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Monday, August 17, 2009

The Name on the Front of the Jersey

As a dad of two kids who are getting wiser and more impressionable by the minute, I tend to say things from time to time, use stories from the newspaper or anecdotes from history as teaching moments to give the kids the determination to push forward and succeed. Whether it's my son's frustration with Madden 10 (he was very tired on Saturday night and fared badly against me, saying the game was awful and he never would be good at it), or whether it's watching the movie "The Greatest Game Ever" about Francis Ouimet's defeat of Harry Vardon in the 1913 U.S. Open, I try to teach the kids some lessons about standing up to doubters and doing the best they can. (In the case of the Madden example, I asked my son if he thought it would have been wise for me to have given up playing catch with him when he was four because he dropped the ball more often than not, out of a view that I could have concluded he wasn't a natural and wouldn't be good at it. He's a good fielder now, and he agreed that I should have shown patience and was glad that I did). As for the movie, we discussed working hard and believing in oneself.

My kids, unbeknownst to me, call these "Dad-isms." Apparently, my nine year-old repeats them to his friend and their parents. One suggested that I write them down, so here is one attempt to do so.

Here are two of my favorites:

We were driving around today when the kids were joking that sometimes they repeated one of my favorites, taken from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." We discussed how we benefitted from preparation and how people and teams fail to do their best when they didn't prepare properly. Okay, so it wasn't anything too deep, but they're getting the point that if they prepare well, study harder, practice more, they'll have a better chance to succeed. My parents taught me many things, but I don't think that anyone ever said this to me when I was growing up.

And then we talked about the extracurricular organization that we participate in and that I blogged about here. My daughter returned from a summer camp today, and I explained to her the problems with this organization, where a leader who has badly erred on many levels thinks that he's bigger than his institution. I asked the kids what I said about sports uniforms, inspired by Penn State's football uniforms and given pause to think when my daughter's tournament team put the kids' names on the back of the jersey.

"That's easy, dad," my daughter offered. "The name on the front of the jersey is what matters."

"Not the name on the back," my son added.

"Well," I offered, "in this particular organization, all this guy seems to care about is the name on the back of the jersey -- his name, because he thinks that he's more important that the institution. So much so that he caused the group to split into two over him -- he and his future clearly became more important than the ideals the organization is supposed to stand for, community and decency. The best leaders, I pointed out, have great things said about them and don't have to remind the groups they lead about their importance or how good they are. This guy, I offered, must not have played on a winning team.

For if he did, he'd know the proverb about the name on the front of the uniform.

And that if you're building a truly great institution -- you need generations of great leaders and workers who pass along wonderful traditions to the next generations, who then do the same.

And not just one guy.

Because it's the name that goes on the front of the jersey that really matters.



Attending to all details -- even the smallest ones -- because that's how teams win.

And not just one guy.


Blogger Doug said...

Wonderful post.

7:17 AM  
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11:20 AM  

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