The Counsilman Memorial Lecture by Josh Davis, 2Extreme (2013)


[introduction, by Chuck Warner]

Good evening, Everybody.  Welcome to the 45th edition of the greatest swim coaching educational arena on earth: The American Swimming Coaches Association World Clinic.  My name is Chuck Warner. I’m a member of the Board of Directors for the American Swimming Coaches Association.


The Counsilman Memorial Lecture Series was started 13 years ago in the memory of Doc Counsilman,  a great innovator and educator of Swimming coaches.  And it was with the idea that a fund would be established to bring speakers who were a bit out of the norm, [and who]  we might not otherwise be able to afford to come and talk to us about their work in a related field that might help us in the coaching of swimming.


Our speaker tonight has never been a Swimming coach, although he has a long history of success as an athlete in Swimming.  He was an outstanding Age Group swimmer in Chicago, Illinois, growing up; and again later at the Wilton YMCA [in Connecticut].  Also at the Sarasota Y, at the Cincinnati Pepsi Marlins and at Mercersburg Academy.  He had a storied career at the University of North Carolina.  He was inducted into the Atlantic Coast Conference Hall of Fame… ah, excuse me, the North Carolina Hall of Fame with Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm and other great athletes.  He was selected as one of the top-50 athletes of all-time in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  When he retired, he had won more ACC titles than any swimmer in history.  He’s a Junior National champion, a Senior National champion, a USA National Team member.  Through the course of his career, he swam for a variety of coaches, including Rich DeSelm at North Carolina, John Trembley at Mercersburg, Tim Murphy. I was lucky enough to be a partner with him for about ten years, off-and-on; the longest, now that I think of it, that I have ever coached anybody.  In 1992, we finished with a disappointing experience during the Olympic year, and then we lost track of each other for twenty years.  But thanks to the great tradition at the Wilton Y of having a reunion every five years, we found each other again this Fall.


All of us in coaching aspire to think that what we do each day is going to help transform someone down the road into doing something special.   What I found he had been doing for the last twenty years just amazed me.  I immediately devoured the book he had written and found out that he had been on fify news broadcasts, including CNN; that he was written-up in the New York Times; that in his counseling work with troubled teenage boys he had helped over 7,000 families and had an 88% success rate with his patients.


So, something about myself; I’m anxious. In anticipation, I walked out here had to go to the bathroom and I accidentally walked into the ladies room.  So, I’m trying to catch my breath here from that experience.


Perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’d like to show you what John does as the founder of the 2xtreme Dream Foundation, and in his private practice as a counselor.


[Speaker 1]:  I started using drugs when I was about to turn 12.


[Speaker 2]:  When I was 16, I had started getting into my whole alcohol and drugs lapse.


[Speaker 3]:  Doing drugs, getting in trouble, failing out of school….really just generally miserable with my life.


[Speaker 4]:  And one night I was blacked out and um I woke up the next morning in a holding cell.  I guess I got booked that night for assaulting my mom.


[Speaker 5]:  I tried to choose a metaphor or a theme that I incorporate into my practice, ‘life is a mountain.’  In life there are so many challenges that can really keep us from truly being the most successful person that we can be.


[narrator]:  2Extreme came to be about ten years ago, mostly out frustration from working in one of the mental health professional jobs that I had. What I had found is that doing alternative type activities with my guys is really where I saw the guys share more of their hearts and engage more in the therapeutic process. I found a fair amount of resistance [from those who thought that] you can’t take a kid rock climbing and call it therapy.  You can’t eat lunch with a kid and call it therapy.  What I thought was that unless I created some kind of a magic in my  relationship with a guy, I wasn’t really sure that I was going to be totally effective.  So, I started a program called the 2xtreme Dream Program. Its main objective is to reward young guys for making positive change in their lives.


[Speaker 6]:  For me to see you guys grow – from where you were a year and a half or two years ago to where you are now–it has a different rhythm.  And that’s what the mountain represents: It is you. You know everyday day that you are climbing; you are trying to do something different to make yourself better.


[Speaker 7]:  John has been I would say probably the biggest influence in my life.


[Speaker 8]:  John to me is like a big brother.  He takes you out there and he gets you active, and then, in the midst of you standing on the side of this cliff getting ready to rappel down, he just pops out a question.  It just takes you completely off guard and you can’t help but answer it.


[Speaker 4]:  My relationship with my mom has increased amazingly well.


[narrator]:  Each of the guys writes a letter to himself.  It covers all that he has done to get to this place, sitting in our final base camp, waiting in anticipation of the summit bid.  Likewise, I had the parents write a letter to the guys celebrating the big change that they had seen in their sons.


[Speaker 9]:  My mom’s letter, she wrote how she felt that she failed me at times, and that she made the wrong choices with me and stuff.  It hurts me to feel that I hurt her, you know.  It just makes me really want to do it for her and for myself.  And just like all this shit that I have done to my family, I just find it so amazing that they still love me now, to the end.  This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.


[narrator]:  I don’t care how far we go.  If they don’t make it, we don’t make it.  This is our story. That mountain is really a metaphor for your life.  You are then going to choose to climb and chose to grow.  Chose to be the best and do it.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome a product of the sport of swimming; more importantly a product of Frank and Marge Davis, and especially of his own best self; John Davis.



[Davis begins] 

I have probably watched that film clip 100 times and it chokes me up every time.  First and foremost, I want to thank John Leonard and for asking me to be here. [he has tears in his eyes now].  I’m a huge crier. I was a crier as a kid, and I’m still a crier. I wish it was something that would go away, but it doesn’t.  The bonus for me is it [crying] is something that helps move and motivate the guys that I work with, who have heavy hearts, big stories.  So, I just need to get this out of the way and we will be good.  Alright, so let’s give it up for tears.


Alright.  The last time that I was here [in New Orleans] was probably about 24 years ago.  I was sitting in a very different front row than I was sitting in tonight with my [then] girlfriend Mary.  I was sitting next to 16 men who were chained together on a chain gang in the front row of the maximum security prison here in New Orleans.  Quite a different crowd tonight. So I’m kind of having (I don’t know if everybody is older than 40) a Marcia Brady experience here — looking out and seeing everybody (she’s taking her driver’s test) in their underwear. I’m trying to   envision all of you just in your swimsuits, which is a little scary.


But let’s jump in. I want to start off just by saying how amazing it is to be at a place like this.  As I was growing up in high school and in college, one of my greatest dreams was to be able to swim for specific coaches.  It is pretty cool for me to be presenting in front of those coaches tonight.  So, I want you to take it in; look around; see who is around you; see you who is in front of you; look and see where your heroes might be, somebody who had impact in your life. I’d like to start as off with a question. I want you to ask your neighbor, if there’s somebody sitting next to you, who their favorite superhero was when they were a kid.  Go ahead and ask.


Now if you’re in the 20s and the early 30s I realize you may not have superheroes to have looked up to.  Alright, that’s enough.   My superhero of choice was, of course, superman, like most guys my age. I wanted to do super big things, and I started acting like superman at an early age. At the age of 5, I went to see Bozo Circus in Chicago.  And after coming home, I held onto the beam in my parents’ basement and kept swinging and swinging and swinging trying to catapult myself to a chair. I missed and I cracked my skull open.  350 stitches later my parents were on a first name basis at the emergency room.  I climbed a lot. I climbed trees; I climbed houses.  I jumped off of houses; I jumped into swimming pools; I did as many crazy things that I could because I thought that I was superman.


I learned early, at some level I think, that I was not superman, but that I was someone who had super dreams, someone who really dreamed big.  I was always outside the box in that.  The swimming pool became a place of transformation for me, a phone booth you could say.  Maybe even [a swimming pool was like] a base camp, a first place to start. It was a place where I was able to do things that other kids were not able to do.


