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4 Leadership Lessons from the Army/Navy Game

There are many great aspects to sports and sporting events in the United States of America, but they pale in comparison to the Army/Navy Football Game. This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend my second Army/Navy Football game. I first attended this game in 2007 with my dad. This year, thanks to close friend, Jesse Sabatini this tradition was passed on to my son as Jesse and me took him to experience this tradition that is now billed, “America’s Game.”

Being a part of the Army/Navy Football game is something special. While CBS attempts to capture the special nature of this event to the viewer at home, there is a different feeling of energy at the stadium for this event. This level of energy is only true at this event, regardless of the number of people in attendance. Attending an Army/Navy game with a little over 71,000 people has more energy than your typical college football game.

There were 4 Leadership Lessons that struck me while reflecting on this game.

Leadership Lesson #1: Love and Respect Your Opponent

The Latin Root of the word “compete” is com petire, which means, “to seek together.” The service academies compete WITH each other to perform at the highest level. It is true on the football field and it is true off the football field. The entire week leading up to the Army/Navy Football game is made up of competitions with Army/Navy in the Patriot Games. (Link to a Baltimore Sun Article/Pictures of the Patriot Games.)

This was true throughout the stadium, as Army/Navy fans sat with each other, communicated with each other, loved each other and respected each other.

Leadership Lesson #2: Discipline is King.

In a day and age when our attention can be drawn away and focused on the newest fad, good ole’ DISCIPLINE wins. Army and Navy combined to commit three penalties (three for Navy and zero for Army) the entire game. These service academies understand the need for discipline as the King to achievement. In a game that included 90 rushing plays combined there were exactly zero holding penalties, this is astounding and a testament to discipline.

This discipline can be transferred into our lives as the key to accomplishment; disciplined habits and routines place us on a path to achieve. Discipline yourself, so others do not need to.

Leadership Lesson #3: Know Your Strengths and Push the Boundaries

The service academies understand their strengths lie within their ability to execute in a disciplined fashion. This is the exact reason they run some form of the Triple Option Offense. The Triple Option is based off of disciplined execution and as a fan in attendance; many times it was difficult to understand who had the football. While the Triple Option offense and discipline is their strength, they push the boundaries of their strengths. When Army was behind for the first time in the game, their first offensive play was a lengthy pass play. Army was pushing their strengths because they were playing to win, and in order to win, we must push our boundaries.

Leadership Lesson #4: Celebrate Success

The celebration that ensued on the field following Army’s victory on Saturday was something to behold in person because it was NOT just the cadets of West Point that were celebrating it was EVERYONE, from top military brass, to enlisted soldiers, to retired officers and soldiers. It was not a surprise to see the cadets storm the field, but Army fans from the entire stadium celebrated the victory on the field.

This celebration was 15 years in the making; imagine waiting 15 years to accomplish a goal, you should celebrate the success. Great Competitors celebrate their success.

Success is celebrated because we love and respect our opponents; we have been disciplined and worked like crazy utilizing our strengths, and pushing our boundaries.

Enjoy the week and keep COMPETING.



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Are you an Inventor or an Imitator?

I enjoy sending out these messages on a weekly basis. It has become a true passion over the last two years to provide the Community of Competitors with a message to ponder each week.


I am writing this week’s message from a Lake House in Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania. It is a Chautauqua based assembly in a rural part of Lebanon County. The Chautauqua movement was based on education and looking inward to grow. The first couple of days here have provided me the opportunity to ponder this question: Are you an imitator or an inventor?


In our society, there is abundance of information sharing, including the sharing of great leadership skills or the secrets of success. (If you have read my past messages, I have shared some of these tips and strategies.) Many people take these pieces and imitate these steps or strategies, while this is not a bad idea; we end up living a life that others have designed for us. This is true in athletics as well, many athletes look to imitate those that compete at the professional level or we imitate those that coach at the professional level.


We must stop looking to imitate others and prepare to INVENT. Inventing our life of a competitor consists of taking all of the information that is available to us and making a conscious determination as to how we will incorporate the advice that is available into our daily life. Invention is lacking because of the amount of information that is available, competitors will blindly follow the new way of doing things. Invention is what has led me to this Community of Competitors newsletter that you are reading. Invention has led me to complete my first book, A Competitor’s Heart: 369 Days of Development. (More news to come on this over the next couple of weeks.)


