis with Sam Walton. (32:27) “When you're in your 20s you really don’t have the wherewithal, it’s all about ‘me’ and … you are not leveraging potential relationships to do good things for others” (36:00) “I don’t care how famous you are or how many followers you have, always speak from an educated perspective know both sides.” (38:24) You have to use both your public and your private platforms. (39:58) Learning from his conversation with Senator Kohl. (41:33) Learning about intentionality as a part of his GRIT concept. (43:00) How sports give him the platform today. (45:47) “Our job as older players is to make ourselves relevant… take current issues and collaborations to make things better. (46:39) The effect of his mom keeping composure during times of crisis. (48:28) Why coaches have to guard their players too much information. (52:23)
#121 Wisconsin Men’s Hockey Coach Tony Granato: “We’re all connected by sport.”
Tony Granato’s accolades and accomplishments in hockey are remarkable. A highest level champion of the game in every way at college, NHL and Olympic levels, Tony is recognized as one of the great teammates, competitors and leaders in the game. As head coach of the Badgers, Tony continues to positively impact countless lives each year. He joined SGG, where we discussed:
1. The shared passion for hockey among the Granato siblings. “NHL games” in the family basement. Core values and love developing in the basement.
2. Coaching principles “come from that basement.”
3. Benefits of free play. Learning about leadership and how to be a teammate.
4. Learning about courage and perseverance from his sister Cammi. “She fought through lots of barriers and obstacles.”
5. Learning from his brother Donny about overcoming hard things.
6. Learning about the core values of individuals that his team recruits.
7. One of Tony’s bell cows (models): Bob Johnson – “His enthusiasm and passion for hockey was what I thought it should be. He brought that spirit to wherever he was.” “His style was unique back then. Coaches were hard-nosed and tough. Stand-offs. Screamers and yellers…Badger had the opposite. He loved and appreciated players for who they were.”
8. Another bell cow: his dad. “He didn’t know hockey very well…But what I learned from him was love and care for one another. Respect and care for each other and the game.”
9. Positive mindset. Taking positive things from other players.
10. “I don’t want to be respected because I was a good player. I want to be respected because I was a good teammate.”
11. Personality of a team. “It has to be a natural thing.”
12. “Great character” vs. “great characters” in the game of hockey.
13. Values/principles of his program: work ethic; passion/love for the game and people.
14. “When you’re appreciated, you’re willing to go through the wall for somebody.”
15. Differences in international models of sport and development.
16. US Hockey’s new model for developing the game.
17. European focus on tactical and skill work.
18. Talent capitalization.
19. Starting points in leadership development: Core values. Compassion. Relationships.
20. “The part I’ve enjoyed most about my journey in sport is the fact that I’ve been able to share it with my brothers and sisters and dad and mom. We’re all connected by sport.”
21. His dad never pushed hockey upon him.
#120: Sidney Moncrief on leadership.
Naismith Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief – a former Bucks all-star and assistant coach – joined us (2nd time on SGG!) to discuss leadership across different eras. He identified a critical shift in player-coach relations that occurred in the early 2000s and offered broad insights on leadership across diverse settings. We discussed:
1. How do relationships look in the NBA? In the 1980s: Corporate. “There were no relationships. You were told what to do. In the 2000s “there was a new source of empowerment among the players.” At that point, if you were an assistant coach, your sole purpose was to develop a relationship with players. “They were no longer doing what you told them to do because you were the leader. They wanted you to earn their trust.”
2. The impact of the rise of AAU.
3. One thing that has not changed in coaching: “Once players know that you care…right away, the trust goes up. And the respect goes up.” What matters most: caring, transparency, honesty, integrity.
4. Coaches showed care behind the scenes.
5. Principles are important in action, not just in what you say. Great coaches “walk the talk.” (Don Nelson. Del Harris, Rick Majerus, etc.)
6. Sidney’s “Cs of Leadership:” Competence, Character, Consistency, Communication.
7. The 1980s was the era of excess in the league – not an era of social consciousness. “We had conversations behind the scenes. But if you had those discussions in public…it would have been detrimental to your career.” It was easier to have those conversations in the 60s and 70s.
8. The importance of “Magic vs. Bird” in shifting from team to individual branding.
9. “Coaches play a major role in giving players a base for being game changers in society.”
10. “You should never be afraid of stepping outside of the box as a coach.”
11. Don Nelson understood that he needed to get the star players on board with ideas first. “He would come to us and ask for our opinions…Great players must be part of your internal team.”
12. “Being a social justice person.” Sidney’s thoughts on order and action in a sports context – a sensitive and complicated matter.
13. Could Coach Eddie Sutton coach the same way today? “He made some adjustments but his standards never changed.”
14. “GRIT:” Growth, resilience, intentionality, tenacity.
15. Body language. Reading cues.
16. Authenticity. “The worst thing as a leader is for people that you lead to not know who you are and what you stand for.”
17. “Empathy should have no age limit.”
18. Having a purpose.
19. The diversity in the game.
20. Principled coaches are “setting their players up to be social game changers in society, to accelerate their life’s purpose.”
#119: Wisconsin Women’s Basketball Head Coach Marisa Moseley: “We expect to win in everything we do.”
Marisa Moseley’s journey through college basketball includes remarkable success as a player, assistant coach and head coach. She joined SGG to discuss leading the Badgers program. We discussed:
1. What is a “bell cow”… and who were some of Coach Moseley’s bell cows?
2. Having “unfettered” access to Coach Auriemma.
3. Jay Wright. “You watch his teams and they’re so fundamentally sound…I was very much an admirer of the way he coaches and teaches.”
4. John Thompson. “How he transcended the game, how he was unapologetically black, how he led…how he was authentically himself.”
5. How do you decipher what’s “for you” as a coach?
6. Determining “our style” as a program. “I knew what kind of person I was as a person, as a coach, as a leader, as a teacher… But we needed to develop a style as a program.”
7. How program “style” affects all parts of the program.
8. Indicators of the Badgers culture: a loud gym, energy, open communication, helping each other up, quick pace, urgency.
9. Popovich: When you join this team, you don’t change us, we change you.
10. Consistency and high expectations.
11. Coaches who talk too much at practice.
12. Learning to let players play through mistakes. “It’s a delicate dance.”
13. The program pillars: Winning mindset, Integrity, Selflessness, Communication, Legacy.
14. Connectedness around the pillars. “If you are really, really connected, you have some of your best teams.
15. A simple gratitude exercise with the team.
16. What team members owe each other.
17. Deepest aspirations as a coach: “helping people become the best version of themselves.”
#118: Javonte Lipsey, a scholar and an athlete, studies servant leadership.
Javonte Lipsey was a five-time All-American track athlete at the University of North Carolina. After his decorated career, Javonte embarked on a doctoral research journey at Ohio State University. His dissertation study examined servant leadership in collegiate athletics administrators. On this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Growing up in the loving Lipsey family that adopted seven children: “My existence in the family was created in their willingness to serve.”
2. Witnessing his father and mother as servant leaders.
3. The servant perspective “gave me a huge amount of humility” in athletics. “It’s about being part of a community that’s part of something larger.”
4. The impact of his high school coach. “He was much more than a coach…He was there through every phase of my life, not just on the track.”
5. Why he pursued the Ph.D.: “My parents told me that are two things to take with you wherever you go: salvation and education.”
6. What is servant leadership?
7. Doing what is right because it is right (as opposed to having ulterior motives).
8. Listening to hear, to understand, to serve.
9. One of Javonte’s research questions: What are the antecedents of servant leadership?
10. Another question: On a day-to-day basis in college athletics administration, what does servant leadership look like?
11. Third question: Are there experiences that helped shaped servant leadership behavior?
12. The research design.
13. Servant leadership is animated by humility.
14. Religious affiliation and servant leadership.
15. Exemplars of servant leadership: Tony Dungy, Muhammad Ali, LeBron James, Steph Curry.
16. “I challenge people to ask ourselves, ‘How can I serve others?’”
#117 Walter Dickey (part 3): Working in harness with another.
As I was editing the third and final SGG episode with UW’s Walter Dickey, I was speaking with former Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany and asked for his perspective on Walter. Jim described Walter as a “straight shooter” and “one of the most able and honest people that I ran across in my 31 years in the Big 10.” These words of high praise are included in the introductory remarks of this episode. And then, focusing largely on some of his key partners from over the years, Walter and I discussed:
1. Working together with Frank Remington. “He was incredibly generous with his time and his knowledge.”
2. Other partners from the Law School and Corrections over the years.
3. Lesson from Frank Remington: “Helping young people develop is a calling.”
4. “I’ve always thought the development of others was one of my principal responsibilities.”
5. Close observation and imagination.
6. Developing a sense of judgment. “If you’re going to develop a sense of judgment, you need knowledge of the system you’re working in.”
7. “The ability to understand people and empathize with people is vital.”
8. “Working in harness with another.” (more fun, better ideas)
9. Becoming a leader in athletics.
10. Working closely with Jim Delany. Loyalty and discretion.
11. Jim Delany’s skill in getting groups get where they need to go.
12. Different ways to disagree.
13. Beginnings of working with Barry Alvarez.
14. Working with Chris McIntosh. “I quickly realized how intelligent and perceptive he was…I took him everywhere.”
15. Transitioning away from being on campus every day. “It was hard…I spent my life poised for action.”
16. Realizing that “I’ve done my part.”
17. “The future will rise up before us.”
#116: Walter Dickey (part 2): Poised to learn, creating value, and helping others.
In the second part of our three episodes that focus on the great law professor, public leader and athletics leader, we discussed:
1. The importance of reading over the years. “It fed my curiosity and desire to learn…It helped develop in me a sense of idealism in the world and possibilities in the world…It led me to have some illusions about what was possible in the world.”
2. Keeping a journal every day: “What I think about. What we do.”
3. “I’ve done my part.”
4. Attempting to become more present.
5. “Poised to learn.”
6. A goal for law students: growth for the rest of their lives.
7. “The law in action.”
8. A sound structural education in law school. “The bones of the law.” Principles and specifics.
9. A metaphor for lawyer prep: playwright vs. critic.
10. Being both a law professor and the head of corrections.
11. “On the ground understanding.”
12. Developing trust as head of corrections.
13. The value of “unglamorous” jobs as a youngster.
14. The influence of Jesuit education.
15. Law and leadership as a “helping profession.”
16. “Creating value” as a leader.
17. The importance of communication as a leader.
18. Learning how to navigate multiple contexts as a leader. “Assess it. Look at it as carefully as you can. Then figure out what to do.”
19. “You can’t become too attached to your own view.”
20. “The anchoring effect.”