Over the years, I had some pretty amazing coaches who encouraged my transformation. What was most important about the transformation that was happening was not just that I was a smart kid, or that I was fun, or that I was a great athlete, or that I was a brother, or that I was a son, but that I was somebody who had a sweet spirit, somebody who cried easily. My coaches accentuated that, and my coaches encouraged me in that.  So, I’m curious: do you have some athletes who are like that?


Tonight, I want to spend some time talking about transformation, the phone booth, Mountain Base Camp. I’m not sure if anybody here has ever climbed a mountain before, but base camp is where you drop everything off.  If you climb Mt. Everest, it takes you 30 miles from the last town to get to base camp, and you drop off,  for each person, almost 275 pounds of gear. Not one single person could carry all of that.  But they drop it there so they can take it to different base camps.


We are going to kind of talk through a little bit of that today, because I’m guessing that we’re struggling with some of our swimmers being stuck.  But, before we get to the heart of why you may think that you’re actually here tonight, I want to tell you how I got here.  It started with a phone call with Chuck Warner probably in November.  I think it was right before Thanksgiving.  Then came a letter from John Leonard asking me to come and be a keynote speaker. It freaked me out.  I have to be honest.  I’m not a swim coach and the letter said “Dear Coach Davis.” I’m thinking to myself: “I’m not a coach, I’m a shrink.  What is possible for me to offer to a group of coaches that an Olympic coach or an Olympian or a gold medalist couldn’t already say?”


When I called him, Chuck [Warner] said to me:  “What John and I had talked about was how was it possible that you could take ten drug addicts to Russia on the Chechnya border (they’re  not all of them athletes).  How is it possible that you can get them to summit a 20,000 foot peak?  I want you to come and tell the coaches what it was that you did to move and motivate them, and impact them to a level where they could find success.”


Now, I want to go back even a little bit further and tell you that I was not the most coachable swimmer.  I was a little rebellious. I stopped playing the piano at the age of six because my piano teacher said I was too rambunctious. They prescribed Ritalin for me, and my parents refused, so instead I bounced off the walls and annoyed my swim coaches. I spent a lot of time pushing back on my coaches. Please feel free to ask them a few questions later.


I was always asking questions; I was always driven; I was a type A personality to the extreme. I had Superman dreams.  And so I showed up to six practices a week, six days a week, double practices; putting in 60,000, 70,000 yards-per-week for years.  But at the bottom of the barrel I had despaired, I was angry, and I was broken.  I struggled.   In 1991, my college career ended in a way that I didn’t think it would happen.  I was seeded first in the 200 IM and the 200 Freestyle at NCAAs before the event started.  And I had an exploded hernia in the prelims of the 200 freestyle, and I had to fly back to Chapel Hill and have emergency surgery.  I lost my dream; I lost my shot.


So, I showed up in Sarasota after my disappointments, and Chuck was there.  And Chuck said: “If you don’t clean up your lifestyle, clean up your attitude, change your life, find some way to move and motivate people around you because you’re gifted; you’ll be dead by the time you’re 25.”  I was running on the edge.  Chuck gave me a challenge. The challenge was: you have an obligation. Not only that, you have an opportunity.  I remember that fall sitting in a hotel. I was sponsored by Best Western, and slept in a hotel for like 18 months. Pretty interesting. I remember watching the interview with Charles Barkley on the TV when Charles came on and said: “It is not my job to be a mentor to anybody. Fathers need to step up and step in.”  I remember hearing that and thinking to myself: “You’re a superstar. You should be offering somebody something that you have because you’re gifted.”


So, instead of me refusing the opportunity I jumped at the chance.  And the reason why I jumped at the chance was because I had a man in front of me who knew my heart.  Somebody who challenged me, encouraged me, and wanted and demanded something far more from me than I was able to give.  And I found out in that time frame that I was a leader, that I was fun, and that I was able to laugh again.  I learned that people liked me — not just the 15 year olds that are on my swim team or the 6 year olds who laughed because I was teaching them how to blow bubbles and do flip turns.  It was a requirement of my training, in order to be sponsored, to hang  out with all the little kids. [Doing that] actually it transformed me. It changed me; it softened me; and it gave me something different. It gave me something that I now I’m able to give to the guys that I work with.  Bottom line is that I was impacted. After that, I remember going to graduate school. I completed grad school. I ended up doing clinical residency in Dallas Texas.  After that I moved back to Colorado, where I streamlined my passion and my strengths.


I found out when I first started my practice, because I was so young looking, that I was working with anybody I could just so that I could survive financially.  So, I was working with old and young, male and female, and teenage boys.  Teenage girls found out quickly that I did not enjoy working with the female population.  There was a tremendous amount of drama. Even though I had my own drama, I couldn’t handle the female drama that came into my office, so I streamlined to just boys.


In 1998 I started a private practice and the reason why was because I was tired of people telling me: “No.” I was tired of people telling me that you can’t take a kid out rock climbing; you can’t eat lunch because of the code of ethics.  In psychology, they tell you that the doctor is here, the patient is there, and you are not allowed to bridge this gap.  In my world, with the population that I work with that includes drug abusers and offenders and guys that are in trouble with the law and guys that are struggling academically or at home, if I didn’t create some type of magic with our relationship, then I would not be ever in practice.  The national average is that 60% of people do not go back to therapy for the fourth session.  The reason why is because the people are not connecting with the therapist.  So, I ended up creating that practice because I had someone who believed in me.


Prior to those trials … (I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really going to share the whole story).  But in practice three weeks before the Olympic trials in ’92, I was doing one of those insane sets that we do to prepare ourselves. And I was swimming faster, and practicing for world record pace, like I knew I was going to be on the team.  I could feel it, I could taste it, but something went wrong, it just didn’t happen.  So, the amazing thing is I’m not standing in front of you tonight as a gold medalist, because if I was, I don’t think that I would have the story that I have.  I’m standing in front of you as who I needed to become because I had the coaches that I had in my life.


I started writing in February.  For me, when I do my speaking engagements, I start writing and I write on anything I can get my hands on:  backs of pizza boxes, subway napkins, something from my office, on the back of a church bulleting or somebody’s birthday celebration. I was always writing notes.  What was very interesting is that I started to see a theme, but I kept thinking to myself: “Wait a minute, I’m a shrink I can’t go there and talk about feelings, everybody is going to flip out and freak out.”  This is not really a community where people talk about feelings. We talk about swimming fast, and we talk about being the best athlete that you can be, period.  So, John Leonard sent out a mass email probably two months ago.  I’m not sure how many people it went to, but something interesting started happening on my end.  Today, the last day that I checked my email, I have received 350… 348 emails from you coaches.  Coaches from all over the world, coaches with all sorts of huge stories, I don’t know that that’s ever happened.


It happens in my daily life because I’ve written a book or because of public speaking or because of TV things or whatever it is that I do. That does happen, but not from swim coaches.  My website normally has 200 hits a week; we’ve had over 10,000 hits on my website — because people are interested in what it is that I might have to say to you tonight.  So, here’s what I’ve heard from you: that there are some of you that are battling addiction, cocaine, marijuana and alcohol.  There are some of you who are battling divorce, separation; and some of you are even in an affair with someone who is one of your swimmer’s moms.  Some of you are experiencing or have had deep loss, loss of a child, loss of a spouse and team members. A lot of you are miserable in your job; a lot of you have said that you have a sense of failure, that you are stuck in your life, you are stuck in your marriage, stuck in your coaching.  So, the cool thing for me is I get to do my job tonight. I get to respond to that. We are not going to spend the whole evening on it because I wouldn’t want to bore you to death.  But I want to move and motivate you tonight because you moved and motivated me.  So, I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you towards a place of transformation.


