Saturday, February 6, 2010

Whatever Happened to "May the Best Team Win"?

As Super Bowl 44 XLIV approaches, I'm finding it fascinating listening to people picking sides.

The truth is that neither the Saints nor the Colts have much of fan base outside their regional areas.  Sure, there are fans of each team all over the world, but not large pockets of Super Fans like you have for teams like Dallas or New England.

But we Americans like choosing sides.  It's part of the game.  I have more than one relative that will intentionally pick the team that is the least popular in the room if for no other reason than to antagonize everyone else.  I respect that.

I love to hear people argue which defense is better, is Payton Manning overrated and Drew Brees underrated, who's got the better offensive line (that one, to me, is the mark of those who really understand the game:  if your O-line is awful, it doesn't matter who you have behind them; if you don't believe me, go back and watch the Saints-Vikings game again).

But I've got no tolerance for the "Saints should win because of Hurricane Katrina" argument.

The time for sympathizing with those that have endured disaster is at that moment (in this case over 4 1/2 years ago); the moment to give aid is constant.   But to say that one city is more deserving of a sports victory because of the public pain they've endured is to all at once minimize any pain felt in the other town and to add undo emphasis to what, as great as it may be, is just a game.

Does anyone truly think that Indianapolis and her citizens are without trial and difficulty?  Anyone look at the economy lately?

California is bankrupt and flooding, and no one made the case that the Chargers should be favored over the Jets.  Green Bay is the only team not carrying any debt, and no one argued that their financial Good Sense entitled them to a win over Arizona.

If you have a favorite team, root for that.  If you don't care that much about either team, and can't find a football related reason to justify whom you pick, and you don't have an uncle you want to tweak because he's a huge fan of XYZ team, then at least have the Sports Decency to say "May the Better Team Win".

May the referring be honest.  May the players be free from serious injury.  May each individual do his best.

In business we see so many entities use laws or the government to give themselves an unsportsman-like advantage over the competition.  We the consumer lose when some board (typically made up of the "competition") shuts down a legitimate business, claiming it's for the public welfare or safety, rather than they themselves becoming better at what they do.

Dentists shutting down cosmetologists that do teeth whitening . . . architects clamping down on drafting shops . . . lawyers afraid of legal counseling services . . . banks and automakers that turn to government for bailouts because they made horrific business decisions . . .

I say:  May the Best Team Win.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bad Coach vs. Good Coach

The First 16

A Bad Coach - Shows up late for practices
A Good Coach - Is there early to setup and greet the team as they arrive

A Bad Coach – Blames the players
A Good Coach - Accepts responsibility

A Bad Coach – Yells and Screams
A Good Coach - Listens and Instructs

A Bad Coach – Plays only the stars
A Good Coach - Works to make everyone a star

A Bad Coach – Makes players quit
A Good Coach - Inspires more to play

A Bad Coach – Cares about wins
A Good Coach - Cares about people

A Bad Coach – Knows it all
A Good Coach - Works to improve

A Bad Coach – Finds fault
A Good Coach - Admits fault

A Bad Coach – Tries to pour everyone into the same mold
A Good Coach - Maximizes the potential of individuals

A Bad Coach – Has Rules
A Good Coach - Sets standards (and lives by them as well)

A Bad Coach – Pigeonholes
A Good Coach - Diversifies

A Bad Coach – Lives for the game
A Good Coach – Believes the game teaches about life

A Bad Coach – Uses conditioning to punish
A Good Coach – Uses conditioning to improve

A Bad Coach – Focuses on trick plays
A Good Coach – Focuses on fundamentals

A Bad Coach – Complains
A Good Coach - Compliments

A Bad Coach – Looks the other way
A Good Coach – Never lets anything go

(c) 2009 Dave Johnston

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Your Kid Isn't Being Played


You’re miserable.

You feel helpless.

Helpless to help.

Maybe you’ve invested a lot of money. In lessons, equipment, fees.

You’ve certainly invested lots of time.

You want your son to be happy; you want your daughter to feel successful.

You took time off work. You traveled all the way here to watch your kid play.

You bought a ticket.

You’re here, sitting in the cold stadium, the stinky gym, standing by the pool . . . you back hurting from the lousy bench seats.

But there he sits, on the sideline. Dejected, she knows she’s her number won’t get called. Like a sailboat without wind, you feel helpless, too.

You don’t want to be one of “those parents”, the kind that buddy up to the coach (or worse, consistently badger, cajole and lecture) so your kids gets treated “more special” than the others.

You’re sure other parents must do that. Sitting there spectating with them you’ve learned what they’re like.

