Some Lessons Stay With You
Nearly 38 years ago as a 7th grader at Thomas Ewing Junior High School in Lancaster, Ohio, I walked into the gym for the first day of track practice. Our varsity coach was legendary in our town and was a known hardliner about out-working and out-preparing our competition. So, on the first day of practice we were issued our gray sweats and told to go change. Shortly thereafter, we were sent out on a 4-mile run. This wasn’t just any run….it was a run over very hilly terrain around the biggest hill in town, Mt. Pleasant, and around Rising Park. Running with my friends, we quickly devolved from happy gossip about the day and sports to complaining bitterly about how badly this run stunk and how hard it was. We then made the decision to go through the park and cut about a mile off of our run. Stopping to hang out for four or five minutes, we then blended back in with the pack on the back side of the park and felt like we’d pulled off a genius move by avoiding the largest hill in Lancaster.
When we got back and practice ended for the first day, suddenly the coach was standing up in front of everyone. He asked us all to sit down because he had some things he needed to address. Thinking he was going to give us some instructions for the rest of the week, we sat down giggling and unaware. Suddenly, coach started calling names, and after the very first name, I knew what was about to go down. My father, it should be noted, was the varsity basketball coach in Lancaster, and so my name wasn’t a mystery to this coach. Slowly, all three of us were asked to stand in front of every team member, 7th and 8th graders alike. This coach then proceeded to tell everyone to take a good, long look at us. “THIS,” he said, “is what a cheater looks like. People who cut through the park when they think the coach isn’t looking, even though their teammates run the hard, long hill. These are people who will NEVER WIN in life. They will never have your back when it matters. These people are NOT winners, and they most certainly do NOT represent our program.”
Well, needless to say, I was embarrassed and humiliated. On the way home, that gave way to anger. So, I walked into the kitchen and quickly informed my parents I was quitting track. Yes, I cut through the park, BUT he embarrassed me in front of everyone and was rude and mean, and…my father stopped me. Informed me that, he too, was embarrassed. Embarrassed by my choice to cut through the park. That he happened to agree with everything the track coach had said. That I was most certainly NOT quitting track. That I was going to look that coach and the team in the eye every day and feel the sting of that humiliation. And that I was going to have to determine for myself if the track coach was right about me. I remember sitting in my room that night trying to make sense of it all, when my parents walked in, gave me a hug, told me they loved me, and then told me, “Beau, things like this seem stupid and insignificant, but they reveal your character. Character is who you are when no one can see what you’re doing. It’s often the difference between winning and losing. Because in any competitive situation, there comes a moment where you either trust yourself to handle the hardest part, or you back down and take the easier path. The easier path almost always ends in defeat.”
I remember as a senior warming up for the last home basketball game of my high school career — a career that saw my father and our team turn around 100 years of basketball mediocrity and become one of the top programs in Ohio, winning 59 games and three conference championships, and advancing to the elite 8 of the state tournament our last two years. A career that saw me become the first Division 1 college basketball player to ever graduate from Lancaster High School. As I rounded the lay-up line, I saw the old track coach walk into the gym. To that day, I had hated the man. Suddenly, I was overcome with emotion, and I left the line and walked over to him. I thanked him. I told him he had taught me the best lesson anyone could have ever taught me, and I would never ever forget him. He gently smiled, winked at me, and told me I just made his day.
To this day, I think about that track coach. I think about the way my parents handled the situation. And, more importantly, every time I’m in a situation where I’m in a moment of doubt and there is a choice, that old track coach and my parents are in my ear. Who are you? I’ve spent my life trying to prove that old track coach wrong.
Where am I going with this? It’s simple. I feel blessed to work for an organization full of people who do the right thing when no one is looking. People of character. People who have each other’s backs. People who form a company, a team, and who don’t take short cuts. People who work together to always get the best possible results for our clients. If you’re a client or a prospect, I hope you see this from us. You will always be our priority, and we will always do our best to do right by you. You’ve chosen us, and for that we are thankful.
Published on: 04.23.18