Posts Tagged ‘Winnipeg’

Fifteen years…that’s a pretty long time to look forward to doing the same thing. Over fifteen years I’ve traveled to some little elementary school gyms from King of Prussia, PA to Manassas, VA. To junior high school and high school gyms in suburban Philadelphia and AAU venues from New Haven, CT to Washington, D.C. , to State College, PA , to Wildwood, NJ and everywhere in between.

I’ve watched two of the five girls on the basketball floor be my daughters. The pride of walking into gyms and hearing, “There are the Kelly girls”, continues to surge emotion through my body. They were good, solid players that reflected everything their mother and I attempted to instill in them concerning self-confidence without arrogance, focus and determination, coach ability, hustle, selflessness, and teamwork.

Their mother was a First Team All-State high school volleyball player in Ohio and went on to start every game in college and be an All-Ohio Athletic Conference player for four years. I’m in my alma mater Athletic Hall of Fame and I’ve spent my entire life in athletics with the incredible experiences of coaching in the Canadian Football League, the XFL, and the National Football League as well having served as a head coach collegiately in football (twice), baseball, and softball. We watched our daughters race their bikes around the school parking lot. After each lap, they would jump off their bikes, drop to the pavement and execute 10 push-ups, get back on their bikes and repeat. We watched from our front window laughing saying, “What are we raising”? The girls were in kindergarten and first grade…competition and effort is part of our fabric.

Here we are fifteen years later watching the tears come down our daughters cheeks as her team, the Nazareth College Golden Flyers, are eliminated from the Empire 8 Conference basketball tournament. I’m hugging Lindsey Kelly feeling every bit of disappointment in the game’s outcome and fright by the knowledge of playing career closure.
Coaches from other teams and various players and parents are stopping to tell Lindsey what a great season and career she had but there was one young teenage girl that really struck a chord. “I just wanted you to know how much I admire you and what an inspiration you’ve been to me over the last four years. My sister plays for Ithaca but I watch you play on-line if you’re playing at the same time. I was diagnosed with diabetes at age two and you’ve inspired me that I can play college basketball too”.

The two girls hug and discuss the advantages of the OmniPod, a wireless insulin delivery system that calculates suggested doses with insulin on board and a built in FreeStyle blood glucose meter. Lindsey wore one in all 26 games this season with a sleeve covering it and elastic athletic wrap to secure it in place. It has proven to be a huge benefit in the assistance of controlling Lindsey’s blood sugar levels. Lindsey played 100 college basketball games and the only ones she didn’t start were due to low levels but the OmniPod made life so much more manageable.

Lindsey has not allowed diabetes to define her and she has refused to use it as an excuse at any time in her life. Her story is completely unique and I’m compelled now at the conclusion of her collegiate career to let others know her story and have an elevated level of appreciation of what she has and does endure but still proved to be an elite player at the Division III level.

