Thoughts regarding sports and mentoring.
Caution: Severe Tennessee Titan, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Cubs, and Scott Stallings bias.

Aaron

July 30th, 2015 | Comments Off on Aaron

I will always remember the first time I met Aaron.

Aaron Catholic

It was the second week of an already promising season. And although his team was off to a rough start at 0-1 with another difficult opponent looming, they were still the prohibitive favorites to win another state title.

Winning is something that comes easy to Aaron, his charisma and intelligence are matched only by his ability to turn seemingly impossible plays into effortless displays of athleticism on the field.

Today was different. Today Aaron was going to lose.

Milling about practices is a regular activity as a mentor with The Lead Block, supporting a current player or discovering a student in search of their destiny.

Looking

Murmurs from the players and coaches are what I noticed first, then the reason came into view. A school administrator, still adorned in suit and tie, walked purposefully and solemnly towards the head coach.

The whispered gossip was enough to piece together that Aaron was in trouble.

After a quick exchange between administrator and coach, Aaron was motioned to join the impromptu meeting. A simple September practice faded to silence.

With a labored nod, Aaron turned and trotted towards the locker room.

His season was over.

The entire team had just witnessed Aaron’s expulsion from school.

A few weeks later, Aaron and I met briefly for lunch to discuss his future. And he agreed that mentoring was something he would be interested in trying out.

34 mentoring appointments, 8 tutoring sessions, a raised ACT score, and college scholarship offer later, Aaron changed his destiny.

Aaron told me over lunch today (the day I wrote this post) that he did not know what to think of a complete stranger calling him up, offering to meet for lunch, and talk about his future. He was not looking for a mentor.

But, we were looking for him.

BenDariusKevin

Partner with us (CLICK HERE) so The Lead Block can find 5 more Aarons on fields, courts, and in classrooms all over Knoxville.

By the way, Aaron did end up returning to play his senior year and led his team to what would ultimately be the first of three consecutive state titles.  That May, he graduated high school on-time and is currently working towards finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the University of Tennessee.

Aaron plans to start his own business later this year, purchasing homes in Knoxville, fixing them up, and renting them out to families that need affordable housing.

“Those breakfast talks are the best foundation I could have right now.” – Aaron

Remember, it is Aaron that deserves all the credit.  Because at The Lead Block, we will always be about the players scoring their destiny.

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Best Red – No Love Lost

April 28th, 2015 | Comments Off on Best Red – No Love Lost

Short takes on relevant sports and character issues.

scuffleThe NBA playoffs are here and not disappointing, delivering highlights and some of the best basketball from most of the best teams. Unfortunately, in two of the more lopsided playoff series, physicality is getting out of hand.

 

1. No Love Lost

love
Thankfully the the Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets series only experienced small, chippy moments from its Game 4 – Boston vs. Cleveland, on the other hand, was completely out of control. One ejection, two technical fouls, two unnecessary and unwarranted injuries, and three games lost to suspension.

NBA officials on and off the court are not to blame. The lowered standards of coaches and players are the real culprit. When respect for each other and the game take a backseat to “competitiveness,” “pride,” and other sports lingo masking players and coaches’ poor sportsmanship in losing efforts, the results are as ridiculous as burning down a CVS.

 

2. Riot Mom

riot mom
The tragic story of Freddie Gray and the subsequent Baltimore riots created an unexpected and interesting twist on Monday, when a mother of a young, masked rioter publicly reprimanded her son in front of the entire nation.

Mentors, coaches, teachers, and community leaders can never take the place of an involved parent.  If you are a contributing member of society, call your mother or father today and thank them. If you are not, you better hope your mother does not find out and humiliate you on national television.

 

3. Respect and Authority

Suspect Dies Baltimore
The increasing public displays of disrespect for officials in sports is a prophetic warning for a culture moving in the same direction. Consider how the world’s diminishing respect for authority will culminate in more and larger displays of violence like Ferguson to Baltimore.

It starts with a parent at the ballpark screaming obscenities at a little league umpire or dressing down a teacher for grading too harshly at a parent-teacher conference.

It continues with professional athletes using homophobic slurs towards the commissioner of their league and a congressmen shouting disrespectfully at the office of the President of the United States.