21. Diagnostic interviews.
22. Moral authority. “It’s earned. You’re not anointed with it.”
23. “A degree of humility is incredibly powerful.”
24. Living a balanced life. “The lives of our children and grandchildren are of first order importance.”
#115: Walter Dickey (part 1): Carefully observing the world and figuring out how to best proceed.
Walter Dickey recently retired from a long and distinguished professional life at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Among many other accomplishments and experiences, Walter was a tenured law professor; head of the Department of Corrections in Wisconsin; Chair of the Wisconsin athletic board; representative to NCAA and Big Ten Conference, and deputy athletic director. He’s published extensively and shaped his fields in many positive ways. But Walter’s much more than these achievements or positions. He’s been a son, brother, husband, father, friend, colleague, and mentor. He’s a man with broad experience, deep perspective. Walter says that he never spends much time thinking about his career or having been a leader, but in this three part series, we examine how this legendary UW leader has indeed lived an interesting and impactful life of leadership. In part 1, Walter described the time that he and his wife Mary spent in Ghana, just after he’d completed law school. He highlighted some of the impacts of that time in their lives and how it contributed to his development as an observer of the world. Walter then described the importance of partnership in his journey and he provided insight into how one of his key partners, Professor Frank Remington, went about mentoring with humility and generosity. Over the years it’s been a tremendous honor and privilege for me to get to learn from Walter – so learning more about his story was a very special opportunity for me.
1. Deciding to go to Ghana – “the adventure of our lives” and the “turning point of our lives.”
2. Not being part of the “American Embassy crowd” in Ghana.
3. Living in Ghana: heat, a coup, grocery shopping, time, food, etc.
4. Being an observer.
5. “We were completely reliant on each other.”
6. Walter and Mary in Ghana: “We developed confidence in ourselves. And we developed trust and confidence in people around us.”
7. Returning to the U.S: No money, a Ford Pinto, a broadened perspective, and an uncertain future.
8. Why every American should take advantages of opportunities to live abroad.
9. “I’ve never thought of myself as having a career.”
10. Learning to live amid doubt and uncertainty in a condition of not knowing (Shakespeare).
11. Contrasting Oedipus & Socrates coming to a fork in the road. Socrates reflected and considered where the two roads might go.
12. Mary: “As the future rises up before us, we’ll figure it out.”
13. “Carefully observing the world and people around me. And then figuring out how to best proceed.”
14. The raw materials of leadership: observing and active imagination (and reading).
15. What Walter learned from reading as a youngster: the triumph of virtue after struggle. Idealism.
16. C.S. Lewis: reading teaches us that we’re not alone.
17. “Solving problems is fun. Spouting off theoretical things isn’t, at least to me.”
18. Working for UW Law Professor Frank Remington, who was “incredibly intelligent, observant, and humble.”
19. Diagnostic interviews: “a legal physical.”
20. Frank Remington as a mentor. “Humility was his hallmark.”
#114: NFL player turned professor: Travis Dorsch reflects on his journey through sports and describes his “integrated perspective on youth sport”
Travis Dorsch is an associate professor at Utah State University, where he studies and teaches about youth sports. Professor Dorsch’s work influences the broader field in multiple ways – especially in our move toward adopting more holistic understandings of the youth sports experience. A former NFL football player and now father of young athletes, Travis brings a well-informed perspective to the table. On this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Travis’ experiences as a multi-sport athlete in Bozeman, MT.
2. Some of the coaches who impacted him during middle and high school years.
3. Playing sports in Bozeman.
4. How Travis’ experiences as an athlete led him to a career studying sports.
5. What is an “integrated understanding of the youth sports system?”
6. What he means when he says, “I think parents are trapped” in the youth sports environment.
7. Advice Travis has for parents of young athletes. (intrinsic motivation)
8. Advice Travis has for more mature, gifted athletes. (surround them with good people and be willing to let go)
9. Families’ financial investments in youth sports. One interesting finding: The more money we invest can lead to increased pressure, less enjoyment, and increased likelihood of kids dropping out of sports.
10. Why we need to think about siblings in sports.
11. How Travis’ professional and personal experiences come together.
#113: Before they were champions: Wisconsin Volleyball’s Grace Loberg, Gio Civita, and Danielle Hart reflect on their journeys through youth sports.
Research shows us many benefits from participating in athletics. But each young athlete’s pathways is different. Three key members of the UW national championship volleyball team, Gio Civita, Danielle Hart, and Grace Loberg, joined SGG to discuss some key aspects of their remarkable journeys through sports.
1. Grace’s initial volleyball experiences with her mom and at school in 4th grade. “It was not good volleyball, but it was so fun!”
2. Danielle started volleyball in 7th grade. Volleyball became an important part of her life during challenging times. “Volleyball became the outlet for me.”
3. Gio’s volleyball experience as a child in Italy. Sports were separated from school. “If you decide to be in sports, it’s like a job.”
4. How sports affected sibling dynamics in their families. Grace: “It was a challenge for my parents balancing everything.”
5. Multi-sport participation decisions, including the importance of supportive coaches who make it work.
6. Factors to consider when choosing a club team.
7. Specific youth sports moments that led to broader opportunity.
8. What coaches are looking for when they recruit young athletes.
9. What caught Coach Sheffield’s eye when he was recruiting her: The way she supported her teammates.
10. The importance of a coach delivering feedback to Danielle.
11. Coaches who do (and don’t) understand the developmental stages of their athletes.
12. Coach Sheffield’s thoughtfulness about “every single thing.”
13. Fostering joy in youth sports.
14. Mental and psychological aspects of getting through injuries. Danielle: Embracing the broader view of the team. Developing empathy. Building leadership skills. Staying connected. Taking it day by day.
15. Gio on going through injuries: “It opened other doors in the long run.”
16. How can we make youth sports better? Danielle: make it less expensive. Grace: scale back the pressure. Gio: balance/integrate academics and athletics.
#112: UW-Madison’s Dr. Julie Stamm studies brain injuries and youth sports.
Julie Stamm is a faculty member in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her book, The Brain on Youth Sports: The Science, the Myths, and the Future, makes a major contribution to the broader field of concussion research. Dr. Stamm continues to conduct cutting-edge research and will make a major positive impact on the field with her scholarship and multi-dimensional perspective. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Growing up a 3-sport athlete in Mosinee, Wisconsin.
2. The role and impact of sports in Mosinee.
3. Playing against Candace Parker at a Chicago basketball camp.
4. Her pathway to becoming a researcher and scientist…including being impacted by one young athlete’s concussion.
5. How being an athlete shapes her approach to research.
6. Understanding what concussions are.
7. Peaks and plateaus in brain development intersecting with sports experiences: “There’s a lot going on in that 8-12 (year old) range…And that’s also a time when lots of kids are getting started in sports.”
8. The multiple forms of “repetitive impact.”
9. The implications of repetitive impacts…even those that don’t result in concussion symptoms: “These hits aren’t without consequence even though we don’t see it right away.”
10. Myth: contact sports impacts aren’t as bad in youth sports. The “bobblehead effect” and the number of impacts.
11. Hits per event are similar in youth and high school football.
12. Why she wrote the book. And why she wrote it in an accessible fashion.
13. Bad argument: Contact sports are safe enough. “Is safer than ever safe enough?”
14. The limits of helmets. “No helmet will prevent concussions.”
15. Myth: You have to hit/play the way the pros do in order to make it to college and/or the pros. (not true!)
16. “At the younger ages we should promote having fun in sports.”
17. Flaws in common “toughness arguments.”
18. How we can best communicate about and implement important research on concussion in youth sports.
19. The role of coaches in changing culture around safer contact sports.
20. Her ongoing research projects.
#111: Grand Park Sports Complex (Westfield, IN) Director Matt Trnian: “If you build it, they will come.”
Matt Trnian started as an intern at Grand Park. He moved up through the ranks and now serves as Director. Matt joined SGG to discuss his leadership journey. He also discussed Grand Park’s evolution…including what’s next for one of the nation’s premier sports and events facilities. We discussed:
1. A common theme among his best coaches from growing up: a focus on developing better people.
2. What he learned from his head high school football coach, Mike Elder: Accountability and investment in each person in the program.
3. Starting as an intern at Grand Park. Matt’s aspirations and responsibilities.
4. Key stakeholders and events along the way, including the Indianapolis Colts holding training camp at Grand Park.
5. Early resistance to Grand Park. “It was easy to be skeptical…It was an unproven product at that time.” (Many of the critics have changes their minds.)
6. Influencing broader community development.
7. Grand Park’s research and development hub. “We’re trying to stay on the cutting edge.”
8. Matt’s observations of the youth sports industry.
#110: Readiness revisited: Some concerning trends in sport participation
Several years ago, we wrote about an "NFL ready" football player, Ed Oliver. He's achieved success with the Buffalo Bills. But readiness questions in the sports pipeline persist for millions of young people around the country. Beyond physical readiness, we must consider academic, social, and other types of readiness. Participation is one aspect of life readiness that is overlooked. The more we can keep kids engaged in high quality sporting environments, the better. Trends in participation at youth and college levels are troubling -- and must be addressed. In this SGG episode, we identify some of these trends. And we launch a series examining participation and readiness in the sports pipeline.
#109: Cal Tech Athletic Director Betsy Mitchell on balance: “I never wanted to be known as only a swimmer”
Originally from Marietta, Ohio, Betsy Mitchell escaped Buckeye territory to become one of the great American swimmers of her day. She is a multi-time national, world, and Olympic champion. Betsy’s post-swimming career includes graduate school at the University of Texas and Harvard, coaching at Dartmouth and, now, as the athletic director at Caltech. She is a respected leader in college sports. Betsy joined the SGG podcast, where we discussed:
1. Betsy’s introduction story to sport: A rejection from t-ball and a sign at the YMCA for swim lessons.
2. Donna Lopiano’s influence on Betsy at the University of Texas. “She was always pushing me to do more.”
3. Key characteristics of good coaching: Keeping it fun. Using sport as a tool, not as an end in and of itself. Keeping balanced.
4. Her perspective on sport. “This is only part of me. Yes, I see myself as an athlete. Yes, I’m a swimmer. But I’ve always had such a rich ‘other life’ – and I credit my parents for that.”
5. “The training was hard. But they just set the table and allowed me to come into it.”
6. Her college coach Richard Quick: “You guys have talent. It’s yours to harvest.”
7. Always being aware of being a good leader. Being service-oriented and inclusive as a leader – even as a younger person.
8. “This was never just about me…I realized it was very representative.”
9. When she first started as a young coach at Dartmouth. “The women that were there didn’t see me as an Olympic swimmer. I was just their leader, just their coach. It was very collaborative.”