Transformation comes from a Greek word which is called metamorphoun: metamorphosis.  It is nice to be able to easily play that out without having to look it up.  So, I want to tell you this: if your goal is that you want to have amazing athletes, then guess what: I need you to be amazing.  I need you to live a truth that’s about you.  You are not here by chance, luck, fate, kismet, whoever or whatever.  You are here for a reason tonight, and I’m not here by chance either.  So, I need some of you stop acting so big. I need some of you to stop playing and living small.  You were not intended to fail; you were intended to be amazing.


So, let’s talk about you: I challenge you to take out a piece of paper right now and write down the first three things that come to your mind about you, positive or negative. If you don’t want to do it right now, then do it tonight.  Take space.  Take some space tomorrow.  Last night around 11:00, I came downstairs to get some water and the bar was completely packed. I tell you what: tonight, maybe let’s not hang out in the bar carousing with everybody else. Let’s take some time for you to write out how are you really doing.


There’s something I talk about with my patients on a regular basis which is called “negative cognitions”– easy to figure out. You don’t have to go to grad school for this one.  “Negative” meaning something not positive clearly; “cognition” is that cognitive ability of our brain to process through information.  Negative cognitions are: I am a failure; I am not good enough; I am not lovable; I am not caring. The list can go on.  You can Google it; it’s super easy. Type in “negative cognitions,” it will come up with negative and positives.  It will be great for you to take a couple of seconds to find out what might be floating around inside your head.  Because those things that are floating around inside of your head… they are impacting the way that you are coaching; they are impacting the way that you are connecting with your athletes.


You have athletes that annoy you, I know.  I know I did my college coaches for sure.  I want to focus on the fact that the coaching culture that you live in does not really encourage transparency. What I’m encouraging you to do is this:  I’m encouraging you to get connected. I’m not asking to do this, I’m telling you. You need to do this.  If you don’t do this, you will not be effective.  I need you to spend sometime in the next couple of days evaluating where you really are.  In the mid ‘90s, I climbed to one of the largest mountains in China, 26,000 feet. It’s called Guangshan, and it’s in the northern plateau of the Himalayas.  It is absolutely spectacular. In the middle of the mountain, right in the middle, is this thing that they refer to as a “Golden Buddha.” When the snow blows, it literally looks like a golden Buddha that is built into the middle of the mountain.


It’s a big mountain, and I found myself climbing with a bunch of inexperienced climbers who had no right and no reason to even be on the mountain, but they were there. We had a 1200 foot vertical ice wall that needed to be climbed.  I was the only one that had enough experience to do it.  I had a choice to make: I was either going to stay stuck in the thoughts that were racing through my head (which were: “there is no way we are going to do this; there is no way I’m going to be able to get everybody up here”),  or I was going to find a way to push through.  I got support, even though we had low gear; I got extra anchors, even though we were low on food, we found a way and we worked together. So — if that negative cognition is something that’s floating inside your head, if you don’t take care of it and think through it and work through it, it’s going to be something that will … well it’s going to kick your ass. I’ll just be honest.


Imagine if we were to introduce ourselves by saying: “Hi, my name is Coach Davis.  Um I’m not really capable of success. I’m unworthy and I’m really a bad person. It’s good to meet you.”  What would you have to say back?  If you were really to listen to the word that’s bouncing inside your head, would it change you?  Would it impact the people that are around you?  I’m telling you that it will, and that it probably already has.  We all have big stories; we all have big joys; we have successes; we all have failures; we have defeats; and we have hurt.


But — can you transform yourself to ultimately transform other people, the youth, the families, the people in your community …transform them to live a passionate life?  We were created to connect; that’s my perspective.  We were created to be in relationships. Erma Bombeck states that when she died she wanted to have used all of the gifts that were given to her, so that she would not have any more talents to use.


Last week, my six year-old and I were having breakfast together very early in the morning and I had poured him his milk and had some cereal and was cleaning some dishes, when he said: “Oh Daddy, this tastes disgusting.”  And I said: “Honey what’s disgusting about it?”  He said “Daddy the milk, it tastes sour.”  I was like: “there is no way,” so I pulled out the milk gallon; it only had expired three days earlier, so, I said: “Lane, it’s not that big of a deal.” When I tasted it, I was like, “Oh my gosh!”  So, let me explain something to you: every opportunity that we have has an expiration date on it.  I want you to hear that.


There is something amazing about who you are.  I need you to figure out what that is.  Talk to your friends who know you the best; talk to the people who are impacting and caring for you, that small team.   For men, it’s usually only a couple of people; women, you have a few more.  And the reason why is women’s emotional quotient exceeds their intelligence; whereas, for men their intelligence exceeds their emotion.


The population that I work with are exceptional young men. I need to tell you about them, but I’m going to come back to it. I’m skipping ahead because I’m getting excited.


So, this is the last comment I’m going to make about your mental health and your well-being.  I put together a really quick acronym that you should be able to put up on the chalkboard or on the dry erase board. It is ASK:

  • A: Accept; ask someone for support and for men I know that’s going to be tough for you. I have a team of two or three guys that I have in my life that I go to for support.  That means you need to humble yourself, it means you need to be honest and let them know exactly how we are really doing.
  • S: Surrender yourself, surrender your ego, your reputation or even your story. And
  • K: This is what you guys all really kick ass at. Keep after it.  Don’t give up, never quit.  Above my kitchen table it says: “Forever for always no matter what.”  And I’m teaching that to my kids.


Alright, so enough of the shrinking.  I promise I won’t play shrink any further, so let’s take a big breath.  Everybody grab out your puzzle piece for me.  There is a reason why that was on your chair today and it wasn’t for me and Mary to get sweaty walking through this iceberg of a room f bending over and putting it down on 1200 chairs.  The reason why is that I want you to understand something about that piece: you are all part of a puzzle, bottom line.


I want to tell you about “impact,” because the one thing that you will end up leaving your swimmers with at the end of the day is “impact.”  I had a young guy that I worked with who was15 years old when I first met him.  He was on a varsity wrestling team.  He weighed about 106 pounds when I first met him, and he came from a Mormon family, so very traditional: no drinking, no, drugs, no alcohol, no bad language, had to keep good grades.  But something went askew in this young guy’s life, and everything got turned up upside down.  So, they came in and started counseling.  For this family to come in and seek help was a huge deal, much like the deal that I’m telling you about: reach out and tell somebody that you might be struggling.


Over a period of time (which took probably 16 months), it took nine months to get him sober and the rest of the time was to have him jump and be excellent.  I was asked to come and speak at his  Eagle Scout ceremony, which is a pretty big deal. There were about 250 people that were packed in this tiny room.  Everybody who had any kind of impact in this young man’s life was asked to speak.  I went last, and so here’s a great quote for you. The father looked at me and he said: “John, I want you to be able to answer this question for me: How do you truly measure the impact of one man on another man’s son?”  How can you measure that?  Because as Chuck and I have talked as of recent, sometimes, it happens in a year that you find out how you impacted them. (Again it’s not about how fast you swim).  But it could be five years; it could be 10; it could be 15.  So, I would like to list-off all of my coaches; if you are present, please stand.  Don Anderson, Sherry Meyer, John Elliot, Ed Toatley, Paul Reef, Ed Richardson, Neil Jorgensen, Chuck Warner, Chris Riley, Tim Murphy, John Trembley, Frank Comfort, Brian Sharar, Bill Brenner, Rich DeSelm.  These are the men and women that spoke into my life, and we should, we should give it up for them.  [clapping]  Each of these coaches left a fingerprint on my heart and in my brain.  The affirmation that they gave me drove me to be great.