We can choose respect for each other and the authorities placed over us – especially when they make mistakes. Only then will we be in any position to affect change over the true injustices that are happening all around us.

 

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Hopeless

October 29th, 2014 | Comments Off on Hopeless

The Department of Education estimates that 1.2 million students are homeless.

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Let that sink in.

This is the highest figure in the history of the United States.  Of those 1.2 million, Sports Illustrated extrapolates that 100,000 of those students are student athletes.

 

“By age 12, 83% of homeless students have been exposed to at least one serious violent event”

“A 2011 study of homeless youth in Salt Lake City found that 84% had experienced physical and/or sexual abuse as minors”

“Homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children and are five times more likely suffer gastrointestinal problems”

“Only 51% of homeless high school students tested nationwide met or exceeded state proficiency standards in math [and only] 49% met or exceeded proficiency in reading [in 2012-13]”  ::Sports Illustrated, 2014::

 

If that does not motivate you to do something, stop reading.

High school and college athletics are a genuine passion of mine, but they are just games. For The Lead Block, it is really about the student athletes.

Mentoring, challenging, and paving the way for the homeless, hopeless, under performing, abused and hungry student athletes to leverage their gifts on and off the field to create a future they will want to live in.

We work with players whose fathers, uncles, and brothers are serving terms in prison. Players whose breakfast mentoring appointments will provide the only breakfast the player will eat all week. Players who, only until recently, had no aspirations of attending college.

We are making a difference.

One player at a time.

We are looking to add 5 more players in January of 2015.  And we are asking for you to join us and sponsor a player today.

 

Call (865-896-9666) or email (Drew@TheLeadBlock.com) us today and make a difference in the life of a student.

:: Sponsors receive monthly player updates, a Lead Block Nike Dri-fit shirt, and a chance for 2 sideline passes to the TSSAA Football State Championships ::

 

 

 

 

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Disappointing

October 7th, 2014 | Comments Off on Disappointing

University of Florida Head Coach Will Muschamp delivers a quote that reveals the ugly landscape in competitive collegiate sports.

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Just two Saturdays ago, University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt delivered this wise observation following an exciting win over the University of Tennessee.

Well said, Coach.

Sadly, the battle of mutual respect between players appears lost with examples like this and this. The next front appears to be coaches, after this emotionally-powered blast from University of Florida head coach Will Muschamp on Saturday just moments after Florida defeated Tennessee 10-9 in Neyland Stadium.

First off, it is worth mentioning that Muschamp is on the coaching hot seat and this win could go a long way in helping him keep his job through the end of the season.

Also, sometimes it seems baiting by media and the fans that consume it, to ram a microphone in the face of a player or coach immediately following a mentally and emotionally taxing marathon of physical competition.

Finally, as consumers of competitive collegiate sports, it is important to be honest with ourselves. If we expect collegiate sports to be about character, education, teamwork, and the molding of young minds, then we need to begin behaving as though values matter more than recruiting classes, wins, and championships.

Coaches and athletic directors are paid by you and I (with our cable subscriptions, tickets, and sports apparel) to win games and championships. Everything else is a peripheral luxury that we blindly hope happens, while fearfully suspecting it is not.

We cannot have it both ways.
We must choose one over the other.
That is how values work.

Just ask University of Texas football fans about their season.

Does Coach Muschamp deserve a pass for his disrespectful and immature snipe?

Not at all, but maybe the blame for a man like Will Muschamp being given an opportunity to influence so many and be heard on national television does not reside in Gainesville, but somewhere a bit closer to home.

Encouraging coaches and players to give and earn respect is what The Lead Block is all about. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

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Respectworthy

January 21st, 2014 | Comments Off on Respectworthy

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman ruffled a few feathers with the post game press conference screamed round the world.

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Is there anything wrong with Sherman’s passion?

Not really. Players that make big plays on big stages in big moments should be allowed to celebrate those moments appropriately with their teammates and fans.

Still, it would be wise for the NFL and every sporting league to consider adding a buffering time after competition for players and coaches to reflect before responding to questions. Fans and media alike can still drink in the raw emotions, after the adrenaline is drained.