10. Books/authors that have impacted Betsy: Jeff Janson. Jim Collins. Brene Brown. “Lincoln on Leadership.”
11. “I don’t think that my way is the only way.”
12. Asking more questions than making big statements.
13. Creating a learning environment for her staff. A three-pronged approach: 1) hiring willing learners, curious people; 2) Funding ongoing learning; 3) We just talk about it all the time.
14. Why Betsy does not like coaching conventions. “I would rather have them take a Harvard business class online. Or take four coaches who you really admire to lunch…”
15. As a leader and coach: “You have to be good enough to always give the ‘why.’”
16. Betsy’s daily routines: 1) Exercise. “That’s my grounding feature…I do it for my own health but also to be seen…I make sure I work out here at least a couple times a week…So that I’m available, but also so that they see me. That I validate their own priority about their health.” 2) Being out and about. “I do not sit in this office all day.” Being intentional about checking in with people. “Not even about work…’how’s it going? How can I help.’”
17. A learned skill as a leader: “I try not to react. I try to respond.”
18. Her love of adventure…and the importance of adventure in her life: “This is play. The broad notion of play. Play is essential…It’s a way to fill your soul. To have a dynamic life.”
19. Purposeful travel: “Immersing myself in what I do not know…Go where you do not know and where you are in the minority.”
20. Always having an identity as being more than just an athlete. “I never wanted to be known as only a swimmer.”
21. On the importance of leaders and coaches ensuring that student-athletes have balanced lives: “We have to serve young people in that. Because they can get lost later.”
#108 Olympic legends Bonnie Blair Cruikshank and Dave Cruikshank at Milwaukee’s Pettit National Ice Center.
I traveled to the Pettit Center in Milwaukee, home of DASH, to learn about competing, coaching, and leading from two speedskating legends. Bonnie Blair Cruikshank is one of the most successful Olympic athletes of all time, having won five Olympic speedskating golds and countless other medals and championships. Dave Cruikshank was also an Olympian, a world champion, and one of the elite skaters in the world. This husband and wife duo inspired a generation of Olympic athletes. They continue to take the lead in promoting speedskating and Olympic sports in the United States and beyond. DASH is a premier training organization that prepares highest-level athletes to reach peak performance. I sat with Bonnie and Dave in the DASH training space – located on the second level of the Pettit – to learn from these remarkable people. On this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Dave’s early and ongoing attraction to speedskating: “I liked going fast. And I still like going fast.”
2. The mentoring that occurred across generations in the U.S. speedskating community – leading to many Olympians and world champions.
3. The impact Olympian Cathy Priestner had on Bonnie’s early path in the sport. “She took me under her wing…It was a neat building of a great friendship…That relationship was a very big part of my journey.”
4. Bonnie training pretty much on her own in Champaign, IL during her early days on the U.S. team.
5. How and when Bonnie knew she had to make coaching changes during her career.
6. Dave being coached by a 4-time Olympian in Northbrook.
7. Dave: “I didn’t really start training until I was 16. I was on my first Olympic team at 18.”
8. Coaching rule of thumb: “If we get hit by a bus, you should be able to take care of yourself. Our job is to educate you and give you as much knowledge and information on technique, training, sleep, nutrition, and preparation as we can. We will help guide you, but it’s your journey.”
9. His athletes keep journals. (What’s in the journals?)
10. Bonnie on the lack of performance training research: “We were flying by the seat of our pants.”
11. Why a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as pre-race meal made sense for Bonnie. (insights from special ops leaders)
12. The importance of getting to know your athletes.
13. Coach and athlete as “caddy-player relationship.”
14. “How can you get the most out of your players if you don’t know them?! It’s staggering to us that that communication is not taking place in a lot of sports.”
15. Cybernetics testing: Bonnie and Dave’s two tests were the hardest they’d ever done. Why? “Because we can hurt. We can take a lot of stuff. We put up with a lot to get where we want to go…If I know I want to race really well, I know there’s some stuff I have to do to hurt mentally and physically.”
16. Right-sizing commitment and sacrifice in sport. Bonnie: “If you want to take it to the absolute levels, there’s absolute commitment.” Constantly “checking ourselves” when it comes to deciding how hard to push.
17. Dave’s early goals: D-1 soccer and pro soccer. Didn’t have concrete Olympic aspirations until six months before his first Olympic trials.
18. Bonnie: “I think my dad saw something in me.”
19. In her third race (ever!), Bonnie placed 8th in the Olympic trials.
20. Bonnie: “We never went on family vacations…We went to Chicago every weekend for races…That’s what we did as a family. I never knew anything different…Skating was the thing that I loved the most.”
For more episode notes from the Bonnie and Dave interview, refer to sportandthegrowinggood.com.
#107: Madison Memorial HS (WI) Coach Steve Collins: “Things change. You better adapt with the times.”
Steve Collins is a teacher and the head basketball coach at Memorial High School in Madison. His long track record of success includes multiple state championships and coach of the year awards. Coach Collins is also known for his broader work in the coaching world, including a business, active social media presence, and multiple podcasts. He joined the SGG podcast and we discussed:
1. Learning from his dad, his brother, and Madison East basketball Coach Boyle.
2. The Great Swami
3. Coach Boyle: “He had a lot of confidence in me.”
4. “When I speak at clinics, I ask coaches to close their eyes and imagine the coach that was their most influential coach and why…It’s never Xs and Os. It’s an interpersonal thing that made them feel complete…How did he make them feel? I try to remember that when I’m coaching too.”
5. Human beings want to feel loved and they want to have meaning.
6. The importance of having close relational connections with the team: “It’s the secret sauce. It’s what’s most important.”
7. “Taking a piece” of each coach he worked for.
8. Developing a blue print for building the Memorial program: scouting, summer camps, youth program… and a future NBA player.
9. The importance of having smart and supportive administration in a school.
10. “If I was coaching the same way I was 25 years ago, I would be unemployed…Things change. You better adapt with the times.”
11. “You have to adjust. You have to see your surroundings. See your players. See what their strengths and weaknesses are. And as a teacher, you always want to accentuate the positives and work on the negatives.”
12. Having a growth mindset as a coach.
13. Being willing to “throw out” plays and schemes that aren’t working.
14. High school coaches can’t recruit players to a system – so they need to be willing to recognize what they have talent-wise and appropriately adapt.
15. Delegating roles among a coaching staff.
16. The two most important days for a coach: the day you choose your team and the day you choose your staff.
17. Is there still a place for clinics? Yes, for bonding. Less so for content.
18. A perspective lesson from Covid: “Let’s enjoy the time we have!”
#106: Arrowhead H.S. (WI) soccer coach Jeff Staus leads the way in "Letting Kids Fly"
Jeff Staus is a highly successful varsity soccer coach at Arrowhead High School in Wisconsin. He is also the leader of “Let Kids Fly” (LKF), a unique youth soccer program that is rooted in choice, accessibility, limited travel, character development and fun. In the contested space of youth sport, LKF presents an appealing model from which communities throughout the U.S. can learn. In this SGG episode, we discussed:His parents’ hands-off approach during his childhood sporting experiences. The two questions he encourages coaches and parents to ask: “Did you have fun?” and “Were you a good teammate?” More dynamic leaders at the high school than ever before. Working hard on “making good people and creating leaders.” Concerns with the professionalization of youth sports. How LKF started. The free play model that was used by many of the top players and nations. The number of kids signed up for LKF in its first four sessions: 125 – 225 – 300 – 500+ (rapid growth). “Free play Thursdays” at LKF practices. The benefits of free play. Deliberate practice on Mondays. A games approach to deliberate practice. Developing as a player. Developing as a person. Documentary: In Search Greatness. Providing kids choices in sports. “Do as many things as long as you can.” The rationale for seasonal registration. A “flipped classroom on the soccer field.” Soliciting parent participation. Accessibility to free play and to a healthy culture of sport. Affordability as a means of accessibility. Supporting kids who want to play collegiately. Impacts of sports travel on families. Why LKF sends all teams to same tournaments. Character development. The intentional embedding of character. Fun. Looking for teachers and parents as coaches. An obstacle: building the program in the broader competitive club soccer environment. Not worrying about the naysayers. His visions of success.
#105: Coach Brian Bott: Consistency, relentless effort, love and ownership at SportsadvantEdge
Brian Bott is the founder and leader of SportsadvantEdge, a leading athlete development business with multiple locations throughout southern Wisconsin. Brian was previously the strength coach at Wisconsin and he’s worked with elite athletes at multiple levels. In this episode we discussed:
1. Key influences on Brian: his father, Coach Shelton, Dean Matsche. “You need people you can trust.”
2. The importance of honesty in coaching. (avoiding blaming, complaining, and defending)
3. “As a coach, our job isn’t to be our athletes’ friend. Our job is to earn their trust.”
4. “How close are you getting to what you’re capable of?”
5. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
6. Three guiding pillars of SportsadvantEdge: 1) consistency; 2) relentless effort; 3) love and ownership.
7. Parents taking the love of sports away from kids.
8. Defining the process and setting goals.
9. Always learning and adapting.
#104: Packers Vice President of Communications Jason Wahlers on the importance of consistency, unflappability, and steadiness (RCS10)
Jason Wahlers, is Vice President of Communications for the Green Bay Packers. He joined the team in 2011. In addition to overseeing communications, he heads up public affairs and community outreach. Jason joined SGG to share about his background and his leadership work with the Packers. We discussed:
1. The value of working in minor league baseball. “I had an opportunity to do a little bit of everything.”
2. “You learn pretty early on that you have to put your time in in this business…It’s not enough to just love sports.”
3. The importance of consistency, unflappability, steadiness in his PR work.
4. Relationships with the media. Being available, direct, and honest. “If you can give them time, return calls. It sounds so simple. It’s the right thing to do…Don’t waste their time.”
5. He spends most of his time with football communications.
6. Making sure players, coaches, and others are prepared when they step in front of the media.
7. To be prepared in my role, you have to know what’s going on. It’s a constant monitoring of the many media platforms.
8. Not being a “meeting person.”
9. A benefit of working for the publicly-owned Packers: “We’re given the freedom to work.”
10. The inaccuracy of people thinking the Packers are a simple “small market team.”
11. His long family attachment to the Packers.
12. Jason’s learning and growth over recent years.
13.How sports provide a venue for meaningful conversation among diverse groups.
#103: Indiana’s Fred Glass describes how Jesuit principles guided his leadership over the years.
The long and distinguished leadership story of Fred Glass is well documented. He is widely credited as one of the best athletic directors in Indiana University history. In his forthcoming autobiography, he describes the importance of rooting leadership in clearly defined values. Similar to the great Packers coach Vince Lombardi, Fred’s leadership principles are closely tethered to his Jesuit education. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. His initial exposure to Jesuit education: his father and Brebeuf High School.
