Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
By: Steve Despot
How do we get the best out of ourselves? What is it we do? Do we think positive thoughts? Do we pray? Do we trust in fate and destiny and our natural abilities? These questions have stumped philosophers since Socrates first asked men to think and reevaluate. In order to get the best out of other people, we must first bring out our best. Socrates even said, “Let him that would move the world first move himself.” In order to push anyone to do anything in any endeavor, we must first be moved. To quote the great Jim Valvano, we must “laugh, think and have our emotions moved to tears.” When we do this, then we are able to push forward to greatness. Great leaders are not ones that simply tell others what to do and then sit back and watch. This is not leadership at all. One of the greatest military leaders is General George Patton. General Patton, like all great military leaders, did not lead by saying “Go,” he led by saying “Follow me.” When Patton gained control of the 3rd US Army in 1944 he told his troops, “Keep on advancing…whether we go over, under or through the enemy.” Notice the phrase “we go.” Not “you go.” “We go.” Together.
We are all moved and inspired by great leaders. Past, present, and future. We need leaders to push us and drive us to excel. Becoming successful is hard. It is difficult work. If success were easy then everyone would be successful. It takes doing things and believing things that others may think impossible or stupid. It takes getting out of bed each morning and advancing towards a single important goal. Moreover, it takes doing something not for someone else or for a personal reward but because the very act of becoming successful and of achieving is its own reward. When we all have this deep down desire to become successful, only then will success be possible and only then can we help others to achieve their goals.
When we look for great leaders in sports in the past and present, who comes to mind? Is it UGA’s Mark Richt? Is it Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski? Coach John Wooden? How about Coach Herm Edward’s who famously said, “You play to win the game.” How about Coach Mike Singletary who during his rant exclaimed “I want winners”?
No sports figure who is synonymous with leadership is greater than Vince Lombardi. Lombardi is known for so many wonderful quotations. Quotations that when I played sports, were plastered all over the locker room and weight room. Whenever we would get tired, the personal trainer would just point to “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” This would immediately get me going and pushing just a little bit harder. When I thought that any obstacle was something I couldn’t overcome, the coach looked at, “Most important of all, to be successful in life demands that a man make a personal commitment to excellence and to victory, even though the ultimate victory can never be completely won. Yet that victory might be pursued and wooed with every fiber of our body, with every bit of our might and all our effort. And each week, there is a new encounter; each day, there is a new challenge.” I knew right then that to be successful requires deep sacrifice and a commitment to excellence. You cannot be afraid of challenges in your life. Each challenge is a new obstacle and a new lesson in your life. And finally, when I started practicing bad habits on the field and in the hitting cage, my hitting coach walked me over to “Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character.” I read those words and started thinking to myself that I did not want to create a losing character. In order to win not just in baseball but also in the game of life, I had to practice winning in every thought, belief, word, action and character trait I exuded.
Our state is filled with great coaches who get the most out of their players. They are fair and firm. They truly love their players. They are not just creating winning players in their sport but they are creating winning people.
We got the chance to sit down with four amazing coaches and learn not only how they get the best out of their players but also how they implement Vince Lombardi’s words of wisdom.
Scott Stricklin, UGA Baseball Head Coach:
Head Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin recently completed his second season directing the University of Georgia baseball program.
Since arriving at UGA, Coach Stricklin has created an atmosphere of excitement around the program, starting with the current student-athletes, extending to former lettermen and to Georgia baseball fans around the state. He has organized numerous lettermen functions to help reunite former players and steered the $12 million Foley Field Revival project that the Bulldogs and their fans enjoyed during the 2015 season.
In year two of the Stricklin era at Georgia, the Bulldogs showed flashes of potential. They look to become a consistent force in the SEC. Georgia posted its first SEC road sweep since 2009 when it won three straight over Tennessee and then followed that up by claiming its first league series at No. 7 South Carolina since 1994. In non-conference action, Georgia won a series over No. 11 Florida State and swept a two-game set from Clemson for the first time since 2009. In May, Georgia combined on a one-hit shutout of Georgia Tech at Turner Field in front of the largest crowd to see a college baseball regular season game as 18,792 attended the 13th annual Spring Baseball Classic For Kids. Georgia battled through the season while missing two members of its starting rotation and two bullpen arms for a significant stretch as injuries hit the pitching staff for the second straight year. Still, the Bulldog staff posted a sub 4.00 ERA for only the second time since 1977, ending the year at 3.96. When at full strength, the bullpen was a formidable group, allowing just one earned run over the final 29.2 innings of 2015. Offensively from 2014 to 2015, the Bulldogs improved their batting average 11 points and increased their home run total from 13 to 40.