Is Sherman ‘classless’, ‘a thug’, or ‘a human piece of garbage’?

Not exactly. Hardly. And obviously not, although I do enjoy the quite ironic description.

Apparently, the high road is closed in more places than just Seattle.

Did Sherman miss an opportunity?

Sure.

It is clear after watching, reading, and observing Sherman on the football field that respect is a hot button issue for him. Respect for his game, his character, his education, his accomplishments. Disrespect him and be prepared for the business end of his bravado.

For the record, I do respect all of the above. He is a first team Pro Bowl talent who passionately volunteers and generously gives to charities in his community, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Stanford University, and is what I consider a genuine success story.

Still, Richard missed an opportunity to demonstrate transcendent character on Sunday. Showing others the respect they have refused you is both noble and inspiring. Any observer would recognize that posture of humility and grace as a position held by someone of power, worthy of emulation and respect.

The fundamental misunderstanding of respect is its origins. The giver creates respect, as the result of observing someone worthy of the gift.

Unlike a Kaepernick pass fluttering back to earth, respect is not something to be snatched out of air in a show of superior strength, intelligence, or chest thumping.

Respect can only be given.

So, the real question is…

Is Sherman worthy? And are you?

Encouraging coaches and players to give and earn respect is what The Lead Block is all about. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

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Carry On

July 8th, 2013 | Comments Off on Carry On

ESPN aired a remarkable story of two young men forever changed by the care and continued interest of former ESPN producer, Lisa Fenn.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 12.06.25 AM(watch video here courtesy of ESPN and ESPN.com)

This is just another example of how organizations like U.S. Paralympics provide opportunities that change lives. And how the care of people like Lisa Fenn can change a destiny.

“I did it, Lisa.”
          -Dartanyon Crockett, 2012 London Judoka Bronze Medalist

Stories like Dartanyon’s and Leroy Sutton are why The Lead Block exists. If you would like to be a part of changing the destiny of a young athlete click HERE.

 

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Hope of Hernandez

July 2nd, 2013 | Comments Off on Hope of Hernandez

Fatherlessness in America claims a new victim. Sadly, Aaron Hernandez’s tragic story is not unique or even unexpected. Where did it all go wrong?

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Fatherlessness is responsible for…

63% of youth suicides (5 times the average)
71% of high school dropouts (9 times the average)
75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers (10 times the average)
80%
of rapists with anger problems (14 times the average)
85%
of youths in prison (20 times the average)

(courtesy of Sabrina and TheFatherlessGeneration.com)

Unlike the statistics listed above, Aaron Hernandez grew up in a home with both of his parents, Dennis and Terri Hernandez. In high school, Aaron displayed his immense talents garnering national attention as a top tight end prospect.

And as late as 2006, he was still planning to attend the University of Connecticut, following in the footsteps of his father. Then, everything changed.

During a hernia operation, Dennis Hernandez suddenly and unexpectedly died as a result of complications from the surgery. Aaron was just 16. Terri Hernandez said,

“He would rebel. It was very, very hard, and he was very, very angry. He wasn’t the same kid, the way he spoke to me. The shock of losing his dad, there was so much anger.” (courtesy of USA Today Sports 2009)

:: It is important to note at this point, that I personally believe Aaron Hernandez deserves his day in court, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and that if he is found responsible for murder, that he should be held accountable. ::

Fatherlessness can alter the destiny of a child.

Aaron enrolled in the University of Florida in 2007, fleeing Connecticut and his troubles in hopes of finding himself or perhaps a fresh start. Instead, he found more trouble, including a juvenile arrest and several failed drug tests.

In 2009, then Florida coach Urban Meyer seemed to affect change in Aaron’s life. Meyer’s limited mentoring uncovered a clear understanding of the fundamental absence from the talented tight ends’ life.

“When your guy, your idol, your soul is taken from you, how do you deal with that? I just think there’s a part of his life that was not there. He needed discipline; he needed someone to talk to.” (courtesy of USA Today Sports 2009)

Unfortunately, mentoring is something that most coaches are not equipped to handle, nor are they hired or expected to maintain after players graduate.