2. Borrowing from the Jesuits as he sought to build IU athletics.
3. The messy situation that Fred walked into as AD at IU.
4. Healing the department before he could build it.
5. Grad at graduation. Five characteristics that Jesuit schools want to inculcate into students as they graduate. “It’s everywhere…Every teacher has to drive these values into their students.”
6. Everything IU Athletics did was around the pillars: Play by the rules. Well in mind body and spirit. Achieve academically. Excel athletically. Be part of something bigger than ourselves – and more integrated with the university.
7. “If you are not a values based organization, then you don’t have much of a chance to succeed.”
8. The difference between “GPS” and a “compass” to guide you. “Your value system is your compass.”
9. Fred’s “living rules:” his father, Fr. Paul O’Brian, Herman Wells.
10. “Comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
11. St. Francis: “Preach the gospel and use words if you have to.” And, “Seek not so much to be understood as to understand.”
12. “A lot of people are not listening so much as they are waiting to speak.”
13. Never interrupting other people.
14. “Interested is interesting.” The value of asking others questions about themselves.
15. The hardest thing about being an athletic director: firing coaches.
16. Ignatian discernment and detachment as useful tools in getting through difficult times.
17. “Take criticism seriously but not personally.” If you reflect on it and it’s accurate, then there’s a great opportunity to fix it. If you reflect on it and it’s not accurate, then who cares?”
18. “Seeing God in all things.”
19. Getting criticism – and respect -- for the positions we hold, not who we are. “You’ve got to be careful not to believe all that BS people are saying about you.”
20. “Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth.”
21. Fred’s vocation: leadership.
22. The difference between asking “what’s next” vs “what’s at the end.” Choose what offers most opportunities downstream. And be open to the journey.
#102 Packers VP of finance and administration Paul Baniel: “Winning financially helps us to win on the field” (RCS9)
Paul Baniel is the Vice President of Finance and Administration of the Green Bay Packers. He’s a veteran of over 35 years in the sports and entertainment industry. Having joined the Packers in 2009, he’s one of the key leaders in guiding the franchise to new heights. Paul joined SGG as we continue our “Running a Championship System” series. We discussed:
1. The role of sports in his life as he grew up the 7th of 10 children.
2. As leader in Packers organization: Becoming a steward of a community asset.
3. Stewardship: one of the Packers five values.
4. Similarities between the Packers and Steelers franchises. “You definitely see a lot of parallels.
5. Key phases of the calendar year: end of fiscal year; building budget; reporting. For facilities and IT, off-season is project season.
6. “When the team is not in the building, that’s the time when we can change things in the team areas.”
7. How communication plays out across his three departments.
8. The Packers’ “mission, vision, values” approach.
9. What Paul values in looking for staff members: independence, creativity, problem-solving.
10. Servant leadership. If the team performs well “all the boats rise.”
11. The challenge of seeking upward advancement in an organization where there is little turnover. “Sometimes you have to move out to move up.”
12. Being introduced to servant leadership while leading at Potawatomi Casino…And applying the principles in his work with the Packers.
13. Working with employees: “Tell me what you need and don’t beat around the bush.”
14. Challenges and adaptations that he foresees for the future.
15. How roots and identity influence Packers’ decision-making. “We try to display a good amount of humility in our organization.”
16. Finding an edge as an organization.
17. “Winning financially helps us to win on the field.”
#101: Packers VP Gabrielle Valdez-Dow: “You have to love the business of sports.” (RCS8)
Gabrielle Valdez-Dow is vice president of marketing and fan engagement for the Green Bay Packers. Her career in sports is long and distinguished, including work with the Baltimore Ravens, Florida Panthers, and AEG. As we continue learning about the multi-level leadership of the Packers, her perspective helps us to better understand the broader organizational context. We discussed:
1. How living and studying in Oregon led her into the field of sports.
2. Pearls of wisdom gleaned from her father: “love what you do.”
3. Two influential professors on her journey: Rick Burton and Dennis Howard
4. The difference between being a fan and the business of sports. “You have to love the business of sports.”
5. Every day is different. “That’s the beauty of it.”
6. Servant leadership.
7. Being a kind of “air traffic controller” in her unit.
8. Mission, vision, values. What’s noteworthy about the Packers? Stewardship. “Being a steward of our brand, no matter who you are, you are a steward of the brand…We drink the Kool-Aid from top to bottom. What’s best for the brand.”
9. How she’s changed over the years: “I’ve matured. I’ve relaxed.”
10. The character and culture is much different here…We don’t have an owner. Everything we do is put back into the team.
11. Mark Murphy as a supporter of leadership development. Getting her a growth coach.
12. Jill Ratliff, growth coach.
13. “The biggest thing for me is listening.”
14. Using Masterclass for growth for her staff.
15. How fan engagement is changing.
16. Getting players on “Call of Duty” and other new, innovative strategies.
17. “Winning always cures everything.”
18. The Packers’ community outreach efforts.
19. Her everyday routines. Working out early. Do not look at email before exercise and morning time with husband.
On your resume: add a “personal” section in order to make connections
#100: Packers EVP and Director of Football Operations Russ Ball: “The only thing you can control in negotiations is preparation” (RCS7)
Continuing our Running a Championship System (RCS) series, we are joined by one the key leaders in the Packers organization, Russ Ball. Russ has a long and distinguished record in football – at both college and professional levels. His wise perspectives on leadership, collaboration, and negotiation are honed from years of experience with some of the top coaches and executives in the country. We discussed:
1. His positive experiences as a high school football player, learning to win and be a leader.
2. The impact of his high school coach talking to Russ talking to him while they jogged around the track together.
3. Working as a strength and conditioning coach with Dave Redding. “He had a knack for finding what button he could push for each person…He knew about them…It was the relationship piece.”
4. Marty Schottenheimer: “One play at a time.”
5. The Schottenheimer coaching tree, including Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, Bruce Arians, Howard Mudd…
6. The Schottenheimer preparation process.
7. The many roles Russ has taken on over the years, and how he’s learned through these roles.
8. The value of collaboration and communication across the whole leadership team. “Leaders can’t be everywhere and see everything.”
9. Relationships are at the heart of negotiations.
10. “Much is lost for the wont of asking.”
11. There does not have to be a winner and a loser in a negotiation.
12. Honesty in negotiation.
13. The importance of precedent.
14. “Don’t make it personal. Don’t take it personally.”
15. “It’s ok to disagree. It’s not ok to be disagreeable.”
16. Showing someone that you care enough to have a tough conversation.
17. The only thing you can control in a negotiation is preparation.
18. “If you’re so busy and you don’t ever give yourself a chance… there’s no time to take a moment for creativity.”
19. Marcus Allen’s example of work ethic and giftedness.
20. “Don’t count the time. Make the time count.”
21. What’s unique about the Packers: the ownership structure.
22. “Our responsibility is to be a productive steward of what we have.”
23. Ted Thompson’s words about the importance of the Packers to the fans.
#99: Packers shareholders Rudy and Quinn Banyai: Family, friends, and great times with their teams (RCS6)
Since his childhood, Rudy Banyai’s life has been touched by the Packers and other Wisconsin sports teams. His father took him to his first game in 1952. Rudy has worked for the Brewers since 1974 and has been a Packers season ticket holder for 45 years. He also used to work the sidelines when the Packers played at County Stadium. Rudy's son Quinn and the rest of the Banyai family has continued the Packer-rich family traditions. Quinn also worked at Packer games – and he even met his wife Malina (also a long-time season ticket holder) on a Packers road trip. As we learn about the broader leadership context in which the Packers operate, this great father and son duo of Rudy and Quinn joined SGG to discuss:
1. Growing up in Bayview, playing sports on the playground.
2. First Packer game was in 1952 at Marquette Stadium.
3. Favorite players: Bobby Dillon (one eye), Billy Howton, Babe Parilli
4. Babe Pirelli helmet: Running into a brick wall with a Babe Pirelli helmet on.
5. Some favorite players: Paul Horning, Ray Nitschke. James Lofton, John Jefferson. Lynn Dickey. Brett Favre.
6. Taking the bus (and walking up to three miles) to Packers games at County Stadium
7. Listening to Packers, Braves, and Milwaukee Hawks games on the radio with his dad.
8. First getting Packers tickets at the Stadium Bar.
9. Getting Packers season tickets in 1976.
10. Quinn’s first memory of Lambeau — 12 years old: Packers vs Chargers — getting John Jefferson’s high five.
11. Getting dropped off to walk to games …with his address and telephone # in pocket in case he got lost.
12. Working on the sidelines at County Stadium
13. Ditka and Forrest Gregg arguing on the sidelines
14. Telling the owner of the Rams, Georgia Frontier, to get off the field
15. Joe Montana stories when he played for the Chiefs — having bratwurst for his pre-game meal when playing in Wisconsin and signing Quinn’s cheesehead.
16. Has worked Brewers games since 1974
17. Worked the locker room area too for football games.
18. Bart Starr: The first thing he always did was went to his wife Cherry and gave her a kiss.
19. James Lofton’s “J” on his autograph
20. How he got a signed football from Jerry Boyarsky
21. Brewers: Good friends with Pat Listach and Bob Whitman
22. When he got Mike Matheny to get Hank Aaron’s autograph for him.
23. One of the best guys from visiting teams: Nolan Ryan
24. Brooks Robinson: he was a true gentleman
25. Bob Uecker. “Are you learning, kid?"
26. Taking a bus load of Pittsburgh Pirates to Lambeau Field with Dick the bus driver.
27. “We talk about sports…That’s our conversations.”
28. Quinn’s friendships through the Packers.
29. Bringing friends down to Packers games: "They were so impressed by Lambeau Field…He still talks about it to this day.”
30. How Quinn met his wife, Malina, on a road trip to a Packers game in New Orleans. “Despite a Packer loss, it was a big gain!”