Invention is there for you in your life. The great thing about invention is that occurs inward and we control invention. Live consciously, in the present moment, and you can invent a life that cannot be imitated.



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3 Ways to Bloom Where You Are Planted

“Bloom where you are planted.” –Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (1567-1622)


As a competitor, we are “planted” in every situation to experience every challenge we are given, so we can bloom where we are planted. In a day and age where many people are looking for the next great opportunity or the new fad that will push them ahead, many times we fail to realize the beauty of where we are in the present moment.

In writing the Community of Competitors Newsletter, I am here to tell you that when you bloom where you are planted, you will live a full life, one that makes an impact on others and one that will be recognized by others.

This was truly evident while I was attending my uncle Frank “Gus” Robins memorial service this past week. Gus was not like many of the people that read this weekly newsletter, he was NOT a businessman, he was NOT a coach, he was NOT a straight A student. Uncle Gus was a genuine human being, utilizing all of his God-given ability to impact others and give to others. As a vocation, he was a custodian in a local school district for over 30 years, not a glamorous position, but one that he utilized to “bloom” where he was planted. He bloomed where he was planted to the point that his memorial service was forced to start 20 minutes late as a result of the number of people who wanted to pay their respects to his family.

The message in this newsletter is that you do not have to be a person in a leadership position, a Division I athlete, a head coach, or a high-ranking corporate warrior to have an impact. We read blogs and stories all the time of high and mighty coaches, business people, or high-level athletes that trumpet their ability to handle adversity and rise to the top; these are great stories, but it is the daily warrior that impacts the most people and creates a lasting legacy. When you “bloom where you are planted,” you impact those around you.

Here are three simple ways to “bloom” where you are planted:

  1. Use what you currently have, not what you wish you had.
  2. Be a giver. Share more than you take.
  3. Do the little things that do not seem to matter.

You are called to accept the challenge of blooming where you are planted. You are called to have an impact and leave a legacy in all of your endeavors. As a member of this Community of Competitors, you are committed to blooming where you are planted. This analogy by Saint Francis de Sales was not chosen or used by accident, where one flower blooms, there are many other flowers that follow. The same is true for people, where one competitor blooms, other competitors will grow and bloom. This is a Commandment of the Competitor, bloom where you are planted and others around you will bloom.

This week, look around; enjoy your current challenges and opportunities to bloom where you are planted.

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Leadership Lessons from Winston Churchill

“I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod.”

– Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister 1940-1945 and 1951-1955

Leadership requires evaluation to determine what approach is best for a given situation; genuine leaders do not require motivation or prompting to move into action.

Leaders have learned that leadership is based on action and a continual movement forward. The continual movement forward is controlled, allowing for awareness and response to any situation that may occur. This was true of Winston Churchill during his time as Prime Minister of Great Britain. As time has passed since his two stints as Prime Minister of Great Britain, his legend grows, but it grows for good reason, he was one of the great leaders of the 20th century.   The leadership that Churchill displayed during World War II was based on his staunch belief that Great Britain would never surrender. His repetition of this belief in a variety of sayings continually marched the British people forward to soldier on through the fight of World War II.

For this belief and leadership, Churchill did have to endure his share of detractors and critics, with some claiming that he could convince himself of anything. This might be a downfall for some, but it was the basis for belief and confidence in Churchill’s mind that became his actions. These thoughts and action led Britain to be the first group to stand-up to the opposition in World War II. This leadership created the fight to endure and eventually defeat the largest attempt at extermination and oppression the world has ever seen.

In the life of a competitor, we will never face an opposition as large as Churchill and Great Britain faced in World War II, however, with the Heart of a Competitor, the leadership that Churchill demonstrated with motivation to keep moving forward with belief and confidence can be a model.

Question of the Day:

What will you do to maintain your motivation to be leading you, your team, and your organization forward?

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Lesson in Leadership: Self-Leadership

Our focus on Leadership in the month of November continues.  In our first week, we focused on Leaders being eagles, soaring high with courage, being present and prepared when adversity arises.  (Eagles as Leaders Message.)  Last week, we learned about Nelson Mandela’s message on leadership and his view as true leaders being shepherds and facilitating the movement forward of the flock, supporting others in the process of becoming a leader.  (Mandela on Leadership.)  This week, we turn our focus to leading yourself.