I have to tell you this. Currently, in my private practice, I have 150 patients.  Double that because I have the moms that I have to work with.  I don’t have many dads who participate.  So, I have 150 boys or young men, I have 150 moms, and then each of them [the boys] at some level is in trouble somewhere —  so it’s probation officers, school counselors, judges, lawyers, doctors, you name it.  So, I’ve got roughly 500 people that I’m responsible for.  Since 1996 I’ve impacted over 10,000 people nationwide — and that came because of my coaches.  The amazing thing for me is I have young guys.  Check out my website. There are some pretty cool testimonials on there.  There’s a 30 year old on there who is soon to be a father of two, who’s an alcoholic. He’s been sober. He’s been on one of my 2xtreme Dreams, and he’s impacting other people around him.  I’ve guys in my program that went through my program that are now mentoring younger kids that are also in my program. They’re paying for it as well.  So, if I didn’t have the coaches I did, I wouldn’t be impacting the people who are around me.  And I’ve been stuck too.  I’ve been stuck in that phone booth personally, as well professionally.  I was not created to stay or stick at a base camp.  I was created to climb.


I want to tell you a cool Everest story.  I’ve been invited to climb Mount Everest three times now,  but  it has not worked out for me to be able to do it. A few years back, this is a true story, there was a sherpa by the name of Zang and a climber by the name Ed. Ed is from Dallas, Texas, and Ed is kind of your quintessential Texas business guy, I guess is best way to say it.  Pretty robust, pretty loud, pretty gregarious, pretty full of himself, not a climber by trade, somebody who was able to write a check for $75,000 to get on to Everest.  He didn’t do a lot of training; he wasn’t prepared when he showed up.  Zang, on the other hand, is someone who took almost four years to become a Sherpa. You have to earn the right to be a Sherpa.  For years he just walked back and forth, 30 miles carrying heavy loads and walking with the axe, all in the end to be invited to be on the mountain.  Well and so, his chance finally came to get to summit. The head Sherpa came to Zang and told him that he was going to be responsible for Ed: “Your job is to get Ed on the mountain. Be safe.  And get him back to base camp. That’s your job.”  Whether Zang summits or not is based on Ed; it’s not based on Zang.  So, probably less than 200 feet from the top of Everest, actually 165 feet, they are just close to the end of the hilly step,  and then there’s a slope that goes down, and then right up to the summit. The summit is no larger than this stage. Zang said to Ed:  “We have to turn back; you’re moving too slow.”  Ed said:  “I’ve not reached my goal.” Two days previous to this, when they were at the bottom base camp, everybody was sitting around talking about what their real was goal for being on Everest.  Ed said: “Hallo,  it’s the picture on my desk that shows that I did it.  I’ll get to brag to all my friends.” For Ed, It’s just another story.  For Zang, he wanted to count his steps. He wanted to take one step further than he thought he would be able to take.  He also wanted to make it back to base camp safely with Ed, and he wanted to make it back safely so that he could see his wife and his two kids.


So, here they are, less than 200 feet from the summit with Ed saying: “We’re going forward;” and Zang saying: “No, we’re not. The weather is bad. We need to turn back or we might lose our lives.”  Ed said: “I’m climbing on.” Zang said: “I’m heading back to base camp.” Zang lives; Zang counts his steps.  Nobody has found  Ed to date.  I’m not sure if he landed on the Tibet side or the China side, or the Nepal side, I should say.  So, when they got back to base camp, after a couple of days, somebody said, “Were you able to meet all of your goals and, and your dreams?” And he said, “I had 997 [steps], 326 successes plus I’m seeing my wife and kids tomorrow.” So for me, I refer to that as kicking steps or taking steps. And why that is imperative is that sometimes in life, when you’re struggling, we’re kicking steps.  There’s not much that’s easy about mountaineering, I have to be honest. The view is great from the top, and the view is great while you’re working hard, but it is a long miserable three or four weeks sometimes to be on the mountain; everybody smells, and everybody has to use the same area for the bathroom. It’s really a tough chore.  But at the end of the day, if you have been able to kick a bunch of steps, you get to see this glory for like 15 minutes, and then you’ve got to get down, otherwise your brain is going to start eroding.


So, the reason why you have the puzzle piece in front of you is because I need you to grapple with the big picture: why is it that you are a coach? What is it that you have to offer to your swimmers?  We all have something in common tonight. We all showed up.  Some of us got a little more dressed up than others, but we’re all here because we want to be excellent at our jobs.  I believe that you guys were all created to be motivators, that you were created to be encouragers, your tool is the swimming pool, the dry land area, you know, anything that has to do with competition for your athletes. That’s what your tool is.  My tool is my office. My tool is climbing.  My tool is eating lunch at Chipotle with somebody who’s really struggling.  We’ve all had some really hard times. Twenty years ago, [I was] in my first job, [having] finished grad school, and I did my clinicals [for the] first time without a supervisor. I was really excited about having my job, my first group — 12 drug addicts, the youngest was 19, the oldest was 40, older than I was.  Crystal meth addicts, cocaine addicts, marijuana, alcohol, the list goes on.


There was one particular guy in the group whose name was “Marcus.”  Marcus was 20 years old. At the end of the group, I thought I had totally knocked it out of the park, and I’m thinking: “Wow, I have done an amazing job.”  I connected with everybody. I checked off all the things that I knew I was supposed to talk through and accomplish with the group. We set goals; we talked through how we’re going to do this.  And so I said to the group: “Hey, don’t anybody use this weekend, like let’s make it through till Tuesday with everybody being sober.” And I left the group. That was my impact line for the day. I learned that in grad school. It didn’t prove to be very effective.  Three hours later, my pager went off (I had an emergency pager). Marcus was down at the emergency room. He had overdosed on crystal meth.  So, I called my supervisor and  I called my boss and said: “Can I go down?” She said: “We don’t go and do that.” And I said: “I need to go do this for this guy. I need to think outside the box here or we’re going to lose this guy.” Then she said: “Okay, go for it.” So, I went down the hospital and I said: “What in the world happened?” He said: “Don’t ever tell me not to use.” I felt really stupid. I thought that I had the right answers.  I thought I had the right tools. I thought I was using them all the right way, but my words impacted him negatively.


It really challenged me to have to think differently about the way that I was going to approach him, because  in the end, Marcus had all the power and I needed to be able to turn that around so that Marcus felt powerful.  I felt powerless and I was the one who was supposed to be in charge, just like you, as coaches.  So, I learned early to check my ego at the door. I learned early that it didn’t matter how successful I was as an athlete, or how smart I was, or where I got my degree, or whatever I did. What I learned was that unless I found a way to connect with my athletes – sorry, with my clients, they would not perform for me, emotionally, behaviorally and all the good pronoun words.   I still have a supervisor now, somebody who I check in with, somebody who helps me walk through the tough connection points with some of my guys.  One of the greatest gifts that you can give to your athletes is to be connecting with, be connected with somebody else who can help encourage you.


In 1985 (some of you guys will remember this), they changed the False Start rule, and I fell victim to this. I had a freestyle race in Syracuse, New York at Junior Nationals.  It was my first time going.  I was 15-16 years old in 1985, and Chuck Warner was my coach.  I got up on the blocks for the100 freestyle, and the guy next to me flinched. We all went in the water and came back.  I’m swimming [back to the blocks], and there’s the referee right behind my block. I was thinking: “No, No, it wasn’t me.”  In the crowd, everybody’s chanting: “lane three,” but they disqualified me.  I was devastated.  I was completely torn up, because I thought this was my shot, and I got tossed out of the race.  What ended up happening was that Chuck told to go to the warm down pool, swim down, cool off, [and then] let’s figure this out.  What I ended up finding out is that Chuck believed in me.