In Stricklin’s first year at Georgia, he led the Bulldogs back to the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Bulldogs increased their overall and SEC win total from 2013 while playing a league-high 29 games against ranked teams in the regular season and did so without their projected No. 1 and No. 3 starters in the rotation and cleanup hitter for much of the year due to injuries. Georgia compiled an 11-game winning streak during the season, which was the longest since 2009, and it captured a series over No. 7 South Carolina, the first over a top 10 team since 2011.
Stricklin echoes Lomabrdi’s saying of “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” Coach Stricklin says, “Setting your goals high and having high standards is important. If you believe that a job or goal can be accomplished, it can. It comes from the deep down belief that a goal can be reached.” Judging by his past 2 years at UGA, his players believe this as well.
Stricklin also says that “Time heals all wounds but the victories can never be taken away. Losing is hard and difficult to deal with but the goal is always there to reach higher and get better. The satisfaction of accomplishing a goal and winning championships is something that will always stay with you and give you the confidence to continue to excel.” Lombardi is certainly nodding his head in agreement with this statement. Winning breeds winning.
Vince Lombardi is also known for saying, “Don’t succumb to excuses. Go back to the job of making the corrections and forming the habits that will make your goal possible.” Growing up, I’ve always loved the saying, “Excuses are the tools of incompetence and those who specialize in them build monuments of nothingness and are seldom good at anything else.” I honestly have no idea who said this and there are tons of variations to this saying. The basic idea is that one should never stop doing what he/she knows to be the right way to do things. Don’t make excuses. Coach Stricklin tells his players, “If you work hard and do things the right way, turning points can be all around you. Searching for turning points is not the answer. Doing things the right way often brings about those answers and can bring a team together.” This is so true and really hits at the fact that if you wait for greatness to come to you then you will wait forever. You have to always do the right things because those special “turning points” or moments in life that define you are all around. Coach Stricklin echoes this belief by telling his players that “nothing worthwhile doing is ever easy,” that “sacrifice is necessary in order to achieve something great” and that “nothing in life is given to us and there is nothing more satisfying than earning what you have. Greatness tends to breed more greatness and competition within a team brings out the best in athletes.”
I grew up playing baseball and routinely attended the Cal Ripken Baseball School at Mt. St. Mary’s College. Getting hitting and fielding instruction from Cal Ripken, Sr., Bill Ripken, and Cal Ripken, Jr. was amazing. However, Cal Ripken Sr. used to tell us kids all the time that whenever we look in a mirror, “be sure we like what we see.” He was not talking about one’s personal appearance but rather one’s character, determination, courage, and heart. I asked Coach Stricklin about this and he agrees: “Only you know what you have ultimately given and sacrificed. If you take short cuts when no one is watching, the only person who knows that is you, the man in the mirror. Make sure that you are satisfied with the reflection.” This is great advice for any coach and any person as well. Coaches cannot possibly watch all players all the time. At some point, he/she must trust that the players are doing the right thing. When a coach has done this then he/she is coaching to success.
Jack Bauerle, UGA Swimming & Diving Head Coach:
“Jack Bauerle is the consummate team coach. What he has done at the University of Georgia represents the pinnacle of team swimming, which is what the U.S. Olympic Team is all about. He brings a fun approach to the sport.”
USA Swimming’s Mark Schubert used those words when he announced that Bauerle had been chosen as the head coach of the United States’ women’s swimming team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. For Bauerle, the Olympic appointment became the crowning moment of his career. Coach Bauerle has been the head or assistant coach for 15 USA International teams the last 20 years.
Bauerle has had unparalleled success in and out of the pool at Georgia, highlighted by six team national championships with the Lady Bulldogs. Under Bauerle’s watch, individual national and Southeastern Conference champions, All-Americans, record-setters, Academic All-Americans and NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients have become the norm.
In his stint overseeing Georgia’s program (not to mention his time as a Georgia swimmer himself and assistant coach), Bauerle has produced six team national championships and 11 SEC crowns with the Lady Bulldogs. He has been chosen as the SEC Coach of the Year 16 times and the National Women’s Coach of the Year six times.
Bauerle will pilot the Georgia women for the 36th year and the men for the 32nd in 2014-15. He has led the Lady Bulldogs to 297 dual-meet victories, six national championships and 11 SEC titles during his tenure. Counting his 210 wins as the Bulldogs’ coach, Bauerle has an overall record of 507-122-2. He is the nation’s winningest active coach and the winningest coach in SEC history.
In 2013 and 2014, Bauerle’s Lady Bulldogs earned team titles at the NCAA and SEC Championships. The conference crown in 2014 gave Georgia its fifth straight, matching the program’s high-water mark.