Lindsey was diagnosed within a week after her birth in 1993 with nesidioblastoma, otherwise known as “islet cell carcinoma” at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
Islet cell tumors, like nesidioblastoma, secrete high amounts of insulin leading to low blood sugar levels, meaning the brain will not get enough sugar necessary for it to function properly. This condition is seen most often in ages 30-50 and more common with women than men. Only 3 in a million per year are seen in the United States.
The fact she was born with this tumor is very rare. Had she not been diagnosed properly, the low blood sugars would have resulted in death, with a likely categorization of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
For the first three months of her life, Lindz was fed every three hours around the clock with a high iron formula supported with corn starch to increase carbohydrates and therefore produce glucose to over-whelm the onslaught of insulin being produced by her pancreas. Every four hours around the clock she was administered Diazoxide to counteract hypersinsulinism. The side effects were increased growth of hair on her body including not only the head but also her face, arms, legs, and back.
Her mother and I were faced with the unbelievably difficult decision to remove Lindsey’s pancreas at the age of three months. The result of the procedure would save her life but render her a diabetic.
The initial thought process was to remove 95% of Lindz pancreas with the idea that the remaining five percent would allow her to function normally. After the first procedure, she continued to experience sever hypocalcaemia and an infection from her central line set her back even more. Another major surgery was performed completely removing her pancreas thusly becoming one of the few people on earth functioning without a pancreas.
Lindsey has had her blood sugar level checked through heel, finger, forearm sticks, every day of her life, sometimes as many as 15 times a day. Along with a minimum of two (sometimes 5) injections of insulin, (prior to the OminPod ) her entire life in order to sustain and keep a healthy blood sugar balance.
Lindsey has had a phenomenal college career in NCAA Division III. She didn’t want to be red shirted in Division I, didn’t want to sit the bench or simply be a practice player. She kept great perspective through the recruiting process and reaped the rewards ending her eligibility as the second all-time leading scorer in Naz history with 1625 points and fourth all-time in rebounds with 927. She broke a 35 year old school record as a freshman, when named her the East Region Rookie of the Year, for field goal percentage in a season and proceeded to break her own record not once but twice finishing this past season fifth in the country with a 64.7 shooting percentage and a career 58.9 percentage. In Nazareth College basketball history she finishes fourth in free throws made (336) and tied for second in free throw percentage at 78.5. She is fourth all-time in scoring average at 16.3.
Lindsey is a two time First Team All-Empire 8 Conference player and finished the 2015-16 season ranked first in the conference in scoring (19.9 per game-23rd in the country), rebounding (10.9 per game-44th in the country), field goal percentage (64.7-5th in the country), and fourth in free throw percentage (83.2-45th in the country, and second in double doubles (15-26th in the country).
Lindsey lives with her diabetic alert dog Punches. Punches was trained at UPENN Veterinary School in Philadelphia, as a working dog that attends class with Lindsey and goes to restaurants, shopping, anywhere Lindsey goes. Several times in the course of the school year, Punches has done her job and awoken Lindsey in the middle of the night so that she may address low blood sugar levels. The dog is a tremendous asset to the constant monitoring, checks and balances, and disciplined execution of daily routines that Lindsey has to pay attention to. Nothing can be taken for granted with a diabetic. Lindsey found great support at Subway Restaurant on Monroe Avenue in Rochester, NY in simply how they cared that her turkey sub was prepared to her liking and bag of baked chips were always ready four hours before tip-off every game.
So many people have helped Lindsey in her playing and academic career but no one more than Lindsey herself. She never cried through all the surgeries, poking and prodding. She would growl and reach for her Winnie the Pooh blanket. I remember when she was in Children’s Hospital in Toronto, also known as Sick Kids Hospital, covered in iodine and stables across her midsection, my father standing over her, staring into the crib, eyes focused directly on his granddaughter stating, “She is a tough one. She’ll be fine”.
Lindsey has proven to be more than fine. I’m just being selfish because nothing can compare to the gratitude I felt every time I watched her compete knowing what she has endured. Think I’ll just keep using this #ProudDad


 Want somebody to do something for you?  Do something for them!

I find myself to be more observant of human behavior these days.  Perhaps my experiences of the past two years have provided me with an opportunity to view with greater awareness how people treat each other.   The loss of humanity that I was exposed to through the media has ultimately been the catalyst of a consciousness seeking genuine acts of caring that draw people forward.  As a Head Coach I really believe that when people feel empowered they are more likely to use their energies to create results that exceed expectations.

I experienced one of those genuine acts last week at the home of my friend of nearly two decades.  Bob Sokalski is a Senior Litigation Partner of Hill, Sokalski, Walsh, Trippier LLP.  Bob has been involved in corporate/commercial, contract and product liability litigation for over 30 years.  He is also Counsel  to the Winnipeg Football Club and other sports organizations as well as media organizations and that is how we met in 1992 when I first came to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  Soko and his lovely bride Barb, requested my presence to an outdoor gathering which they invited chefs, waitresses, bartenders, and various other staff members from the Manitoba Club to show their appreciation for the job those people carry out each and everyday.

The Manitoba Club was founded on July 16, 1874 at the St. James Restaurant with 25 members when the city of Winnipeg had a population of less than 2,000.  In 1930, the southwest wing was added with facilities for “ladies” and families. In 1979 women were allowed to enter by the Broadway entrance and by 1991 were granted full membership rights.  This is an exclusive establishment and the membership expect attention to detail.

Creative use of rewards many times will separate leaders from managers.  Leaders are more apt to use “spot strokes” where informal verbal or written praise provide more personal and unlimited resources.  Leaders understand the use of intrinsic rewards that allow people to be creative and enjoy the challenge of the work.  Your people should strive for that sense of accomplishment that accompanies the immediate outcome of individual effort.  It could all be as simple as listening without interruption or other “personal currencies” such as taking a positional coach out to lunch or telling the staff to go home earlier in the evening to visit with their families and get a good night sleep.

I did these things as a Head Coach.  For example, after recruiting season, I’d drop a hand written note of thanks in the assistants mailboxes with a check for $50.00 (hey, it was the late ’90’s and in south Georgia, things were cheap!) and tell the coach to thank his wife for understanding and take her out to dinner on me.  During the season as we became engulfed in the midseason grind, I would return to the office from one of my radio shows and walk through the offices telling people to go home.  There is a “point of diminishing returns” after one has worked for 12 to 14 hours and I’d rather have my coaches fresh, making sound decisions in the morning than spend the morning making corrections from mistakes made the evening before.