Chuck said to me: “Believe in what I’m telling you.  Tomorrow in the 200 freestyle, we are going to do your race differently than you’ve ever done it before.  And you are going to win.”  “God,” I thought. “You are crazy. I’m seeded 54th out of 60.  I’m lucky to even be here.” And Chuck said: “Tomorrow, in the Prelims, instead of doing your normal race, we are going to spin it, we are going to do something different.  And then, when we come back at Finals, I’ll give you the race plan.”   So, I did exactly what Chuck told me to do.  You know what he did? He said: “Watch for my arms, and when I raise my arms, you go like crazy.” And so here’s Chuck on the side of the pool doing this [waving his arms] and I went nuts.  I walked in to finals that night seeded first. I dropped two and a half seconds in my 200 freestyle. I was on the map for the first time.  Why?  Because somebody had enough confidence in me.


When I showed up at Finals, Chuck said: “Don’t worry, you’ll find me at the Finals.” I was thinking: “Chuck there’s no way. Everybody is wearing white.”  Sure enough, it’s the 1980s, and Chuck shows up for Finals in a Madras jacket.  Easiest guy to find on the pool deck. There he was — and I won my first Junior National Competition.  Why? Because deep roots grew within me.  I was able to weather a storm of frustration, of defeat, because I had someone who believed in me and it was infectious, and I performed for him.  It felt pretty powerful.


So, let’s talk about your athletes.  What words are you using with your athletes?  In my office, I create a brand new language with kids.  With most of the guys that I work with, the first word out of their mouth when I ask a question is: “Ah. I don’t know.” Or they say an expletive, and it’s usually the expletive first and then they don’t know.  So, I have to create a language with them that says: “‘I don’t know’ doesn’t tell me anything, and the expletive is not going to help us get any further, so let’s find a common language.”


When I went to grad school, they showed us the video: “What About Bob?”  I don’t know if you guys remember that from the ‘80s.  pretty funny. Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray really funny guys.  Richard kind of moves around in his chair, and gets himself positioned right, and has his book just right, pencils right, and he turns and says: “Thanks for coming Bob.” And so then Bob launches into 45,000 words. That doesn’t work with the teenagers that you guys are working with. I guarantee it. If you are super quiet, they are not going to tell you anything either.  You start talking to them; start asking them questions, and they are going to respond.  In my Intake,  the average client that I deal with has already seen six of me before they get to me.  And it’s been a string of failure. Remember: 60% don’t come back after the third session. So, I have to perform. I literally am like a used car salesman in my Intake.  I’m super-fast like I’m talking now. I interrupt everybody. I go as fast as possible — because I’ve got one shot at grabbing this kid’s attention and his heart, and for him to know that I care, and that I’m the guy who’s going to be able to help him get out of whatever mess he is in.


So —  what words are you using with your athletes, and are they hearing you? Do you need new words? If you do, you can Google: “positive words of affirmation.”  If you are not using those words, you might be stuck as well.  It’s funny that our mouth is something that directs our whole lives, but your mouth is not something gets fired, you are, all because of your words.  Our mouth is a tool. It can be a loaded weapon, but we don’t need a permit to use it, we don’t need a license to use it. It’s interesting to me that it takes more accountability for us to purchase a handgun than for people to actually train their mouths.  Coaches, you can be infectious with positive words of affirmation.


In Colorado, we had one of the worst fires back in the early 2000s. I was actually rock climbing in the area where it happened.  Over 160,000 acres of Colorado’s national forest burned, all due to a piece of paper with a bunch of words on it.  Six people died. Words can be powerful, just like a spark, just like a fire.


We have the power to impact others with our words. Do you remember the word that somebody shared with you that gave you promise, hope or success?  I do.  I remember interviewing at North Carolina with one of the chief resident doctors because I was interested in going into med school.  And he told me: “You’re smart; you’ll get in; you’ll be successful; you’ll make a great surgeon someday, if that’s really what you want to do.”  Back then, they started doing an MBPI which is a personality test.  He said: “Here’s the tough thing, John. We’ve never had even any of our female doctors’ test as high as you tested emotionally on the chart.”  So, I’m a 6’4 guy on the outside, but I’m nothing, but a girl on the inside, in the way that I process information.  That’s pretty much what he told me.  In that process, I ended up then going to Sarasota –and that’s where Chuck challenged m to turn my life around.  That one man’s words changed my future; and then it was accentuated by another man in my life; and had been accentuated by all the other men that were in my life.


So, I have a story for you. One of my guys who climbed with me (it’s actually the guy who’s in that picture right there [on the screen]) has a very powerful story. At 13 years of age, he was met at the breakfast table by his father with a 12 gauge shotgun. His dad is 6 foot 5, and an ex-marine. Incredibly intimidating; alcoholic; mom was an alcoholic.  The first time I met mom was at the swimming pool, and she was already drinking at 3:00 in the afternoon. I smelled alcohol in her breath.  Two weeks after my first intake with her – with actually this guy’s older brother — she was arrested at 10:30 in the morning, blowing a .36,  and she had safely dropped the children off at school.  So, the father met my guy at the kitchen table at 7.30 in the morning clicked his 12 gauge shotgun and said: “Today is a good day to die, who wants to go with me?” That’s how I met him.  That’s his story.


So, we are climbing in Russia. We’re at 18,000 feet; he’s 14 years old, one of the youngest kids to actually ever be on the mountain and he’s telling me he can’t take another step.  So, we start counting step; we start setting goals. I tell him: “Hey, let’s look 100 steps out in the future. Let’s look 200 steps. Do you see that shoulder over there?  Do you see that corner over there? Let’s count steps.”  What was it for? A distraction.  What was happening to him was his head felt like it was going to explode. The pressure at 18,000 feet is incredible; you walk with a headache.  You are nauseated; you are exhausted, and when you are carrying a heavy load, it makes it that much more difficult.  But he kept hearing words in his head, so we needed to dispel them.  “Are you willing to hear what I think about you?” is what I asked him.  He said he was, but the problem is that he continued to keep on hearing the clinging in his head of his father telling him that he was no good, that he was a failure, that he was a loser, that he’d never amount to anything.  Well, that was his father talking to him out of his alcoholism, not out of love.


What I told him is: “You’ve got the ability to cope. You’ve found a way to be successful in your school work; you’ve found a way to connect with a group of teammates.” And — he has exercised induced asthma, and we are climbing at 18,000 feet.  I was the crazy one for bringing him.  So, we counted steps. He continued to keep walking through… and after a while I left him so that I could run ahead to catch up with the rest of the team.  I keep running back and forth, telling him how many more steps that he has to make to the summit.  And he summited, even though he told me 100 times he wanted to turn back. Eventually, he was able to believe a truth that did exist inside of him, and he summited.  He’s serving our country overseas right now. pretty amazing story.  So, what is more impressive? How impressive you look? How impressive that your curriculum vitae is?  Or is it the impression that you leave on others? I want you to watch this video clip, thanks.


[Rick]:  Coach?


[coach]:  Rick?  Step into my office. 


Rick I want to ask you to be a captain. 


[Rick]:  But, Tyr’s already captain.


[coach]:  Well, we always have at least two.


[Rick]:  But he can’t stand me; the same with half the guys out there.


[coach]:  This isn’t about them; it’s about you.  It’s about being the best Rick. 


[Rick]:  Oh what about Tumo.


[coach]:  He and three or four other guys came to me suggesting you.  The team doesn’t get this kind of stuff wrong.  I know Kurt would have wanted it. 


[Rick]:  I don’t get it.  You know exactly why I’m here and you still act like you care.  I’m just a no-good spy who cheap-shoted your star player last year.


[coach]:  First of all, I attribute that cheap shot to your coach not you.  And second let’s focus on where you could end up, not where you were or are.  And God doesn’t make a no-good anything.  You just got to learn to listen, and pay attention to that spirit inside you.  Learning to listen, that takes a lot discipline. 