31. Being stockholders in the Packers.
32. I’ve been with them so long, I feel part of the team.
33. Lambeau Field: "People just want to go there from all different nations. It’s truly a great experience."
34. The family’s Sunday morning routine: church, hot ham and rolls, crawlers. Italian beef.
35. When the Bucks won the NBA lottery.
36. Going downstairs to watch Packers games growing up.
37. Growing up all the kids wore their Packers stuff.
38. Going to a Packers game in 1952 and seeing a Packers player with his arm chained down.
#98 Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst: “Everybody has value” (RCS5)
Brian Gutekunst is the general manager of the Packers. A longtime member of the organization, he was named to his current role in 2018. He is one of the team’s key leaders. Brian joined SGG to contribute to our focus on Running a Championship System. We discussed:
1. Learning the value of competition from his father, who coached at the collegiate level.
2. His father as a teacher: “He recognized that he had them between ages 18 and 22.”
3. Roger Harring UW-La Crosse. Rolen Christianson. Toughness. Work ethic.
4. Mentor: Ron Wolf. Confidence. Aggressiveness.
5. Mentor: Ted Thompson. Tough decisions in the day to day “with steadiness, integrity and grace.”
6. How his own experiences with injuries impacted the ways he leads as a general manager. “Everybody has value.”
7. “It’s good to have a diverse group of people who have different strengths.”
8. How he organizes information. “Pack Track.”
9. “The whole idea of gathering all this information is to make good decisions.”
10. Why the Packers do not out-source data tracking. Keeping information “close to the vest.” And, when you outsource, quick changes can be difficult to make: “If we want to make a change, it’s within hours. Not within weeks or days.”
11. The importance of the draft room.
12. How do you track intangibles – individually and collectively? The value of the Packers’ nine scouts who are always visiting college campuses: “I don’t think anything can replicate boots on the ground.”
13. “Until you get them into your environment…you never 100% know how it’s going to pan out with each player.”
14. The value of internal development of staff talent. “We get to know the person…Coming from the outside in, it can be more difficult that way.”
15. Setting boundaries as GM. Protecting time to sit down and watch tape.
16. Key to facilitating difficult conversations: Over-communication. “If you don’t give them the whys, then they’re going to create their own.”
17. The influence of Mark Murphy’s management by walking around: “He’s led by example and that’s taken root throughout our organization.”
18. Mark Murphy, who in many ways functions as other teams’ owners do, has a deep understanding of the game – deeper than most owners. The impact of his everyday leadership – especially as juxtaposed with team owners in other settings.
19. Ted Thompson: “I always wonder what it would be like if I could still pick up the phone and ask him, ‘What do you think?’”
#97 Packers Coach Matt LaFleur on keeping a team’s focus clear and simple: “If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.” (RCS4)
Running a Championship System (RCS) continues. Matt LaFleur has served as head coach of the Packers since 2019. Known as a top innovator, Coach LaFleur learned about leadership from his parents and many other top coaches over the years. In this episode of SGG, we discussed:
1. Core values that he learned from his parents. Integrity. Honesty.
2. Mike Shanahan: “I’ll never lie to you.”
3. The best leaders are true to themselves.
4. Surrounding yourself with great people. Priority in putting a staff together: “Give me the person first and the coach second…In our work there’s so much adversity, It’s so competitive. It’s a roller coaster. You’ve got to have the right kind of people to get through the tough times…Because it’s coming…It all starts with the people.”
5. “Coaching trees” as being more about the process than the individuals themselves.
6. Learning from other coaches.
7. Taking time in choosing a staff, including people who are different and complementary.
8. On leadership and developing ideas: “Talking to too many people can cloud your ideas… If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.”
9. “In our messaging to our team, we are very, very basic. But I think if you ask our guys what we’re all about, they’ll be able to tell you.”
10. “It’s a consistent message that we feed to the guys…The hard part for me, heading into year three, is that these guys have heard it so many times…It’s like, how do you give the same message but present it in a different way?”
11. Finding ways to empower other people as a leader. “You’ve got to allow people to grow and showcase what they can bring to the table.”
12. The importance of being present as head coach. “Try to be as visible and accessible to all of your players and staff as possible.”
13. Role of coach in supporting player leadership: “There is nothing more powerful than a player-led team.”
14. Strategically tapping into veteran player leadership. “It is powerful when they are delivering the message.”
15. Hiring detailed position coaches “so that all the little things are getting the same attention.”
16. The importance of physical space in fostering trust, comradery, and strong relationships.
17. The challenge of making long-term schedules.
#96 Packers President Mark Murphy on stewardship: "We want to leave it better than we found it." (RCS3)
Continuing our Running a Championship System series, Packers President Mark Murphy, joined SGG to discuss leadership in the Packers organization and beyond. A former NFL all-pro and college athletic director, Mark has led the Packers since 2007. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Learning from his father’s “pearls of wisdom.”
2. The value of unstructured play for kids.
3. A college coach who influenced Mark: Fred Dunlap. (weekly goals, great communication). “He’s been a real mentor.”
4. George Allen. “I was a sponge. I learned so much about coaching and leadership.”
5. Joe Gibbs. “Just to see him and the way he operated…To see him MWBA (manage by walking around), sitting down talking with players… I feel so fortunate.”
6. Managing by walking around. “It’s not easy to walk into the boss’ office.”
7. How the “building bridges instead of burning them” lesson from his father paid off in Mark’s relationship with Paul Tagliabue. “I wouldn’t be in my position today if it weren’t for Paul.”
8. “If you’ve got a mindset where you’re thinking of others before yourself, that’s the first step.”
9. Starting each day at the office with a “things to do” list.
10. As a leader, asking yourself, “Who needs me today?”
11. “In any organization, the most important thing is communication.”
12. Regarding Coach LaFleur: “There isn’t a day that goes by where we’re not talking.”
13. Three most important regular meetings/groups: Executive committee (monthly); Senior staff (weekly); Football leadership (every other week or more).
14. Important “hidden leaders:” Administrative assistants, head coach’s chief of staff, Darryl Franklin.
15. Indicators of negative culture in an organization.
16. Avoiding micromanagement.
17. Leadership development.
18. Why aspiring leaders sometimes need to “move out in order to move up.”
19. Maintaining a learning mindset. Utilizing an executive coach and strategic planning expert.
20. Staying true to yourself. “People can see through you if you’re not sincere, if you’re acting.”
21. Learning from league colleagues.
22. Stewardship. “We have this community asset. My role is to be a steward of Lambeau field… We all feel this great sense of responsibility that this is such a unique and special organization and we want to leave it better than we found it.”
#95 Wisconsin’s Pat Richter recalls leadership lessons from Coach Lombardi (RCS2)
Pat Richter is a legendary athlete and leader in Wisconsin and beyond. While many people first recall his exploits as a multi-sport star and trail-blazing athletic director at the University of Wisconsin, he also has deep ties to Coach Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers franchise, where Pat served on the board of directors. Continuing our Running a Championship System series, Pat joined SGG and we discussed:
1. As a youngster, learning to be tough and competitive from older guys in the neighborhood.
2. Playing three sports at UW.
3. Awareness of football growing up – mostly George Halas and the Bears. There was less interest in the Packers until Lombardi started building.
4. Seeing Lombardi visit Madison when Pat was still in high school…and his early impressions of Lombardi.
5. Catching a 73-yard touchdown as a college all-star against Lombardi’s Packers.
6. Lombardi’s reputation among players: tough, efficient, fair, winner.
7. One of Pat’s initial practices under Lombardi – taking a hard hit, broken nose, and keeping on playing. “I thought that’s what he’s want.”
8. “He had a great ability to get you to the end of the rope, so teed off, flustered and things like that … and then he’d pull you back in.” There was a compassion there.
9. “He was efficient.”
10. Lombardi’s skill as a psychologist – examples after wins and losses.
11. Lombardi’s lack of coaching tree. His former coaches and players were not successful in coaching.
12. “Lombardi time.”
13. Lombardi’s ability to be both entertaining and cold.
14. Lombardi being completely drained after games – would fall asleep on bus to airport.
15. Pat’s son’s interaction with Coach Lombardi at practice. “Hi there, Vince!”
17. “The greatness of a loss is not so much determined by what was lost than by what was left.”
18. Making Sonny Jorgensen the team leader.
19. Taking a leadership role at Oscar Mayer. “Providing added value.”
20. Lessons took from Oscar Mayer to UW: culture, strategic planning.
21. Would Coach Lombardi be successful today?
22. Keys to leadership: listening, integrity, honesty, creativity, adding value.
#94 Author David Maraniss on Vince Lombardi: “Freedom Through Discipline.” (RCS1)
1. What David knew of Coach Lombardi before beginning the book project. “I wanted to study that tension between his traditionalism and the world that surrounded him.”
2. Lombardi’s relationship with the media.
3. “As a biographer, I’m a profound believer that the early years shape someone’s future in profound ways.”
4. “I don’t think you can overstate the influence that the Jesuits had on Lombardi as a leader.”
5. Freedom through discipline. “It’s only through putting in the hard work, of learning something in minute detail that you can then have the freedom to experiment off that.”
6. What David has learned from freedom through discipline: “It’s only by thoroughly learning the craft that you can have the freedom to improvise off of it.”
7. How Obama, Clemente, and Rafer Johnson were shaped by early experiences.
8. Readiness for leadership. “You can’t overestimate being totally prepared in terms of true leadership excellence.”
9. The precarious status of the Packers franchise prior to Lombardi’s arrival.
10. How Lombardi became a great teacher. “He taught in a way that didn’t assume anything…And he had a capacity to make complex things simpler, easier to grasp.”
11. Why Lombardi was “useless” on gamedays.
12. Lombardi as “master of the psychology of the moment.”
13. An observation on many great leaders – who are professionally successful but commonly struggle with family: “They’re much better at creating a group of leaders out of strangers than they are out of their own flesh and blood.”
14. Judging players’ performances in precise, specific ways.
15. Lombardi as a paradox.
16. A common sentiment among players regarding Lombardi: “On a daily basis, I hated the guy. But, overall, I loved him.”
17. Differences between Lombardi and Landry, who referred to Lombardi as “Mr. High-Low.”
18. Did Lombardi seek difference on his staff?
19. The limited coaching tree of Lombardi. “The Lombardi coaching tree is just this enormous oak tree and nothing could grow under it.”
20. The hidden jewel in the story of the Packers: Jack Vainisi, the general manager.
21. Lombardi’s sense of social equity and justice.
22. Stewardship and the Packers. “There’s a foundation of community pride.”
23. “He was proof that this little town in the Midwest could survive against LA and New York and everywhere else. And he gave them enormous pride. That’s part of that community spirit. But the paradox is that he also left because of that.”
#93: The professor who played with Xavi: Barcelona’s Jordi Diaz-Gibson describes La Masia and the evolving development of young soccer players
Jordi Diaz Gibson is a respected professor at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, where he teaches and conducts research on leadership, schooling, and social networks. Growing up, he was an elite soccer player, competing at some of the highest national levels. From his office in Barcelona, Jordi joined the SGG podcast. We discussed:
1. Growing up playing soccer in Barcelona, including the influence of his father.
2. The disconnect between youth soccer clubs and schools in Barcelona.
3. “Coaching young people as if they are old people…it was not good. It did not have a training focus.”
