Bones, Part III
The last, but certainly not least, is the “ funny-bone.” Coaching basketball has taught me the importance of learning to laugh. The ability to laugh as yourself is a key to getting through some of the valleys that you inevitably face in the course of competition. You find yourself is some awkward positions when you are dealing with stress and emotion. I know I did.
When I was coaching at the University of North Florida I got so frustrated during a game that I put my fist through the portable chalkboard. My point was made and the team was riveted, but the moment was lost when I couldn’t get my hand detached from the chalkboard. So much for point of emphasis. I guess the point was don’t punch an object unless it is solid. Another time I picked up a trash can and threw it across the locker-room. I thought it was empty. Unfortunately, it was full of cups and orange peels. Quite a mess. I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning it up so that the janitor wouldn’t be upset.
The importance of laughter was not lost on the late Jim Valvano as he so aptly put what he considered a full day. He said “that if you spend each day in thought and are moved emotionally to both tears and laughter than you have lived a full day.” I couldn’t agree more! Through the course of my career I have found benefit of laughter in a tough situation and have been brought to tears by both disappointing losses and joyous victories. I actually cried when I watched Marcos Santos walk across the stage with a diploma in hand. Of course my daughter says my emotion is caused by watching too many “chick flicks.”
Communication has also been a key to my climb through the coaching ranks. Weather you are teaching, selling or managing people, communication is vital to success. I have worked for athletic director’s who let you know exactly where you stood at all times. Carlo Tromontozzi at St. Francis was the best at it. There were no emails or memos, It was all face to face communication. With a fiery Italian personality there were times when we went face to face.
One time when I left the Sports Information Director, Patrick Horne, at the gym following the Wright State University game. I got tired of waiting and was frustrated by the loss. I told the bus driver to take us back to the hotel and go back to pick him up. When we got back to New York, Tromontozzi made it clear that I should never do that again. I never did.
Another lesson I learned about communication was taught to me by my 9 month old daughter. I came home from practice one day and my wife was in the kitchen feeding her baby food. Well, she was trying. It was on the floor, the wall, my wife but none in the kid. So I bullied my way into the situation and told my wife I would take care of the feeding. My first mistake. As she walked out I blew my whistle to get my daughters attention. Here eyes were riveted on me and she clamped her mouth shut as I tried to put in the food. At nine months she made the decision not to eat. I did what a lot of parents would do. I took three spoonfuls and then offered her a spoonful. She refused and gave me a look like if you want it that bad, you eat it.
After getting her mouth open I shoved three spoonfuls in. She then made here second decision. Die by holding her breath instead of swallowing. I told her I didn’t care. I had two other children (as if she could understand my ranting). Then after what seemed like 5 minutes she caught me with my guard down and spit it out. Just then my wife walked in and gave me a look as if to say, “yeah, big time coach, you can’t even get your daughter to eat baby food.” I then told my wife it was obvious, Kailey didn’t like the green stuff. Feed her the orange stuff.” And then humbly walked out of the kitchen.
My daughter taught me a valuable lesson on communication that day. To this day I still don’t know how my wife got her to eat the green stuff.