[Rick]:  So, that’s why all the rules?


[coach]:  We only have one real rule: don’t do anything that would embarrass you, the team, or your family. 


[Rick]:  I can’t be captain.  Some friends of mine sent me some stuff, Vicodin.  I don’t have it anymore; I got rid of it.  I cannot believe you made me tell you that. 


[coach]:  Much to your credit Rick, I didn’t make you.  And good decisions don’t make life easy, but they do make it easier.  You are going to have to sit-out the Boise game.  But I’m sure you will find a way to captain your forwards from the side lines. 


Welcome to Highland Rugby, Rick.


[Rick]:  Thanks.


That clip is from a movie called Forever Strong.  It’s based on a true story. That young man was somebody who comes from a kind of an AAA, family — dad really aggressive, super-motivated and wants the absolutely best and demands a ton.  But, he has a totally disconnected relationship with his son.  And the son plays for this gentleman who they play against. He was arrested for drinking and driving and almost killing his girlfriend. It’s a pretty powerful movie.  What stands out for me is that his story is very similar to all the guys that I work with, and is also similar to the stories of the teenagers that you work with, male or female   He believed that he was no good because of his story.  But at the end of the day, his coach told him: “You are amazing, and I see something gifted inside of you.”  And despite his bad choices, the coach told him he could be a captain, because he knew that that’s what the boy needed to grow. One word: “Amazing.”


It’s alright to have somebody tell you who you may really be.  When you are listening to a bunch of words that aren’t true, they clamor around inside of your head. Just like it’s hard to dance with the devil with 100 pounds on your back.  I want you to meet with your swimmers when you get back.  I want you to do an inventory with them.  I want you to look up on Google the “negative and positive cognitions.”  I want you to write down all the positive affirmation words as well, and I want you to give those forms to your swimmers and ask them: “What words are bouncing around inside your head?”  Don’t focus on the positive ones first.  This is the beginning of a brand new season, so, let’s start off with something that’s different.  You need to walk into your teams more creative than you ended last season.  Isn’t what why we’re here? I saw all the list of the different creative coaching techniques and clinics that you guys are doing.  So, then let’s do something emotional for your swimmers.  Let’s find out what’s really bouncing around inside their heads.


And then how do you challenge that?  Well, you’ve got to get to know your swimmers.  You can’t just can’t sit on the diving board and read the newspaper while they’re swimming lap after lap, after lap, after lap.  How about doing some creative things like pulling them out of practice while they are doing dryland, pulling them into your office,  and asking them how they are.  Ask them how they’re defining themselves today.  Again at the end of the day, less than 1% of athletes are actually going to make the Olympic team.  And it’s even fewer than that who actually get to be a gold medalist.  So, then, we need to be fostering something far bigger inside of our teams.


So, let’s say that the average… let’s say that the room was packed (and I wish it was. I was anticipating 1500 of you, so shame and all the rest of them for not showing up tonight).  Let’s say the average is that you each have 50 swimmers per team.  We are looking at an impact nationwide of 75,000 to 100,000 people that we are impacting. We’ll double that with at least one parent.  That makes 150 to 200,000 people that you guys have the opportunity of impacting with your coaching techniques, with your personality, with your heart.  That’s right. Another feeling word.


I’ve done some pretty creative things in my practice, some things that perhaps I could lose my license for.  I had a mom one time of a very difficult high school athlete who played football at Columbine High School.  He stood about 6’3,” 245 pounds; he ended playing at CU [Colorado University], a huge kid, with a huge attitude.  His mom actually wrote me a check; on the memo on the bottom, it said: “Drop his ass.” I took him rappelling.  Instead of actually hooking him up to the rigging gear, I hoisted him with my arms over the edge.  I was connected, but he was not.  I pulled out of my pocket the check that says: “Drop his ass.”  I threatened the life of one of my patients for the connecting moment.  Out of fear, he found a way to obey.  Likewise, and I don’t advertise this one, I have placed drugs underneath the front seat of some of my clients cars to make sure they’re arrested.  I’ve set them up.  I set them up.  I’m called “2Extreme” or a reason.  I have kids who come to me that have extreme behaviors, and if I don’t match that, there’s no way we’re going to connect.  I have the nation’s highest success rate with the clientele that I work with because I’m willing to push the envelope.  I had coaches who were willing to push the envelope with me.  Not just with my practices, but with my heart.  That was a fun story by the way.


I have another story of a 16 year old who came into my practice. The typical guy that comes in is above average, intelligent.  They’re all guys that are athletic or they’re gifted in some way, whether it’s music, arts, sports… they are all gifted.  They are also smart, and they also have very sweet sensitive spirits.  I’m sure there are plenty of athletes who are similar to this.  Every one of them is a good-looking guy.  Every one of them is able to communicate and articulate himself — until some defining moment disconnected them from their world, and it caused chaos.  The gentleman I’m going to share with you, we’re going to call him “Bob,” just because I’m really not supposed to share their real names.  Anyway, when he came in, he had already started his spiral.  He had stopped playing sports. He had stopped doing school. He goes to a local preparatory school, and instead of having all A’s, this kid scored on his pre ACTs a 30. He’s a 16-year old, so he’s clearly above average.  He was amazing, but he didn’t feel amazing.  There was some defining story that he would not share with me.  I tried everything. I went rock climbing; I went four wheeling; I even went fishing.  I don’t even really know how to fish, or like fishing.  I am anaphylactically allergic, so really being around fish scares me.  I did it all. I showed up at school; I took him out to lunch; I showed up at church and sat with his family.  I did anything and everything that I could do to connect with Bob, but Bob wouldn’t tell me his story.  So, you know what, I forced him.  I forced him to join the 2xtreme Dream Program.  You’re supposed to apply to it.  You’re supposed to go through this application process.  I just told him he was going to be on the team.  He didn’t want to be in the team; he didn’t want to go climb some big mountain that’s 20,000 feet in South America.  That would be miserable. I told him: “It doesn’t matter. You will have to go. We’re going.”


I didn’t even have his whole story before we got there.  I did get him sober (he was nine months sober at the end of the program). He brought his grades up. He did a community service project; he gave back and he was doing it, but I still didn’t have the whole story.  So, let’s communicate that into the swimming world.  I wrote this down.  I’m into numerics.  I get a little crazy about numbers in my head sometimes.  So, let’s just say the average swimmer swims 60,000 yards a week.  That would be 4.7 million yards per year, which equates to 2,660 miles.  So, if I was coaching him, I had to watch him swim 2,660 miles in a pool, and I would walk that mile with him.  So, I didn’t get the story until after we summited. Three months after coming back from South America, he called me up and said: “Hey, can we go and, and hike?”  I said: “Absolutely.”  We go on the hike; we sit down, and he says: “Hey, I’ve got a story to share with you.  You were right all along.  You remember that time we set up on top of the 165 foot rappel before we rappelled down and you told me you loved me?” And he said: “I thought you were gay.  I thought you were weird.  And you told me I love you, I care about you I’m just trying to find a way to connect with you?”  Then, he said: “Okay, here’s my story.  I was molested.”


He held on to that for 18 months.  Every teenager, every teenager, every adult is looking for a guide in their life. That’s you; that’s me; we just look different.  When he knew that he was safe enough with me, and it took literally trusting his life on a mountain, he was willing to share his story.