4. Problems associated with focusing on short-term results in youth sports. “They stopped liking the game.”
5. Playing with Xavi.
6. The impact of coaches on youth athlete development. “You need to really think about how those talents can improve over time. And how can you shape that talent and the way that the athlete is thinking. And shaping the skills…The decisions you make are very, very important for the success and development of the players and the teams.”
7. The importance of Xavi’s developmental environment with Barca: “He was in the right place at the right time…and he had a great mindset.”
8. La Masia: Clear system, clear player type, international scouting.
9. “The same system is applied across all the years of development.”
10.La Masia developing a “360 program” – holistic child development perspective.
11.Carlos Folguera La Masia: “Your dream must be playing there (in the big stadium). But the probability is that you’re not going to make it. And we want you to make the most of your life beyond soccer.”
12.“I learned how to be a person at La Masia.”
13.“You never know how to best support the dream and reality at the same time.”
14.Making difficult decisions about moving on to a different career than soccer.
15.Lessons learned through high-level sport participation.
16.“I really believe in the power of sports. But, as with all powers, we need to think about how to display them and to support kids in the right way.”
17.Jordi’s early focus on youth sports and human development.
19.The challenge of understanding how the game is evolving…and how it may evolve in the future.
20.The critical roles of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola in developing modern soccer schemes.
21.“Disrupting” the way the game is played.
#92: “He was sharing what he loved.” Tracy Krueger’s life of impact through sports. Reflections from his son, Brendan.
Tracy Krueger was a beloved husband, father, teacher, coach, and referee whose impact could be seen throughout the state of Wisconsin. He was widely known to use sports as a vehicle for “growing the good” in the world around him. In this SGG episode, Tracy’s son, Brendan, joined us to reflect upon some memories of his father. We discussed:
1. The role sports played in Tracy’s life growing up, including participating as an athlete at UW-Stevens Point and UW-Superior.
2. Tracy’s guidance for his own kids in sports: If you start it, finish it. Remain committed. Never pressured kids to play sports. “Find that passion and share it with others.”
3. How Tracy made coaching a family affair.
4. What led Tracy into coaching.
5. Tracy’s infectious passion and energy in coaching.
6. Finding joy and fulfillment when young people developed.
7. Appreciating “unsung heroes.”
8. Why Tracy became an official and how he went about it. “He was really a people person.”
9. Why Tracy spent time with and appreciated the maintenance personnel.
10. A note from a former student. “He believed in me.”
11. Celebrating small victories.
12.“I know you can do it!”
13. “He was sharing what he loved.”
14. Tracy as a mentor and supporter of others. “How can I help this person out?”
15. Baking treats for others.
#91: Milwaukee’s “Uncle” Rick Polk creates space for voices to be heard
Rick Polk is the athletic director at Vincent High School in Milwaukee. He also started the OWN IT mentoring program that aims to support young people in the community and beyond. He’s positively impacted thousands of young people and families over the years. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Learning life virtues from his parents and other adults.
2. Growing up on 23rd and Locust in Milwaukee: “It was a village.”
3. The playground at Emmaus Lutheran Church: “That’s where the village started.”
4. The life-long benefits of sports.
5. The joy that “two free throws” made by a child instilled a deeper awareness of how much sports mean to young people.
6. Helping give kids voice: “The small things can go so far in life.”
7. Directing a youth sports program that offers new sports to kids.
8. The Growing Up Milwaukee documentary that tells the story of youth in the city and shows how Rick creates space for their voices.
9. How he became known as “Uncle Rick.”
10. His “OWN IT” mentoring group.
11. His journey through difficult life challenges…and the origins of OWN IT.
12. The importance of bringing the community together.
For more, refer to sportandthegrowinggood.com.
#90: Ryan Hoover is a player, coach, parent, and innovator who goes the extra mile
Ryan Hoover was a wildly successful college and professional basketball player. His career spanned over 20 years in the US and Europe. After retirement, Ryan went on to play a critical role at a leading sports technology company and he still serves as an AAU basketball coach on the Under Armour circuit. In this episode of the SGG podcast, we discussed:
1. His sports experiences playing growing up – and always looking for the highest levels of competition.
2. Scouting out the best spring and summer sports experiences during the summers of his youth—and using his allowance wisely to make the most of these experiences!
3. Today’s AAU basketball world which, unfortunately, includes fewer multi-sport athletes.
4. How participating in multiple sports can foster humility.
5. Coaching with KC Run GMC on the Under Armour circuit.
6. The “Extra Mile” program in his team’s program. Focusing on life skills and holistic development.
7. How young players are developed in Italy. Weighing costs/benefits of pro teams and junior teams instead of college and high school teams.
8. Playing with 17-year-old Danilo Galinari, who would later go on to NBA stardom.
9. Communicating with families in the AAU setting. “We just want them to be a part of a great team.”
10. His team roles in skill development, career development, and family care.
11. “Whether we want to accept it or not, technology is having a huge impact on our game.”
12. Working at Shot-Tracker.
13. How Scott Drew and Baylor Basketball’s early adoption of technology has paid off.
#89: NFHS Executive Director Karissa Niehoff: A champion for education-based opportunities in a contested youth sports environment
Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations. She is a key national leader in promoting robust education-based sports and activities. Karissa is a former athlete, teacher, and coach – with tremendous insights to share. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. The people who influenced her development: parents, coaches, and teachers.
2. Memories of her Latin teacher: “He was consistent. He was encouraging in his own way. And he just had a way of making you want to do well.”
3. Her central task at NFHS: “Being a champion for education-based activities.”
4. Education-based activities as “the second half of the school day” and an “intentional environment where many adults are supportive of the experience.”
5. Concerns in the broader youth sports environment, including early specialization and under-trained coaching.
6. Examples of how youth sport involvement can be described and taught in age-appropriate ways.
7. Lessons learned during Covid times, including remaining nimble and the loss that can occur when sports are removed.
8. The resilience and creativity of coaches and teachers. “Our school professionals really are the heroes of the year.”
9. The new era of sports streaming online. What the NFHS offers and possibilities for the future.
10. The NFHS Network operating in 46 states. Almost 20,000 high schools around the country. 2 free cameras for each school. Hundreds of thousands of events streamed each year – boys and girls, all sports, diverse activities.
11. Concerns associated with the network.
12. Words of advice for developing coaches: “Remember why we’re there. Remember why the kids are there…Remember that our kids are individuals…Remember that everything can be done with a positive spin. Every single thing can be done positively.”
#88: Victor and Dawn Barnett of the Running Rebels take the family approach to position Milwaukee's youth for success
Victor Barnett started the Running Rebels over 40 years ago on an outdoor basketball court in Milwaukee. Today, Victor and Dawn serve as co-executive directors and the Running Rebels has flourished as a robust community organization that includes sports and much, much more. They joined the SGG podcast to discuss:
1. The origins of the program. Victor: “I always knew I wanted to change the world, to make a difference.”
2. Recognizing talents and skills within young people.
3. How the “Running Rebels” name came to be.
4. Why basketball was the place to start. “I introduced them to everything…But I asked, ‘where is the passion of the young people?’ and it was with basketball. And there was a court right down the street…I had to find a way, if I was going to make a difference, how can I get them to want to be with me every day? It wasn’t because I was a great guy. It was because of the basketball.”
5. Examples of success stories: a basketball player and an engineer.
6. What is “the full circle?” Dawn: “We pour into young people. We plant seeds in hopes that they will come back around to help the next generation.”
7. Dawn: “The greatest satisfaction is seeing them become really connected parents in a way that they themselves didn’t have. But because of what was poured into them, they learned how to be there…That’s generational change.”
8. Victor: “We want to put them in a position to be successful.”
9. Kevon Looney: Even after he got a scholarship to UCLA and then went to the pros, remained committed to helping the young people in the community. “Can you imagine the example that he gives other people when he’s humble? He’s steady and level-headed.”
10. Dawn describing how many young people see Victor as a father figure. “When you have that sort of an influence, and you’re able to give guidance, even when a young person didn’t have that in their life, you fill that gap and you show them, ‘This is what a parent looks like. This is what positive guidance feels like, this is what’s instilled in them.”
11. Dawn: We want to help the community from within. The role models that our young people are looking for are right here in the community.”
12. Living with integrity and what it means to be a role model.
13. Using sports terminology beyond sports (e.g., “assist”) and using sports as teaching tools.
14. Parents and coaches don’t send the right messages in sports – how competitiveness can bring out the worst in people. “When it’s about winning more than the development of young people, then we have a problem.”
15. Deciding not to pursue AAU basketball anymore. “It become so negative and difficult to stay right in something that is so wrong. So we changed our model…We wanted to step back and be the big brother organization that does it the right way…that helps others.”
16. Guiding from the side: “Teaching the skillset of making healthy decisions.”
17. Having a non-judgmental approach in working with young people.
18. Connecting youth to several adults in the network – the family approach.
19. The importance of physical space for doing their work: “If we dreamed 40 years ago of what we would like to have, we have it.”
20. Not forgetting where the program came from.
21. Taking on a holistic approach to working with young people.
22. Instilling, understanding, and taking pride in work and life skills.
23. Collaboration with others in the community, including Work Milwaukee and Quad Graphics.
#87 Professor David Bell is a leading researcher on injuries in sport (re-edit of episode #8)
David Bell is a professor in Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a leading expert on injuries in youth sports. In this re-edit as part of the special SGG series on youth sports, we discussed:
1. What should parents and youth coaches know about sport
2. The impacts of physical activity in youth and young adulthood years.
3. Why more and more kids are dropping out of sports at younger ages.
4. The definition of youth sport specialization. What “highly specialized” means.
5. What does puberty have to do with specialization? What should parents know…
6. Why there are higher rates of specialization among young female athletes.
7. The importance of the triad between coach, parent, and athlete in creating healthy sporting experience.
8. Recommendations: delaying specialization as long as possible; play on one team at a time; don’t play a single sport more than eight months per year – especially before puberty; play a sport no more hours per week than your age; and take two days off per week.
9. What can college-level coaches and leaders do to help foster a healthy pipeline?
10. Previous injury predicts future risk.
#86: Derrick Mayes on parenting a talented young athlete: “Hindsight gave me 20-20 vision on how to do things with my son”
Derrick Mayes was a great college and NFL football player. But today, much of his energy is directed toward parenting an elite young basketball athlete. He joined the SGG podcast to discuss:
1. His sports experiences as a youngster—including playing contact football starting in 2nd grade.
2. “Hindsight (into his own sports experiences) gave me 20-20 vision on how to do things with my son.”