Your son is just as fast, your daughter just as gifted, as their kid. Why does their kid play all the time, and yours doesn’t?

OK. Maybe your kid isn’t the Most Talented on the team, but surely he deserves to play a little; would it kill anyone to put her in for a few moments?

Is it your fault?

Have you not given your child the same opportunities?

Is your kid not as talented, as special, as you thought?

You feel bad for your daughter; you feel like you’ve let your son down.

You want to do something.

Say something.

To fight for your child.

But whom will you talk to?

You can’t say anything to your athlete. You know he works hard; that anything you could possible say will only make her feel worse about not playing.

You’re afraid to talk to the coach. You think that if he liked your son he’d be getting more playing time; if she recognized what you see in your daughter, surely she’d be in the game.

You’re convinced that if you said anything to the coach, it surely wouldn't help your child, anyway.

Stupid coach would probably make you feel small, like you're out of touch or unrealistic or don't know the game . . .

Or take it out on your kid, perhaps just to make a point.

What would that accomplish?

So you sit.

No ideas.

Baffled and with no recourse.

You’re only prayer is that your child will somehow make it through; to live to play another day.

So you try to stay positive.

You smile.

You cheer for the team.

Win or lose, you thank the coach for his time. You appreciate the positive things she does.

You show your child that you love him, whether he plays or not.

Through example you teach her that there’s no use getting upset over things which you have no control.

Tomorrow you’ll go out and play catch with him. At dinner tonight you’ll have her teach you about her sport.

Even if you’re not good.

Even if you already know the answers to the questions.

And you’ll do it not because you want to make that coach regret not playing your son.

You’ll do it because you love her.

You’ll do it because it’s fun to play; it's fun to spend time together.

You’ll do it because one of the most important lessons to learn from sports is that when life refuses to give you the chance you deserve, you’re not down, you’re not out.

You can still smile and be thankful for the gifts you’ve been given.

Even if the coach, or the teacher, or the employer, doesn’t know you’re gifted, you do.

And so do the people that love you.

(c) 2009 Dave Johnston

Friday, April 17, 2009

Heroes Among Us

It's this writer's belief that if we look at Athletic Competition with open hearts and eyes, win or lose, we'll learn something about ourselves. My book, "The Discovering Greatness Playbook: Lessons from Kids and Youth Athletics for Managers, Parents and Teachers", is about exactly that.

To that end I occasionally post links within this column to inspirational sports stories and videos.

But every now and then an equally, if not superior, inspirational story comes my way from outside the world of sports.

I've never watched a full episode of American Idol, let alone it's British Original, Britain's Got Talent. Oh, occasionally someone will send a YouTube link to a particularly good performance, sometimes I look, sometimes I don't.

You may be asking yourself at this point, what is a column about Sports and Business doing talking about Britain's Got Talent?

I'd like to introduce you to Susan Boyle (although many of you by now may have heard of her). Forty-seven years old, from a collection of country villages, and looking every bit the part of a scullery maid, her Audition performance on this year's Britain's Got Talent is, without exception, one of the most inspirational videos I've ever seen.

Like watching Rocky Balboa run the steps of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, you'll conclude watching this video with the feeling like you too can go out and accomplish anything if you work hard enough.

And that's what heroes do: they inspire us to be better tomorrow than we were today. Whether it's on the Playing Field or the Theater Stage. If you haven't seen Susan Boyle sing, watch the video. If you don't, you'll be missing something.


Each has a unique set of talents, yet we often overlook the value of the individual because of our own pre-conceived notions and biases. Whom in your corporation is ready to Sing that is not yet given the chance to be discovered?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finny's Fight

On March 20th, 2009, Coach Craig Finberg lost his battle with cancer. He was 51.

After realizing he wasn't built for running, he tried out for the basketball team. Despite his size he made the team and went on to be Montana State University's 7th highest all time scorer (1473 points). He chose to "extend" his basketball career by becoming the coach at Beaverhead County High School. He coached for 18 years.

Like any Good Coach, he improved the lives of those he spent time with; and his inspiration touched those he never met.

My fourth son, Finn, arrived at the Beaverhead County High School nervous but ready for his first wrestling tournament of the season. During one of the first practices of the season he rolled his foot and received what turns out to be a very common break in young athletes, called by our Pediatrist a "Jones Break".

Finn would spend the next four weeks watching practice from the sidelines, not allowed to do anything more than a little upper-body weight training until his foot was well enough to take off the protective "boot".

Not entirely heeled, his doctor showed Finn how to pad and wrap his foot so that he could practice and, if there was no serious discomfort, compete in the last two tournatments of the season (his first as a Middle School Wrestler).