In 2001 we climbed – I took a group of guys to climb – before I went to do Mt.  Kilimanjaro, I took a group of 12 guys to go climb Longs Peak.  It’s a big mountain.  It’s a 14,000 foot peak.  It was at the beginning of the winter and we were expecting some winter storms. The night that we were there we built a snow igloo. It’s pretty cool three quarter igloos. So just imagine living in Alaska and having an igloo, but not just at the top.  We had a tent that was on the inside. I was teaching all the guys all the skills, wanting to make sure that they had a skill set that was different than what they knew.  So, they were learning how to walk with a rope attached; they were learning how to harness, and being able to climb with ice axes and with crampons on your feet. It’s pretty uncomfortable to walk in crampons, but they were learning all the skills and they needed the skills.  Why? For safety, for them to live.  That night it was negative 26. When I woke up the morning, it was the most beautiful, pristine, amazing sun and sunrise that came up on Black Diamond, which is one of the faces. It’s about 1,000 feet of shear vertical cliff.  And while I was there taking pictures with my brand new camera that I have been saving forever for, all of a sudden the clouds started to pour and cascade into the Black Diamond area.


I started screaming to the boys that we had less than 15 minutes before a storm was coming. They were all looking at me going: “What’s the problem?”  I was saying: “Do you see that cascading in?  That’s going to hit us with 80 mile an hour winds, I’m telling you right now.”  Red sky at night, Sailors delight; Red Sky in the morning, Sailors fair warning.  Well, what I didn’t see was what was behind that piece of the mountain.  Within about 15 minutes, 80 mile an hour winds gusted through, ripped our entire camp apart, the igloo, my tents (I lost three tents). My camera got tossed 800 feet from where we were standing.  When the storm was over, the boys hung on every word that I said.  I said: “It’s time for us to go.”  We packed up pretty quick. We got out of there. On the way down, there was a group of climbers coming up. I told them of the dangers that we faced, and that the storm is not over yet.  The next day two of those climbers out of three had passed away.  So, the boys hung on every word. They hanging on to every word that you say too. Do they trust you?  If so, how do you know that they trust you? How are they showing it?


Did you know that Alcoholics Anonymous boasts that they have more than five million people per day that go to AA meetings all over the world?  And, they have the lowest success rate of any program.  Less than 5% of the people in AA are actually successful long term. That should tell you about our need to connect, our need to have relationships, our need to be next to someone.  So, it’s up to you and it’s up to me to instill confidence inside of our athletes.


So, here is the fun story frame, just walking the park with my three year old at the time.  I wrote a book and he is actually in a lot of stories. He is now 10, my little 10 year old. We were holding hands walking on the way to the park and he goes: “Daddy do you like me?” I said: “Dude, I love you.”  He said: “No, No, No, Daddy, do you like me?”  I said: “I yeah I really, really love you.”  He said: “No, Daddy, you are not listening to me Do you like me?” My three year old wanted to know if I liked him. Do your athletes know that you like them? Does your wife know that you like her? Does your husband know?  The people that you coach with, do they know that you like them?


It’s one thing to love someone. We love because it comes from our heart. Our heart knows the thing for us to like.  Do your athletes know that you like them?  Let’s be honest. Some of your athletes are difficult; some of them are the way I was.  They can be a real pain, but they need you, and they need you to like them. That is why we are going to go back towards a positive affirmation.  You guys are here this weekend to be learning skills, to be learning skill sets. I’m asking you to not worry as much about how fast your swimmers are going to swim, but about who they are going to be, the character of who they are going to be.  I remember going through my goals with Rich DeSelm or Brian Sharar or with Bill Brenner and talking through what I wanted to accomplish with my swimming. The irony is at the end of all those conversations, they said to me: “But at the end of the day, if we don’t end up doing this, who are you going to be?” There were no pros swimmers back in my day, not anyone getting $1 million checks to be on the box of Wheaties. That didn’t happen, so who are you going to be?


The highest form of affirmation is showing somebody else that you like them.  So, listen.  I realize that at some level you guys have come here to unwind, to collaborate with others and to ultimately be challenged.  In my 2xtreme Program, any time I do a Group, if I’m doing in Intensive, if I’m doing team building exercises with a business or with a school or with a team or if I’m doing my 2xtreme Dreams, I have a circle of affirmation. I challenge you to do it. You will be surprised what feedback you will get.  So, instead of doing your normal Friday dryland, make a big circle in a gym, put one chair in the middle put that put each individual in that chair, and all the other athletes around them can only say something positive about them.  “Hey you are pretty amazing at this;” “ hey, you are pretty smart;” “ hey you are good looking;”  “hey you are fun to be around;” “hey I really like your family.” After a while they are going to run out of positive things because most people don’t walk around with 100 different positive affirmations in their head thinking this is how I can best suit someone’s day today by affirming them or encouraging them.  So, try it out.  The old school proverb is this: “iron sharpens iron, so one man will sharpen another.”


So, if you ultimately knew or believed in what I said, and you thought that this will be totally transforming, would you do it?  Because I will tell you, the success in my office keeps me coming back every single day to be positive.  And I am having to say positive things to people that are really difficult to deal with.  I have had knives thrown at me; I have had guns pulled on me in my office; I had the tips of two of my fingers taken off because of a client that was on crystal meth.  I have put kids in jail. I have put parents in jail. I have had patients show up in my house and attempt suicide in my driveway.  I don’t have the most glamorous job, but every day I get excited because I get to go encourage someone.  And I do that because I had coaches who encouraged me.


Ray Kroc created McDonald’s in 1940. I was a huge McDonald’s fan. This is kind of a really crazy story. When I was in Connecticut , I think Tim Murphy might have been my coach at the time, we used to have to go back from Wilton up to Yale  for summer for training.  I was really in love with McDonald’s.  So, I got dared, double-dog dared to actually climb into the Hamburgler, and so I did.  I squeezed in between this is back when there were metal bars not plastic like they are now.  Well, I got stuck and they had to call the fire department to come and pry the Jaws of Life open, so I could get out.  So, I really like Ray Kroc and I like Ray Kroc’s story.  The funny thing is in 1940s everybody went crazy over McDonald’s: number one, because it was efficient; it was fast; and it was good food; and it was cheap. Everybody else wanted to be like Ray Kroc.  They kept thinking: “if I could just get the sauce, if I could just find out what the active ingredient is, I could have a successful burger just like him.”


But guess what?  I’m giving you the sauce tonight first. I’m giving you the secret recipe.  Here is the sauce: I share my life even though my ethics tells me that I’m not allowed to. I share my joys; I share my hurts; I share my failures; I tell about my successes.  I have told my guys, my patients, how hard it was for me to take steps, and how hard it was for me to kick steps, I tell all my boys. I tell their moms. I tell their probation officers. I tell judges. I tell anybody who is willing to listen. Why?  Because I had people impact me, and my words can impact someone else.  Generosity is something that will really sustain the heart of people.


We’ve got one more video clip for you and a couple of thoughts before we close, I hope you enjoy this one.



[coach]:  Your attitude is like the aroma of your heart.  If your attitude stinks, means your heart is not right.


[Brock]:  Sure is preachy, no?


[Jeremy]:  Mhm-hmm


[Brock]:  What?


[coach]:  How is your attitude, Brock?


[Brock]:  It’s fine.


[coach]:  Then you will be okay with the death crawl, right?


[team]:  Oh.


[coach]:  Alright, everybody on the goal line. Get your partner; let’s go.  Alright, let’s go! Show me something! 10 yards. move it! Move it! Let’s go! Let’s go! Mark, let’s go! Let’s go! Jonathan! Show me something! 10 yards! Show me some power! No knees! Keep your knees off the ground!  Show me something! There we go! 10 yards! Show me some muscle! Show me some power! Give me some more! Let’s go! Very good boys! Very good!  Let’s run it back!


Male Speaker:  Oh.


[Brock]:  Oh god, oh men it’s not funny dude.


Brock:  No way it is.


Male Speaker:  So, coach how strong is West View this year?


[Brock]:  Much stronger than we are.


[coach]:  You already written that Friday night down as a loss, Brock?


[Brock]:  Well not if I know we can beat them.


[coach]:  Come here, Brock.  You too, Jeremy.