3. The difficult decisions he’s facing as a parent of a young athlete: 1) no tackle football until at least high school; 2) load management in basketball (but, “there’s a lot of work you can put in that doesn’t put wear and tear” on the body); 3) deciding on which high school to attend (“It’s important to know who’s going to be developing him.”).
4. Public vs. Private school decisions for talented young athletes.
5. Social media: “I am adamant that sports stay merit-based. Your talent will show through.”
6. Social media: “It gives a false narrative of what’s important.”
7. A benefit of today’s high-level youth basketball: Access to innovation in training.
8. Analytics: “I’m thrilled that my son can apply some of the math stuff to something that he cares about.”
#85: Estella Moschkau: “I learned something from every experience I had on the court and it’s transferred into everyday life”
Estella Moschkau excelled at basketball at Edgewood HS, Stanford University, and UW-Madison. Her sports journey also included years of AAU basketball at regional and national levels. Reflecting on the lessons she learned across diverse teams and settings, Estella joined the SGG podcast to discuss:
1. Being placed on the “B” team during her first AAU basketball experience – and the lessons she learned.
2. Playing five years with Wisconsin Elite.
3. Her difficult decision to play for North Tartan, a Nike-sponsored AAU program in the Twin Cities.
4. Not initially starting on the North Tartan team. And the value of humility.
5. High level competition on the EYBL circuit. “I would highly recommend it…It helped toughen me up.”
6. The family commitment required for making travel basketball work.
7. Taking a trip to France, Paris, and Amsterdam with her AAU team.
8. The ins and outs of competing on a national team.
9. The challenges of keeping a positive team culture in elite youth sports environments where everyone has high expectations for their own experiences.
10. The new social media environment in youth sports, including the increasing presence of self-promotion (e.g., “I’m blessed to receive an offer…”). “It’s so gossipy!”
11. “I think every experience you can learn something from...I would go through it again. I learned discipline…I learned something from every experience I had on the court and it’s transferred into everyday life.”
12. Coaching for Wisconsin Elite. “I just hope that I give them a positive experience…Just to lift them up and make the experience fun…And hopefully to love the game more…I think for young girls, it’s especially important to be positive.”
#84: Devin Cannady: From AAU to Princeton to the Pros
Devin Cannady starred as a basketball player at Princeton University and is now a pro, with experience in the NBA and G League. Devin is also known for developing Isowdev, an simple yet innovative training platform that aims to increase access to skill development for young people. In this episode of the SGG podcast, we discussed:
1. Playing multiple sports growing up.
2. The local AAU team that he played on until his sophomore year in high school.
3. What factored into his decision to change to a national level AAU team, including family sacrifices that had to be made.
4. The relationships that were important in his AAU journey.
5. Mentoring his younger brother through his basketball journey.
6. His mother’s role in leading the family through sports.
7. How basketball prepared him for success at Princeton.
8. How and why he developed Isowdev. “It was just a way to stay connected.”
9. “I can be one of those resources that people have access to.”
10. “Technology can be a good thing when used properly…There are a lot of things that technology can’t pick up on, such as the feel of the game. There are nuances that make the game of basketball so beautiful. It’s an art form. The way you move is not meant to be rigid and robotic and too technical.”
11. Creating more access to opportunity in sports.
#83: Intro to the SGG series on youth sports: Reflections from the National Summer Classic
Intro to SGG special series on youth sports.
#82: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater football Kevin Bullis is a teacher first.
Kevin Bullis is the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s football team, one of the most successful programs in the country. Beyond leading his team to many victories, Coach Bullis has impacted hundreds of lives in a positive fashion. In this episode of the SGG podcast, we discussed:
1. The impact of his parents who were always “helpers.”
2. The coaches who influenced him growing up, including Coach Champ who paid attention to detail, kept things fun, and cared for his players.
3. What he learned from marching band.
4. The importance of trust…and knowing “why” things are done on a team.
5. Knowing what concepts and ideas to adopt…and which don’t fit.
6. “Failure is not an option. It’s a requirement.”
7. The importance of identity: “Who am I and why am I here?”
8. “I am a teacher…I’ve always known that.”
9. UWW football team identity: “Fast, physical, and disciplined”…using these pillars to be the lens for the program.
10. Lessons learned in 2017.
11. Holding others to the same standards he holds himself.
12. What it means for the head coach to “determine the banks of the river.”
13. Teaching staff and players to be better teachers.
14. 1% goals (specific each day)…and aiming to get 3% better each day.
15. What you “see, hear, and feel” at a UWW practice: energy and teaching.
16. “The only people in our program who are not teachers are freshmen during their first semester.”
17. Never attaching degradation to teaching: “Degradation is a distraction from learning.”
18. Building trust through teaching each other.
19. Doing the ordinary things better than everybody else.
20. Listening with the eyes.
21. Taking notes.
22. Holding doors open for others.
23. No bullies in the locker room.
24. Team discussions on race.
25. Showing people you care.
#81: UW-Oshkosh Football Coach Pat Cerroni's journey to the Hall of Fame
Pat Cerroni is a WFCA Hall of Fame coach at UW-Oshkosh. Coach Cerroni’s teams have achieved great success on the field, emerging as one of the top D-III programs in the country. But his biggest impacts may be found off the field, where he’s encouraged a culture of leadership service in his team. He joined the SGG podcast and we discussed:
1. Learning to see and understand the game at a young age. “That was what intrigued me…The ability to see things was given to me.”
2. Learning from coaches in Johnson Creek. Gary Garin. “That was the guy I wanted to be.”
3. How his Air Force experience benefited him: “It really gave me confidence…I thought, ‘I can do anything at this point.’”
4. His brother’s influence on him finding a way into teaching and coaching.
5. Gaining appreciation for home by leaving and seeing other places.
6. Being 19 years-old and in charge of a plane.
7. Learning from other coaches. “I didn’t mind the journey. I started at the very bottom.”
8. Learning different concepts from Coaches Taraska (Arrowhead) and Young (Catholic Memorial).
9. Being aware of perceptions of football coaches in high school buildings…and taking active steps to address them.
10. Being a teacher first at the high school level…and using teaching principles to coach football.
11. The team’s leadership council.
12. Establishing new values, a new theme…and a “brand new team” each year.
13. Knowing when to let others lead: “I have such a strong personality that I realized a long time ago that sometimes I don’t need to be around.”
14. Allowing the senior leadership council to write the shared values and theme for the year. “The story is this: The day I shut up was the day we started winning games.”
15. The spring routine of allowing the seniors to run the off-season program.
16. Learning from John Gagliardi.
17. Using a business model to run the team: “forming, storming, norming, performing”
18. Recruiting players that align with team values.
19. Assigning assistant coaches duties to allow them to indicate their commitment to the team.
20. How his team found the right fit for community service: “Be the Match” and “EAA (honor flight).” And the impact the partnerships have had on the team. (Brett Kasper)
#80: Author Monte Burke on Nick Saban: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
Monte Burke is a New York Times best-selling author and a former writer and editor for Forbes. As author of Saban: The Making of a Coach, Monte gained unique insight into one of the all-time great coaches. He joined the SGG podcast, where we discussed:
1. The initial days Monte spent with Coach Nick Saban. The importance of being prepared and demonstrating that he was prepared.
2. “The greatest role of an interviewer is to be quiet and to really, really listen.”
3. “All of these people, even the greats, they hear everything. It’s all about how they respond to it.”
4. How Coach Saban uses the media as another way of conveying his message to players, recruits, and fans.
5. Saban getting fired by Coach Earl Bruce at Ohio State.
6. How Saban learned to run a system – including his uneven development at different stops in his professional career.
7. Using temper flare-ups strategically.
8. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
9. Two sides of Saban: “prickly” and “charismatic.”
10. Saban’s greatest strength: recruiting.
11. One of Saban’s initial strategies: Spreading a common message to boosters and getting everyone on the same page.
12. The role Mrs. Saban plays on the team: gatekeeper and surrogate mother.
13. Strength coach as “bad cop” on the coaching staff who “sets the tone for the program.”
14. Putting lots of energy into the “squeaky wheels” on the team.
15. The importance of routine in Saban’s daily life – and his ongoing discussion of: “thoughts, habits, and priorities.”
16. Liking the minutiae of coaching.
17. “The dangers of ‘relief syndrome.’”
18. Broader leadership lessons from Coach Saban.
19. Breaking things down in “little systematic ways.”
20. Pete Carroll.
21. Obsessions found in leaders…and some of the down sides associated with being obsessive.
#79: Gunnar Roberge learned to relish the moment as a Badger football player
Gunnar Roberge grew up playing multiple sports in Sparta and then Seymour, Wisconsin. Gunnar went on to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a multi-year contributor. He joined SGG for the final episode of our special series on football in the state. We discussed:
1. Starting football at a young age in Sparta, Wisconsin – and being “a big teddy bear.”
2. The benefits of being on a sports team. “The most valuable piece for me personally was just the sense of family.”
3. “A lot of my childhood, and even now, I’ve tried to seek out positive adult male role models… And luckily I’ve been fortunate that many of my coaches throughout my football career did a good job filling that role.”
4. Seymour football coach Matt Molle: “He’s a family man. He taught me about positive masculinity. He taught me it’s good and ok to be emotional. It’s ok to say ‘I love you’ to other men. It’s ok to talk about your feelings. And he taught us all that while at the same time being a hard-nosed football coach.”
5. His “trust, commit, care” bracelet at Seymour HS – and the powerful story of Coach Molle sharing his own bracelet with Gunnar. “He’ll literally give you the shirt off his back.”
6. Coach Molle being the first person Gunnar called after his brother passed away.
7. “The thing about your teammates is that they become your brothers.”
8. Playing football in “small town America.”
9. How family helped him throughout his sports journey.
10. “The person who has had the biggest influence on my life and on my sports journey is definitely my mother. My mother is my hero.”
11. His mother always ensuring that he got what he needed to be successful in sports. “No matter what was going on, she was always there to support me.”
12. The poem Gunnar shared with the team at one point during the season: The Station by Robert Hastings.
13. Gunnar’s football dreams as a 17-year old…and how some of those dreams did not come to realization.
14. Changing his definition of success in football: Sharing ownership in the team’s success.
15. “The relationships I had with teammates is what mattered most with me.”
16. “Imposter syndrome” in college.
17. Learning to live more in the moment.
18. “I didn’t get the stadiums full of people chanting my name, but I still had to find something to enjoy about that experience.”