In 2012, 13 swimmers (representing eight nations) with ties to the Georgia program competed in the Olympics, highlighted by Allison Schmitt’s five medals, including three golds, and Shannon Vreeland’s gold medal.
At the 2008 Olympics, the United States women, under Bauerle’s watch, earned a total of 14 medals (two golds, seven silvers, five bronze), the most of any nation. Two of his pupils, Kara Lynn Joyce and Schmitt, were included in the medals haul as Joyce won two silvers and Schmitt secured a bronze. Bauerle’s handiwork was on display as 12 athletes and coaches from his Georgia program joined him in Beijing.
Georgia can claim one achievement that no other collegiate sports program can – three NCAA Woman of the Year Award winners in Lisa Coole (1997), Kristy Kowal (2000) and Kim Black (2001). Georgia is the only program in the nation to have more than one winner – and Bauerle has coached all three.
Bauerle has been inducted into the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Georgia Aquatics Hall of Fame and the Montgomery County (Pa.) Coaches Hall of Fame. He also received the Bill Hartman Award, which is one of the highest honors given to a former UGA student-athlete based on 20 years of excellence in his profession.
Besides coaching, Bauerle has dedicated his time and efforts to several community service endeavors. In 1983, Bauerle and three partners played 125 hours of tennis at the Jennings Mill Country Club to raise more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Coach Bauerle admits that he “revered Coach Lombardi” but he disagrees with one of Lombardi’s famous quotations. Lombardi is known for arguing that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Coach Bauerle says that “we have had ultra-successful campaigns and I have had swimmers who have had lifetime perfect swims and have ended up 2nd or 3rd at the Olympic games. I do not view those 2nd team championships or silver or bronze medals as failures. Sometimes there are teams better than your best teams and sometimes there are individuals better than others.” This goes back to when you look in the mirror, you better like what you see. No one can argue that any olympian, whether he/she medals or doesn’t medal is not a winner in every sense of the word. These olympians reached the highest level of competition and there is glory in that. When they wake up each morning and go to bed each night and look in the mirror, every olympian should be extremely proud of the dedication, excellence, grit and hard work it takes to make our olympic team.
Coach Bauerle echoes Vince Lombardi’s feelings about teamwork. To Lombardi, the team was everything. It was one voice, one culture, and one heartbeat. Without this unity, the team concept was in danger. This simply means that everyone in the program “buys in” to the overall goal. Coach Bauerle says that “teamwork is essential for success whether it be coach or athlete. When we have succeeded, it has been a combined effort of our entire staff. Whether it is a coach, nutritionist, trainer, admin assistant and the people that take care of our pool on a daily basis. It is all about teamwork.” This is true not just for players but for anyone. This magazine would not be possible without the combined effort of everyone. I imagine the same is true in any line of work.
Coach Bauerle admits that he does not live by any general motto or saying but admits that he loves American poet Carl Sandberg and especially his 1922 poem “Washington Monument by Night.” To anyone not familiar with this poem, Sandberg uses an extended metaphor in the first stanza equating the Washington Monument to a swimmer. The perfect poem for a swim coach. However, the most famous line in this poem is from line 11: “Nothing happens unless first a dream.” Some critics even argue that Sandberg is trying to show that teamwork is necessary to accomplish a dream by writing the line on line 11…two #1s standing together. Coach Bauerle instills this idea in his swimmers by not only pushing for them to be unified but to always be “Number 1” in their own minds even when having an “off day.” We all have “off days.” It is normal but true champions always stay the course. “If there is a difference between my world class athletes and others is that world class athletes get something positive done for their sport even when they are having a ‘bad day!’ To truly be good, you have to be able to handle the bad days regardless of what is going on in your personal life. If my swimmers are tough on days that are difficult then they will be tough when it is crunch time.”
Coach Bauerle never met Vince Lombardi but he did have the chance to have “15 minutes of private time” with legendary Coach John Wooden who could easily be the center of this feature as opposed to Vince Lombardi. Coach Wooden made Coach Bauerle question the notion of an “overachiever” and of giving “110%.” Coach Bauerle introduced one of his olympic swimmers to Coach Wooden as an “overachiever” and was corrected privately. “They can only achieve what they are capable of” Coach Wooden told him, “no more, no less.” This private moment has stuck with Coach Bauerle since then and he pushes his swimmers to give 100% each and every day without excuses. This is how he coaches to success.