[Brock]:  What? Am I in trouble now?


[coach]:  Not yet. I want to see you do the death crawl again except I want to see your absolute best.


[Brock]:  What? You want me to go to 30?


[coach]:  I think you can go to 50.


[Brock]:  50? I can go to 50 if nobody is on my back.


[coach]:  I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back, but even if you can’t, I want you to promise me you are going to do your best.


[Brock]:  Alright.


[coach]:  Your best.


[Brock]:  Okay.


[coach]:  You are going to give me your best.


[Brock]:  I’m going to give you my best.


[coach]:  Alright one more thing.  I want you to do it blindfolded.


[Brock]:  Why?


[coach]:  Because I don’t want you giving up at a certain point when you can go further.  Get down.  Jeremy,  get on his back.  Get a good tight hold Jeremy. Alright, let’s go.  Brock, keep your knees off the ground, use your hands and feet. There you go, a little bit left, a little bit left.


There you go.  Show me, get effort.  Atta boy, Brock, you keep coming.  There you go. 


[teammates]:  Come on, Brock, come on.


[coach]:  It’s a good start, little bit left, little bit left. There you go, Brock, good strain.


That’s it, Brock, that’s it.


Brock:  I’m I at the 20 yet?


[coach]:  Forget the 20. You give me your best. You keep going. That’s it.  No don’t stop, Brock, you got more in you than that. 


[Brock]:  I ain’t done. Just resting for a second.


[coach]:  You got to keep moving.  Let’s keep moving. Let’s go. Don’t quit till you got nothing left.  There you go. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, Brock. That’s it. You keep driving. Keep your knees off the ground.  Keep driving it.  Your very best, your very best, your very best. Keeping moving, Brock.  That’s it. That’s it. that’s  it. Keep going. Don’t quit on me. Keep going.  Keep driving it. Keep your knees off the ground. That’s it. Your very best.  Don’t quit on me. Your very best… keep driving, keep driving.  There you go. There you go. That’s it.  You keep driving, keep your knees off the ground, keep driving it. Don’t quit till you got nothing left.  Keep moving, Brock, that’s it; that’s I; that’s it, keep going.  I want everything you got, Come on. Keep going.


[Brock]:  It hurts!


[coach]:  Don’t quit on me.  Your very best. Keep driving.  Keep driving.  There you go;  there you go.


[Brock]:  He’s heavy.


[coach]:  I know he’s heavy.


[Brock]:  I’m about out of strength.


[coach]:  Then you negotiate with your body to find more strength, but don’t you give up on me. Brock, you keep going, you hear me? You keep going. You’re doing good. You keep going. Do not quit on me. You keep going.


[Brock]:  It hurts.


[coach]:  I know it hurts. You keep going. You keep going. It’s all hard from here. 30 more steps You keep going, Brock. Come on, keep going.


[Brock]:  It burns.


[coach]:  Let it burn.


Brock:  My arms are burning.


[coach]:  It’s all heart. You keep going, Brock. Come on, come on. Keep going. You promised me your best, your best. Don’t stop. Keep going.


[Brock]:  Too hard.


[coach]:  It’s not too hard. You keep going. Come on, Brock. Give me more; give me more. Keep going.  20 more steps, 20 more. Keep going, Brock.  Give me your best. Don’t quit. No, keep going, keep going. Don’t quit, don’t quit.  Brock Kelly, you don’t quit. Keep going, keep going. Go, Brock Kelly, you don’t quit on me. No, you keep going.  You keep going.  Go, Brock. 10 more steps, 10 more, 10 more, keep going, don’t quit give me your…


[Brock]: No can’t


[coach]:  You can, you can.  Five more; five more. Come on, Brock, come on. Don’t quit. don’t quit. Come on. Two more. One more.


[Brock]: It’s got to be 50; it’s got to be 50, or probably more. 


[coach]:  Look up, Brock, you’re in the end zone. 


Brock, you are the most influential player on this team; if you walk around defeated, so will they.  Don’t tell me you can’t give me more than what I’ve been seeing.  You just carried a 140 pound man across this whole field on your arms. 


Brock, I need you. God’s gifted you with the ability of leadership; don’t waste it.


[Jeremy]:  Coach.


[coach]:  Can I count on you?


[Brock]: Yes.


[Jeremy]:  Coach.


[coach]:  What is it Jeremy?


Jeremy:  I weigh 160.


[coach 2]:  Alright who’s next?




That movie is called Facing the Giants.  I would say to you: “Alright, who is next?”  So, really what is the message here?   It’s not necessarily the method that he used, but it was a great tool. His message to Brock was that he’s created for excellence.  That the team needed him. They needed his leadership.  That he was important, meaningful and that he had a huge purpose in his life.  This coach created a battle. I think you’ve got some battles going on with some of your athletes, just like my coaches had with me: a battle of wills.


My daughter asked me a couple of years ago (Excuse me, she plays competitive soccer, and she knows that I went to North Carolina and that Mia Hamm was somebody that I was a friend with) so she said: “Daddy, do you think that I’ll ever be as great as Mia Hamm?” It’s a pretty loaded question. How do I not quench the fire inside my daughter, but at the same time how do I share with my daughter how I really see that she could be.  So, I gave her a good visual: “You’re gifted and then from your giftedness, it’s up to you as to how far you end up going.”


Some people max out a little bit earlier than others. You have athletes that max out. They are too great in practice, but they stumble in the meets. They have a hard time performing. The bottom line is that every one of your athletes,, and every one of your friends, and every person that’s around you is gifted with something — and you have the opportunity, the ability, and the obligation at this point to give to them.  For all of us who’ve made changes in our lives, something is expected of each of us.  You’re a coach; something is expected of you. This coach saw a giftedness inside of Brock and he pushed in him until could not take another step.  There’s a power in your words. I want you to hear that from somebody who’s not coaching, but somebody who is effective in other people’s lives.  There’s power in your words; there’s power in being you.  This coach gave him something that he was capable of handling.


So here is the deal. I want you to soak in New Orleans. Have a great time; enjoy the humidity (very difficult for Mary and I coming here from 18 to 25% humidity to come hang out here in 90% humidity).  I want you to soak up your crafts. I want you to soak up meeting a few of your hero coaches and hang out with some of your friends; enjoy it.  Fifteen years ago I was able to officiate a wedding. I’m not an ordained pastor. Colorado has a rule if you’re not ordained: anybody can marry you in the State of Colorado. We have a lot of weird rules like that.  So, a friend of mine asked me if I would marry him and his wife. I told them one special line that they were able to take with them through their, their marriage, which is: “Be a student of one another.”


I’m asking you to be a student of your athletes; be a student of your wives, of your husbands — because you can impact them.  Listen, at the end of the day, when all of your busy-ness goes away, all of the laps and the sitting and the humdrum of the summer is going back and forth, the stinky locker rooms, the endless athlete’s foot, race after race, lap after lap… all you’re going to have is each other.  So, take time this week.  I want you to spend some time with a few things to find your job, maybe renew some new goals.  I want you to remember some truths that you know about yourself, or ask the people that are around you that you trust who believe in you.  Have them tell you some truths about you.


I want you to encourage excellence around you as well.  It took me four years in my professional career to really figure out what and who and how I was going to be a therapist.  There was a lot of failure in those first four years, misconnection, miscommunication … just really trying to navigate and figure it out.  But, eventually, over time, from all of this space, from east is to west, I finally narrowed down to where my giftedness was, and it was here in this one spot.  I was able to find my gift and I was able to find my passion, which is to love others, whether they’re good, bad, ugly and different.  So, ultimately, I know that my path here is to fill any vessel that comes in my path, I hope that tonight that I was able to fill yours.  I want you to go be amazing.  Thanks for the opportunity.



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