19. When his career had just ended … and the moments right after that Rose Bowl defeat.
20. What Gunnar is doing now…and what he aspires to do in the future.
21. Learning to enjoy school during a time when he was injured.
22. Would he do it all again?
#78: Seth Davis on coaches' camaraderie... and their comfort with adversity
Seth Davis is a college basketball reporter for CBS Sports, a managing editor at The Athletic, and the author of Wooden: A Coach’s Life and Getting to Us: How Great Coaches Make Great Teams. He joined the SGG podcast to share insights on some of the great coaches he’s covered over the years. We discussed:
1. What he learned covering high school sports for the New Haven Register: Coaches aren’t that different across levels.
2. His memory of Gary Palladino, a legendary high school basketball coach in Connecticut telling his player, “I love you!”
3. A main indicator of coaching quality in youth sports: Demeanor. How are they talking to their players?
4. Wherever you’re coaching, it’s all about the relationships and authenticity.
5. Out-coaching the pros in the USA Basketball Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas – winning the gold medal! “They loved that I cared so much!”
6. The relationships between coaches from different schools – and why there tends to be more collegiality among basketball coaches.
7. The peer pressure of giving back at clinics, etc. John Wooden saying, “If you don’t do it, they say you’re a high hat.”
8. “There’s a real camaraderie among coaches.”
9. “Whatever business you’re in, you find that it’s a small community. That’s why I say be nice to everybody. Treat everybody well. Because you don’t know where they’re going to be…The same people you on the way up, you’ll see on the way down.
10. How Armen Keteyian supported him at a key career juncture.
11. Simple tip for how to operate in whatever line of work you’re in: “Be a mench!”
12. What should we think about with regard to finding the right fit in terms of where to coach? “Happiness.”
13. Coaches who “avoid the joy” for fear of losing their edge.
14. Coaches finding comfort amid tension and adversity.
15. Recalling Dick Vitale’s words: “I’m at my best as a parent when my kids are going through something tough.”
16. “Controlling the controllables.”
17. The challenges that families of coaches face.
18. Why Seth doesn’t create “hot seat” lists: “I’m not just looking at a coach. I’m looking at a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a boss of a staff. So there’s a lot more involved than just the person who’s in that chair.”
#77: Kimberly HS (WI) football coach Steve Jones on servant-leaders and the habits of winners (new edit of #16)
Steve Jones is the head football coach at Kimberly High School in Wisconsin. He has won multiple championships as well as state and national coaching awards. Coach Jones also teaches leadership courses at the high school and is recognized as a dynamic speaker on leadership development. In this SGG episode, we discuss: To learn more, refer to Coach Jones’ Twitter feed; a brief article and video about the culture of Coach Jones’ program; a short article describing a couple of his keys to sustained success; and short article describing his team’s formula.
1. His family experiences growing up – especially learning from his brother with disabilities.
2. The impact that a fifth-grade teacher had on his life.
3. His daily habits: reading, taking care of his mind and body, early-day inspiration, making intentional contact with people who need him.
4. “Leading by ‘intentional’ wandering around.”
5. Servant leadership – what it is and how it takes shape on his team.
6. Why he doesn’t talk about winning, rather the “habits of winners.”
7. Kimberly’s camp for kids with special needs.
8. Centering love in the football program.
9. Planting seeds as a leader.
10. The unique positives offered by football.
11. The ultimate goal of the program.
12. Kimberly football’s mental skills program – focus on “being present.”
13. Getting players to find their “performance number.”
14. His struggle to enjoy the process.
#76: Wquinton Smith on Rufus King High School and Milwaukee football
Wquinton “Q” Smith was a standout football and basketball player at Rufus King High School in Milwaukee before becoming a point guard for the University of Wisconsin’s Men’s Basketball team. Q joined the SGG podcast, where we discussed:
1. What Rufus King is known for: academics and basketball.
2. The “Wall of Fame” at King.
3. The neighborhood surrounding King High School.
4. What makes King such a good school. “Everybody takes pride in it.”
5. Playing football in the Neighborhood Children’s Sports League growing up. “It prepared me.”
6. Why Q nearly quit football after his freshman year of high school.
7. What Q didn’t like about football.
8. Sub-par facilities and equipment for the football team at King.
9. How King’s identity as an academic and basketball school may have served as a barrier to the team’s football program.
10. “If you build it, they will come.”
11. Why some kids at King couldn’t go out for football.
12. Dwindling football participation across the country.
13. Building character and friendships through football.
14. “Football helped me branch out and meet different people…Once I started playing football, I started opening up to people and trusting people more. And I brought that with me to UW-Madison.”
15. Ensuring all kids opportunities for out of school sport development.
#75: Former football coach and superintendent Art Rainwater: Embeddedness, honesty, trust, and everyday routines (re-edit of #45)
Art Rainwater was the superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District from 1998 until 2008. He later served as a revered faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Art was formerly a football coach in Arkansas and Texas, as well as a school principal in Alabama. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. His high school football and basketball coaches being “people I could talk to.”
2. Starting a little league in his Arkansas hometown.
3. Why he asked the coach of his college if he could join the team as a scout team member: “You really need to experience the things you’re asking people to do.”
4. Keeping in touch with players he coached 55 years ago.
5. The school administrator in Texas who first recognized his administrative potential, and the innovative way he prepared Art for a leadership role.
6. In the coach-player relationship, “kids see through you… you can only be honest if you’re going to be successful with them.”
7. “The ability to lead is based solely on trust and trust can only occur if you’re truthful.”
8. Success stories of families he’s worked with, including the Flowers family at LaFollette High School in Madison.
9. What he looked for in building a leadership team.
10. Non-negotiable beliefs.
11. Providing developmental and leadership opportunities for members of your staff.
12. His daily routines as a leader, including detailed planning, early starts, and generous time allotted each week for individual team members.
13. Carving out time for reflection.
14. Being conscious of power in relationships.
#74: Amherst HS (WI) coach Mark Lusic develops relationships and confidence in the weight room (re-edit of #14)
Mark Lusic is a teacher and the head football coach at Amherst High School in Wisconsin. By developing an intensive weight training program, developing deep relationships, and building a winning culture, he’s led Amherst to four state championships and built one of the most respected programs in the state. In this episode of SGG, we discuss:
1. Learning from Coach John Koronkiewicz about how to listen and develop relationships.
2. Does “scheme” win games? (no) What does?
3. Make your average players good, your good players great, and your great players “studs.”
4. What does the team talk about in the weight room?
5. Developing a team identity, sticking to it, and putting time into practicing it.
6. The 600, 800, and 1000 pound clubs.
7. How kids develop confidence through weightlifting. (see excerpt from student essay below)
8. Kids needing football more than football needs them.
9. Asking kids to “pay it forward” one day.
10. It’s all about the players.
11. Why he asks his team, “Are you satisfied?” after each game.
12. His annual “life review.”
13. Knowing what to do on 3rd and 1.
14. Being ok with not always knowing the answer right away.
#73: Sheridan H.S. (WY) football coach Don Julian develops leaders and changes lives
Coach Don Julian led Sheridan High School in Wyoming to five state championships and, before that, coached Riverton High School to four state titles. He was also formerly a member of the University of Wyoming’s football coaching staff. Even more than wins on the field, he is widely known as an exemplary developer of leaders. Coach Julian, currently the athletic director at Sheridan, continues to inspire leaders of all levels. As Wisconsin coaches examine how they can impact lives and communities through sports, much can be learned from Coach Julian. In this SGG episode, we discussed:
1. Growing up on a sheep ranch in Kemmerer, WY (the ranch is now on its fifth generation in the family).
2. Learning loyalty, independence, and ownership on the family ranch.
3. Ownership: “Unless you own it, you can’t really give it away…Nothing that’s really important to us is given for free.”
4. The huge span of territory covered by a range sheep operation in Wyoming.
5. Learning from his grandmother: “Most of her knowledge came from working with animals.”
6. The importance of leadership – but lack of true understanding/teaching about what it actually is. “We’ll teach them everything about a handoff… But we’ll yell at a kid and tell him to be a leader when, quite frankly, we don’t teach him how to lead.”
7. “I think we need to plan for leadership.”
8. “As the seniors go, the season goes.” The importance of the leadership process leading up to senior year.
9. Taking seniors to the mountains right before fall camp.
10. Running a “transformational” leadership program built on purpose statements.
11. Defining the “why?”
12. Our purpose here is to help kids become great men.
13. The importance of writing in leadership development, including the value of journaling.
14. Using break-out sessions to engage kids on various leadership topics.
15. Creating such a relationship that “we don’t want to let each other down.”
16. Prior to taking the field, the team is reminded: “Believe in yourself. Believe in the guy next to you. Believe in the plan.”
17. The “Nissi Flag:” “When the kids are in the battle of the game, and they grow tired and weary, they can look to the sideline and see their team and the Nissi Flag.”
18. “Bronc football is life-changing.”
19. The annual “person of influence” night.
20. One of the most special moments of his coaching career: one of his player’s baptisms, when most of the team showed up.
21. Success stories.
22. The necessity of adversity: “I don’t think we can get anything done in life without handling adversity.”
23. Coming together at the end of every practice and game to identify something specific that they saw a teammate do well that day.
#72: Veterans Day special: Somerset High School (WI) coach Bruce Larson and Army values (re-edit of #31)
Bruce Larson is the head football coach at Somerset High School. He’s recognized as one of the best in state of Wisconsin and, actually, in the whole country, having won the Don Shula National High School Coach of the Year award in 2015. Coach is renowned for winning championships on the field and, more importantly, instilling life-long values and habits in those who play for him. In this episode of the SGG podcast, we discussed:
1. Somerset as a working class community.
2. Growing up on a dairy farm in Spring Valley, Wisconsin…where he learned to get things done.
3. The impact of his high school coach, Bob Thomas – how he made his players feel and the time he invested in them.
4. UW-River Falls coach Mike Farley.
5. “Don’t worry about winning – just do it the right way and things will be ok.”
6. Arriving at Somerset in 1987 as an assistant coach to Brad Nemec.
7. When everything “fell apart” during his third year as head coach, writing down everything he didn’t like in the program.
8. DW Rutledge and Dennis Parker, two of his coaching influences.
9. “What you see is what you coach.”
10. “If you don’t like it, change it.” The coach is the person in charge.
11. Using Army values in his program. “Everything we do is built around that.”
12. “What it comes down to more than anything is attitude.”
13. “The world is full of educated derelicts.”
14. The Friday morning routines with the team.
15. The army transforming a person “into a machine” in 14 weeks.
16. 2002 state semi-finals vs Auburndale: kids falling back on what they know best.
17. Making changes to the weight training program.
18. The coaching advice to his sons – it starts with relationships.
19. When “what you believe in got beat” it hurts.
20. What makes Wisconsin football unique: tough, hard-nosed kids. Ass-kickers.