On March 17, 2016, at the invitation of coach Corey Knight, I was honored to address a group of 6th grade Chelsea boys basketball players and families at their closing basketball banquet. The team has played together for several years and had recently completed a 42 game season. Members of the team are: Caden Knight, Colin Hay, Lucas Dunn, Hunter Napieralski, Landon Napieralski, Jack Cavanaugh, Colin Wacker, Aiden McGuire, Carson Gray, Ben Strzyzewski, Hunter Shaw, Nick Fisk, Tyler McIntosh, and Chandler Cox. They were coached by Corey Knight, who was assisted by Mike Hay.
Here are the excerpts from my speech that I’d like to share with you:
Thank you, Coach Knight, for the introduction. It’s really nice to be recognized for being a former athlete. For the last 15 years I’ve been using a wheelchair, so this is how most people know me today. Unless you lived in Chelsea in the 70’s, you wouldn’t know I was an athlete. I love sports — they’ve always been a big part of my life. But they were never the only part. It’s important that you are well-rounded. Number one, keep up with all of your school work. Get good grades. Read books.
Play a musical instrument. Participate in school clubs and community events. But as I was saying, I love sports. When I was your age, it seems we were always playing something, three kids, five kids, 10 kids — it doesn’t matter, we always figured out a way to play a game. That usually involved a baseball, a football, or a basketball — but it didn’t have to. We just loved to play games and to compete. Sports will teach you a lot. I learned many lessons through sports that have helped me in life.
The number one overwhelmingly positive and valuable lesson is the importance of teamwork. When you play on a team, like your basketball team, you have 14 players all working together toward a common goal of being the best basketball team that you can be. That means you’ve gotta practice, listen to your coach, do the drills, learn the fundamentals and practice some more. Oh, and work hard. You’ve gotta work hard. Nothing that’s valuable comes easy. By working hard, and working together, you make yourselves a better team. It doesn’t matter who scores the points.
That’s the hardest thing for young basketball players to understand — because everybody wants to score points — but the important thing is for the team to score points.
That most likely means that the guy with the ball is going to have to pass it to a teammate, who may in turn be looking to pass to a different teammate who has received a pick from yet another teammate to get open for an easy shot. It doesn’t matter who scores the points, it matters that the team scores points. When I was a young dad and I took my kids to basketball games or watched games on TV, I always made it an emphasis to praise good passes. Great pass, or great rebound. Or nice pick. I rarely praised the shooters, because that was obvious.
Defense. Last week I was at the Big 10 basketball tournament in Indianapolis. Michigan was playing Indiana. Derek Walton, the Michigan point guard, played pretty much the entire game and until he hit a couple critical free throws with a minute or so to play, he had zero points. But in my opinion he was the most valuable player on the floor.
Why? Because he played great defense and shut down Yogi Ferrel. Oh — and he gave up 6-10 inches to most players on the floor, but he was one of the leading rebounders. It’s all about effort and so is defense. You have to play defense! Don’t let the other team get easy shots. Make them take hard shots.
So I guess the thing I want to emphasize about being on a team, is that everyone has a job to do, and for the team to be successful, everyone has to do their job. Now in basketball, most everybody has the same job.
Hustle, play defense, rebound, take good shots, don’t turn the ball over. In football, which I think is the ultimate team sport, people have very different jobs. The offensive linemen block their butts off. The fullback and the tight end pretty much block their butts off. And the tailback, wide receivers, and QB (which was me in high school) get all the glory.
But they’d be nothing without the blockers, and everybody on the team knows it.
I’m going to take this teamwork analogy away from sports where I learned it, and give you a good example how it works in life. I’m the President and CEO of Chelsea State Bank. We have 49 people working for the bank — a team of 49 people. I’m the coach — the player — coach.
Every year we send an annual report to the shareholders of the bank, to let them know how their bank is doing, and I write a cover letter. Here’s the beginning of my letter this year.
Dear Shareholders and Friends:
Here are the numbers for CSB Bancorp in 2015, although the real story is the people behind the numbers. And there are many stories that could be told, but I will keep it brief. We run our $270 million bank with 49 people. Officer names are listed in the back and they are not repeated here. There are 18 of us and all play key roles. But it takes an ensemble. Unsung role players include Mary Kay McHaffie, Shannon Hutchings, and Kristy Craft in deposit accounting; and Kiley Brown, Alex Smith, and Lois Plate in loan accounting. Meanwhile Tina Keck, Pat Beeman, Diane Thompson, and Sharon Ambs keep things humming in data processing. Do you want loan administration? You have it with Eileen Layher, Deborah Hicks, and Stuart Mann. Nancy Zander provides personal loans and Chrissy Fitchb does a lot of everything.
In the branches, front line customer service representatives include Heather Turnbow, Kellie Steele, Lori Percha, Emily Schaible, Brenda Bristle, Jacalyn Ludtke, Nancy Zyburt and Cathy Lynn at the main office; Karen Tobin, Julie Bauer, Mikki Richter, and Kim Hieber in Dexter; and last but not least, Adelfa Dowling, Jan Martinsen, Nadine Koch, and Carol Sykes in downtown Chelsea. These forty nine employees are all great people and serve our customers with distinction. The following discussion summarizes the results of their efforts in 2015.
So teamwork — respect for teamwork/appreciation for teamwork is the number one lesson we learn from sports. What else do we learn from sports?
Number two — We learn how to compete. We quickly discover how great it feels to win, and how badly it feels to lose. We play to win, and we play within the rules. And we hate to lose, but sometimes we do, and we learn to respect our competitors, and the integrity of the game. We win with humility, and when we lose we’re good sports about it. We shake our opponent’s hands, look them in the eye, tell them “nice game”, then go back and practice harder so we win the next time.
Number three — Sports teaches us to never give up. You may fall behind by 10 points in the 1 st quarter, 20 points at halftime. But that doesn’t meant the game is over. You play hard and you play together and you can come back and win. And that has probably already happened to your team, right? Yes.
I’m sure it has. And what a great feeling that is to come back and win when the chips are down. It’s a phenomenal feeling and an extremely valuable lesson that we learn from sports.
Twenty six years ago I went to our team’s first softball practice of the season and I realized my hand-eye coordination was gone. I was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and my condition quickly deteriorated. I was in a vicious downward spiral and selfishly felt sorry for myself and all of the things that I used to do but couldn’t do anymore. This went on for about six months and I was getting worse.
Then my wife gave birth to our third child and a lightbulb went on. You can hold and cradle baby Stuart. You can still hug Tim and Ali. You can be a good teammate and help Anne raise this family. Stop worrying about what you can’t do, and focus on what you can. And do it better.
Never give up. And life is good.
Note: This article was shared as a cap off of Community Banking Month last month, during which Chelsea State Bank has shared some of their human interest stories about how they give back to the communities they serve.