Verbal recognition in front of peers for both players and staff alike go a long way.  Spontaneous and unexpected are often more appreciated and meaningful than formal rewards.  They demonstrate heart.  Praise and coaching are significant forms of recognition.  Human beings have basic needs.  We need to be recognized.  We need to be noticed.  We need to be appreciated for our efforts.  THANK YOU!  It’s easy to say and to demonstrate and is the most inexpensive and powerful reward you can provide.  A personal congratulation, a “way to go!” is a powerful non-monetary recognition of achievement.

Some managers make the mistake of thinking employees or subordinates if you will, only respond to money.  “I tip well, so I should receive good service!” or “I’m providing that kid a scholarship so he better appreciate it!”  Individual needs for and appreciation of rewards or recognition extend much further.  Extraordinary achievements do not come easy and will not be exposed in unappreciative environments.

What the Sokalski family provided that night for the employees of the Manitoba Club was far more reaching than a good smokie and cold beer.  They said “THANK YOU” and gave credibility to the dedication and daily demonstration of what and how things need to be done by this group of terrific people.  Soko linked performance and reward by giving of himself and demonstrated the ability to get the best out of himself and others.

I’m humbled that I was part of the evening and grateful that I can take notice of a successful leader acknowledging individual contributions to the success of a group effort. It’s really what coaching and leadership are all about.

It has been an interesting, rejuvenating, and exhilarating month for the city of Winnipeg.  True North led by businessman Mark Chipman acquired the rights to the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers to relocate in the Manitoba capital as a revised version of the Jets.  I lived in Winnipeg when the Jets departed in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes and the city has pined for 15 years to once again be a “major league” city with an NHL franchise.

The NHL had mandated 13,000 season tickets sold within a three-week time-table prior to the Board of Governor’s meetings.  Opportunity to buy season tickets were initially presented to season ticket holders of the now departing Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.  Of the first 2,000 offered, approximately 1,800 were purchased.  The second day brought the total to nearly 4,700.  When the ticket window, if you will, was opened to the general public the remaining 8,000 plus sold in 17 minutes.  Clearly the excitement of the market to support an NHL franchise had made its statement.

While all this was taking place, the Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League were also experiencing a rise in season ticket sales to record levels of over 21,000 with a club that is coming off the second most unsuccessful season in the franchises 80 year history.  The lure is the availability to have priority when selecting seating in the new stadium which is slated to open for the 2012 season.  This type of support reflects superbly on the sports audience of the city, corporate sponsorship, and the local economy.

The question that is presented has to be will the effects of supportive versus non-supportive fans, audience size, and attendee’s game sophistication provide an interactive force on the players performance? 

The media often makes a point of discussing so-called “home field or arena advantage”.  We can speculate that for a visiting opponent the demands of travel (twice in 2009 we failed to have proper transportation provided to and from airports added into the disastrous bus rides to and from Regina resulting in a 1-2 record…excuse me but I transgress), disruptive schedules, poor accommodations and meals within unfamiliar surroundings, give credence to home advantage and fans typically believe that their support is the heart and soul giving edge to their local heroes.

In a study of the National Hockey League involving a 20 year period, Bray (1999) found that when ties are excluded, the home team won 60% of the time.  In an interesting twist, Bray noted that the home advantage is not universal across the NHL; a small percentage of teams win equally at home and on the road.  There is a reality based on various research that home advantage is a fact.

Moore, J.C., & Brylinsky, J.A. (1993). Spectator Effects on Team Performance in College Basketball. Journal of Sport Behavior, 16, 77-83, is a brief paper presenting an interesting take on audience effect.  A measles epidemic during the 1988-89 basketball season forced Siena College and the University of Hartford play 11 games without spectators.  Analyses were conducted of Siena away games and Hartford home games; each team played a number of games with and without fans over the season.  The performance of both teams improved in the no-spectator conditions as measured by total points, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage.  Interesting results but not easily explained in terms of usual social facilitation, audience arousal, or audience evaluation theories according to Sport Psychology, Third Edition; LeUnes and Nation.

Athletes and coaches focus on the immediate.  The task at hand and the engulfing concentration that takes place during competition is paramount.  Although the Siena/Hartford study is very interesting I do believe that fan interaction, supportive and non-supportive, does have an effect on the course of a game.  Fans are susceptible to the effects of BIRGing (basking in reflecting glory,  ie; WE played well) and CORFing (cutting off reflective failure, ie: THEY played poorly) as it plays to group esteem.  Individuals like to associate themselves with a winner (BIRG) and choose to distance themselves from losers (CORF) to keep their sense of well-being.

Well Winnipeg, you’ve proven this month the effects of BIRG and you should be quite proud of yourselves collectively.  The Winnipeg Jets and the Blue Bombers will benefit from the audience effects on athletic performance and the experiences fans and players alike will have will be unparalleled in any other single city in North America.  Congratulations Winnipeg!