Shot on Goal and A Shot into the Head

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014


Our son’s lacrosse team plays in it’s high school regional championship tonight. The winner advances to the state championship on Saturday. Owen has been part of championship teams since he was 7 years old on his first soccer team. I don’t really believe that he yet understands how rare and even lucky is that level of achievement. They’re not the favorites tonight which is fine because they were not the favorites in the three previous games either.

Despite the pre-season promise for this team, the odds turned against them when their All-American teammate injured his knee rendering him unable to play at all this season. So, they regrouped, wandered a bit and found their stride in time for these play-offs. Regardless of tonight’s score, they’re the darlings of the tournament and share a collective achievement that time and its sidekick, experience, will burnish.

I drove to a morning breakfast meeting thinking about this evening’s contest. I want to find the occasion to thank publicly the injured All-American who participates in every game by instructing and rooting for his teammates. If you are familiar with lacrosse, he’s the face-off man as well as scoring mid-fielder making his absence twice as deep. His father volunteered to fill the role of Assistant Coach when the actual Assistant Coach left for higher ground because he felt that the All-American-less team had few prospects (True!).

I envisioned telling the boys that their achievement reveals one of the keen messages of team sports: that the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. I imagined myself thanking the Schmidt family for the superior example of finding a way to contribute to the team after Thomas injured his knee. I want them to know that perseverance in the face of adversity is the manifestation of character, individual and collective. How we compete describes our essence.

Then I had breakfast with the young woman who has a bullet in her head.

From a good family not far from our home, she was first curious then trapped by adults preying upon naive middle-schoolers. A calamity of compounding bad decisions led to a drunken binge, a flat tire in the middle of the night, a helping hand from a ‘man in a white SUV’, his robbery of her cigarettes and $4, his gunshot to the back of her head. This was in her second year of college.

Her junior year began with a crack addiction supported by a 24 hour per day concentration on lying and stealing to support her habit. Now she is a financial manager at TROSA in Durham, North Carolina having completed its two year drug rehabilitation program.

After the breakfast discussion, 25 local business types toured TROSA’s 470 bed facility and its $13mm per year revenue-generating enterprises including the landscape business, long distance moving services and frame shop. Their CEO, Kevin Mcdonald, is the most self-effacing executive that I’ve ever met despite his credential of building this business only aided by his wits and the commitment of the residents.

Again a moment for me where I was reminded, embarrassingly so, that my day does not consist of problems, my life is abundant with opportunities.

Kevin’s son is on the Jordan lacrosse team, one year younger than our son. Kevin and I sit together at the games because we like to compare ideas about what sports can mean and how sports can be interpreted to mean more than they do.

Now I’m wondering what did I learn at TROSA this morning? What is the essence of its achievements and success? It’s in the front part of the dictionary: acceptance and accountability.

Jordan High School’s lacrosse team began the year with bright prospects for success. Events conspired to derail the this path. I now believe that they accepted this and in a minor way, compared to the enormous change in behaviors demanded of the TROSA residents, and, maybe each in his own way, have agreed to a modified set of accounts and accountability.

There has to be a measurement to the contest tonight, aka the score; maybe there will be one more lacrosse game on Saturday night. That would be fun. What truly matters has revealed itself with the promise that many others, who may rely on these boys in the future, will benefit as a result.

Bonus comment: on one of the walls in the TROSA dormitories are handwritten phrases of resident advice and observation including:

Rule #1: Don’t Worry about the small stuff in life.
Rule #2: 100{915b2618a7c304f461205894c34b2284541042d3c677679407e2f30838792dcd} of life is comprised of small stuff.


US Naval Academy Alumni Association Leadership Series

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Last night, 11/12/13, we joined with the local US Military Academy alumni to welcome Casey Carroll to hear his perspective on leadership. Casey is in his second year at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. A better described and more complete bio can be read here:

Our audience last night included lacrosse players and parents from Durham and Chapel Hill. In a way, his remarks appealed to them as much or more than they may have to the nodding heads of the Navy types gathered. Casey enlisted in the Army motivated by the combat death of another Duke lax player, Jimmy Regan. After serving 4 tours in combat, Casey returned to Duke for his MBA where he qualified for a year of lacrosse due to the time lost as a result of the infamous lacrosse scandal in 2006.

His remarks were thorough and brief. He recited how lessons of youth, at his father’s knee nearly, served him well preparing others for combat. Casey suggested to the high schoolers in the audience that bluster is not the mark of leadership, credibility and authenticity are. His preferred leader is competent and genuine. And these traits are not gifts but the results of consistent, personal initiative. These attributes apply to winning a national athletic championship, directing soldiers in combat or working in teams in business school.

Privileged were we for the benefit of this man’s experience. As Casey recited, “We Few, We Happy Few..”