Now 5 years removed from his time with Meyer, the 23 year old Hernandez is quickly sinking to the unreachable and murky depths of the fatherlessness life.

Becoming just another father that will not be around to watch over and protect his 7 month old daughter.

Fatherlessness does have one weakness.

Other adults showing up, offering the disciplines of life and someone who will listen.

Be a part of preventing fatherlessness.

Mentor a young man or woman today. They can be a neighbor, a teammate or classmate of one of your children, a child of a single-parent coworker, or any number of children that are a part of organizations like Boys & Girls Club of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the Mentoring Project.

The Lead Block has been showing up for players and coaches since 2011. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

 

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Best Red – Believe

May 26th, 2013 | Comments Off on Best Red – Believe

Best Red shares the best sports articles or inspiring videos of the week.

theblock

1. The Block
Courtesy of CBS Sports and Roy Hibbert

Defense in any sport is a precious and sadly fleeting commodity. In the NBA, a growing fear of posterization has led many players to not take the risk this Pacer did.

2. People are Awesome
Courtesy of YouTube and Andreas Norholt

Visual proof that anything is possible.

3. High School Training Ground
Courtesy of TED and Malcolm London

“Young poet, educator and talented activist Malcolm London performs his stirring poem about life on the front lines of high school.” Words cannot describe his words.

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Shake It Off

June 14th, 2012 | Comments Off on Shake It Off

There is a growing trend of athletes not shaking hands or congratulating an opponent following a tough loss.

Bill Belichick walked off the field before Super Bowl XLII was officially over.

A young Lebron James exited the 2009 NBA Eastern Finals sans fist bumps.

The British Olympic Association is encouraging its athletes to not shake hands in the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics.

And now Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are joining in on an ugly fad of not acknowledging an opponent following a tough loss.

Following one particular game (during the ceremonial sportsmanlike handshake line), I childishly told each player that they were bags of garbage and played like garbage.

Inevitably, word got back to my father (one of my coaches), who made himself very clear. Not only was I going to apologize to the opposing team, but if ever did something like that again, my sporting career would be over.

When you fail to honor an opponent, you fail to honor the game itself. And a game without honor is a game not worth playing, much less winning.

Aside from accidentally motivating your opponent to play better, risking further humiliation during the post-game handshake was a great deterrent to trash talking an opponent before or during a game. Who would risk eating their prideful banter in the grinning face of their victorious opponent?

If this petulant behavior continues, expect severe insults to increase, on-court confrontations to escalate, and respect amongst competitors to diminish.

Don’t believe me?  Ask Mr. Garnett how his peers feel about him.

The easiest way to practice for honoring your opponent at the end of the game, is to honor your opponent throughout the game.

The Lead Block challenges players and coaches to honor their opponents, on and off the court. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

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Hustle – 10 Year Anniversary

May 7th, 2012 | Comments Off on Hustle – 10 Year Anniversary

In honor of the Allen Iverson rant 10 year anniversary…

Odds are someone, somewhere is working on becoming a better free-throw shooter, blocker, writer, painter, barber, teacher, analyst, husband, or mother.

Right this very instant.

And although some of these professions and callings do not have scheduled off-seasons, life provides down times that many will use to sharpen their skills.

But, how will we use those down times?

Whether it is the off-season, spring break, a night we cannot sleep, a Saturday afternoon, a long flight home, or all summer, those down times are all around us.

Weight rooms, books, blogs, conferences, and workshops are as abundant as they are affordable. Agreed, some are better than others, but using our down time to level the playing field through information and technology has never been easier.

So, where is the new frontier of competitive advantage?

This last season with The Lead Block, I interviewed dozens of coaches, players, and entrepreneurs from all over the country and many shared how hard work, grinding, giving yourself a chance through effort was the difference for them or their team.

Not a new driver.

Not a new prototype.

Not even a new method.

Just hustle.

Much to the chagrin of Allen Iverson, the punchline to the old adage of how to get to Carnegie Hall is as true today as it was the first time it was told.

Practice, practice, practice. Or in other words…

Hustle, hustle, hustle.

 

The Lead Block challenges players and coaches to use hustle to their advantage, on and off the field. To find out more about how you can become a part, click HERE.

 

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