Dominique Haynes, Secondary Coach for Cedar Shoals HS:
Jaguars Coach Haynes is a graduate of Cedar Shoals HS and was a three year starter on the Cedar Shoals Football Team. Coach Haynes is tied for most single season interceptions in school history by intercepting 10 passes his senior year. He earned a scholarship to Gardner-Webb University, a Division I-AA school in North Carolina. He was a three year starter at strong safety for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. He later graduated with a degree in Business Administration. However, after college he fell in love with education. He then went on to Piedmont College and completed a secondary education certification for Math and Health & P.E. Coach Haynes just finished his third year of teaching with the Clarke County School District, having taught 6th grade math at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School in 2012. He is currently the Health & P.E teacher at Alps Road Elementary and owner of Crystal Clear Window Cleaning. He is now beginning his 4th season as Secondary Coach for the Cedar Shoals Jaguars.
Coach Haynes, as most football players and coaches are, is a huge follower of Vince Lombardi’s words. Coach Haynes says that he has always loved Lombardi’s saying of “Winning is a habit…they become your character” from earlier in this article. “This quote is very close to something I always tell my players. Many of them aspire to play college football and further their education. I tell them if they aspire to be something, then train your mind and actions as if you are already that. I tell them if you want to be a college athlete, then carry yourself and train as if you are a college athlete and if you do this day in and day out and give it your all, you will become a college athlete.” This thinking and mindset also carries over into how Coach Haynes teaches his players to look at life’s obstacles: “Success and sacrifice go hand in hand. Throughout life, you have to make many challenging sacrifices in order to be successful. You will not have success without sacrifice.” This advice makes us want to rethink the title of this piece and change it from “Coach to Success” to “Think to Success.”
Alan Maddox, Head Softball Coach &
Assistant Basketball Coach Loganville HS, Private Hitting Instructor
Coach Alan Maddox has experience working with male and female players at all different age and ability levels. From 1996 to 2000, Coach Maddox was the assistant baseball coach at Loganville HS and then from 2000 to 2006 he was the head baseball coach and assistant softball coach at Berkmar HS. Coach Maddox then made the move back to Loganville HS where he is currently the Head Softball Coach and assistant Basketball Coach as well as a private hitting instructor with Georgia Strike Zone Academy. In addition, Coach Maddox has coached his two young sons in soccer and baseball since they could play sports and is involved in many youth sports programs.
Coach Maddox has nearly 20 years of coaching experience in high school baseball and softball. In the past 9 years as Loganville’s head softball coach, Coach Maddox has led the Lady Devils to 9 straight playoff appearances, including 7 trips to the Elite 8 as well as 4 region titles. He has won over 200 games and has been named Region Coach of the Year 4 times (2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012).
His extensive coaching experience makes him qualified to talk about coaching all ages and ability levels.
Coach Maddox routinely puts Lombardi quotations on his practice schedule, especially his favorite: “Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all time thing. You don’t do things right once in awhile…you do them right all the time.” Coach Maddox goes on to say, “We constantly talk about doing the right thing all the time. Don’t take a play off, don’t go through the motions when doing drills, don’t give half effort.” This goes back to Coach Stricklin calling for players needing to learn how to police themselves and to be happy when they look in the mirror. Coach Maddox firmly believes and instills this in his players and students: “Character is what you do when no one is watching.” He instills true character each and every single day.
In addition to echoing previous statements, Coach Maddox also follows one of Cal Ripken, Sr.’s favorite sayings: “If you take care of all the little things then the big things will take care of themselves.” Coach Maddox says that he “focuses a lot on fundamentals. We do simple drills every day to focus on the basics of softball. If we can’t do those things right, then we will never win a championship. However, if we are confident that we can do the ‘little’ things all the time, then the great things will happen.”
It appears that all the coaches in this article agree that in order to accomplish anything worthwhile, then all of the players, coaches and admin assistants must “buy in” to the team concept. Coach Maddox agrees: “Teamwork is essential to success. Softball is a sport of individual achievements combined in a team effort. We must all work together and be our best to make the team better. The more we focus on making ‘Us’ better, the better all of my players will be.” Frankly, aren’t all sports a combination of “individual achievements”? Sure, golf and tennis may be more individualized than softball but don’t golfers and tennis players have coaches and other “teammates” off the course or court? Novak Djokovic, 2015 Wimbledon Champion and Roger Federer, 2015 Wimbledon Runner-up, both thanked and gave all of the credit to their team during their post match interview. Furthermore, according to Coach Maddox and almost every other professional athlete, “Championships are won in the off season, in those extra hours in the cages, all of those lessons to fine tune your skills, watching film, and studying the game.” When you combine all of this and the extra hours, care, and passion Coach Maddox has for his players, you can easily see how he is coaching to success.
How do we get the best out of ourselves? What is it we do? Do we think positive thoughts? Do we pray? Do we trust in fate and destiny and our natural abilities? The answer to these questions may not lie with the philosophers after all. All we may need to do is look to our coaches and leaders. It appears that they have it figured out and are passing their knowledge to future generations.