Upon entering the gymnasium, my son was drawn to flags that hung everywhere honoring "Finny's Fight". Unaware of the coach with the similar name who was in a cancer battle he'd lose just a few days later, the signs encouraged my boy. He knew they weren't for him; no one in the small town of Dillon, Montana, would have ever heard of the boy from the only slightly bigger town of Bozeman. But still the signs took the edge off. He said his foot was "a bit tired", but he was inspired by someone he didn't know to not give up.

And he didn't.

In what was one of the most exciting matches of the day, Finn found himself wrestling for his weight's Championship in double overtime. With the clock rapidly winding down, a Jordan-esque look of determination washed over his face, extinguishing the fatigue.

Mustering all of his remaining strength, Finn threw the Head-and-Arm; not a complicated move, but one that only works at this level of wrestling if you have more strength available than your opponent. Take down; 2 points - Finn wins.

Fifteen minutes later his older brother handily one his Championship match, scoring all of the points awarded. When I asked Ty about it later he said: "after watching my little brother win, there was no way I was going to ride all the way home having to listen to that over and over again unless I won too".

Coach Finberg, through his commitment and dedication, has inspired people who've never been coached by him, who've never met him. Those people, in turn, have inspired others.

On Sunday, March 29th, friends, family, faculty and players past and present, gathered at the High School Gymnasium for a ceremony honoring Coach Finberg which concluded with the facility being renamed after Finny.

For those of you that have worked so hard to create a business, have you created an exit plan? Will your blood, sweat and tears live on to inspire and employ others, or will it die with your exit?

Whether your exit is in one year or thirty, you need to have a plan. Groom a successor; create a corporate identity that can stand separately from your own; get that stuff that's locked deep in your brain, the stuff that only you know, onto paper. A legacy that dies with you is dead; a dream that you release on its own can live forever.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Double Coverage

In the First Round of Playoffs, CBS had assumed the dubious task of trying to show all 32 games on one station. The first half of the day went fine, but then as the night wore one two games simultaneously went into overtime. Siena vs. Ohio State and Wisconsin vs. Florida State. What was CBS to do?

Both games were phenomenal to watch, both upsets (at least as far as my bracket was concerned); scores back and forth; time outs; last second shots . . .

I'm not even a huge basketball fan, but there I was, riveted. The directors at CBS were jumping from one game to the next; but not jumping, gliding. It was almost seamless. The entire country got to see both games at the same time; worried I'd miss a crucial moment, instead I felt like I had two TVs in my home. Heck, if I did have two TVs I would have missed more of each game than CBS gave me.

After watching Olympic coverage get worse every year, this was a miracle on the hardwood. Fan or no, you've got to respect how CBS handled the situation. They covered two games, in overtime, at the same time, giving we the customer a great product.

The economy is tough right now, a lot of companies are laying people off, not as in years past to suddenly boost company profits and value, but to survive. But the key shouldn't be just survival; companies need to still play to win. While making those tough decisions about who to keep and whom to let go, businesses need to not forget the value of keeping "the right people on the bus". Sooner or later money will flow again. If you don't have the right people directing the show, instead of delivering an amazing product, you're going to look unfocused and like you can't handle the coverage.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness

Even if you're not a huge Basketball Fan, being out of the loop on the Largest Sports Playoff in America is a little like not having heard of Simon Cowell (and the similarities between March Madness and American Idol don't stop there).

I always go into the Division 1 Men's College Basketball Playoffs more ignorant than I'd like. I get into the spirit of the competition, catching about as many of the playoff games as I do Olympic events (trying to catch the Big Ones and the Ones that are being billed as Great Contests), but I get so busy with Wrestling ending and Little League Baseball starting that my friends usually treat my bracket picks as either a good laugh or frankly a little bit sad (how could "Coach" Dave be so ignorant?).

Well you can't be an expert on everything; maybe they'll realize that when their boys are old enough to be in sports year 'round . . .

But the NCAA is doing something this year that I think is a brilliant marketing move. They're trying to capture audience and market share by broadcasting ALL LIVE GAMES on their website FOR FREE.

Check it out at

What lessons can business owners learn from this aggressive give away?

When times get tough, even if you're the biggest game in town, you still have to get your name out there. Now is the time to increase your market share through Networking, Advertising, and Product Placement.

Too many companies react to tough economic times by RAISING their prices, trying to make up for the drop in volume by increasing what they charge. That is like pulling the plug too early on a patient destined to recover. When this recession is all over, only the Champions will be left standing; those will be the companies that leave it all on the court.

For more information on March Madness, check out:


And while you're at it, don't forget to tune in to see Coach Dave Johnston make his Webisode debut as "the coach" on Heckle U at