Many times Leadership is focused on what we are doing outwardly and leading others, but true leadership begins with leading ourselves.  This is not a selfish leadership it is about preparing ourselves to be leaders.  Leaders are always learning, trying to make the great even better and it begins with leading themselves.  Personally, when I have lost this focus, I have been a poor leader.  If you lead yourself and what is close to you, you will lead others to allow them to perform at a higher level than they currently are.  (This is Leadership!)

Self-Leadership must include a plan for growth and learning.  True leaders are developing themselves.  This development does not need to be a great epiphany, but a commitment to becoming and may include reading on a consistent basis, some form of professional development, and a close, small knit group of people who will provide honest (positive and negative) feedback on your journey.

In the area of reading, committing to read for 10 minutes a day or 10 pages a day will allow you to read a minimum of a book a month.  You can learn a lot from 12 books in a year.  A book that I just completed is a newly released piece by John Brubaker entitled, Seeds of Success.  It took me a mere five days to read Seeds of Success.  Once I picked it up, I could not put it down.  The small “seeds” that are included in this book are genuine and great reminders to appreciate the relationships we enjoy in our lives.  It is important to let you know that I appreciate and enjoy the relationship we have through the Community of Competitors weekly newsletter.  Seeds of Success is the perfect blend of lessons woven into a story.  Check out Seeds of Success by clicking here: Seeds of Success Book.

Engaging in professional development opens the doors to hearing how other successful people are learning and growing.  You will also hear of the mistakes they made, what they learned from them, and implement the lessons they learned into your life.  One great form of professional development for coaches is to attend a coaches clinic or convention.  For the Baseball and Softball Coaches out there, we would love to have you join us at the Be the Best Coaches Convention in Atlantic City, NJ.  Check out the speakers’ page and other information using the following link: Be the Best Coaches Convention.  This event includes a first class line-up of speakers and I am honored to be playing a small part in serving the coaches that come to this event.

Continue to lead yourself to new and great opportunities that are all around us.

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November is Leadership Month: Nelson Mandela’s Message

“A leader… is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

– Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa (1994-1999)

Leadership can take on many different forms. Does the situation require an in your face leader motivating them to work harder and push further? Does the situation require the leader to be in front, making individual decisions for the group? Does the situation require facilitation by the leader so a group decision can be made?

As a leader, the Heart of the Competitor must have a pulse on the situation and of those the competitor has been called to lead.

Leadership may look like an eagle, soaring above, out in front all alone with the courage to handle the situation for those that fall under their stead. This view of leadership is probably the first one to come to the mind when asked to describe what leadership looks like.

Nelson Mandela provides another view of leadership. His view of leadership is based around a shepherd. His description of the shepherd, staying behind the flock is perfect to focus on the need to develop the strengths within the group you lead. Leadership develops those strengths and does not just allow, but encourages and facilitates the growth of those strengths. The support and encouragement the Heart of the Competitor provides to others allows them to forge ahead and accomplish great things, while leading from behind. Mandela uses this description of a shepherd because a shepherd is merely facilitating the movement and control of the flock and if he moves to fast, he will lose his flock and need to use time hunting and bringing them back into the fold.

The Heart of the Competitor evaluates each situation and places systems in place for success to be a byproduct of the process. Leadership can be like an eagle soaring above, with courage to forge ahead or it can look like a shepherd encouraging and facilitating others to achieve with support and direction from behind.

Question of the Day:

How will you lead like shepherd, facilitating and pushing the flock ahead while supporting others from behind?

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Selflessness = Your Mission

“Extreme teamwork developed when they transitioned from depending on plays for confidence to depending on one another.”

– John Eliot in his book, Help the Helper

The Heart of the Competitor realizes the importance of selflessness and understands that selflessness is truly self-sacrifice, the giving up of things for others.

For a team of individuals to reach the pinnacle of performance as a unit, there must be self-sacrifice. When the words sacrifice is brought into the equation, it conjures up images of losing something. The true competitor realizes that selflessness and teamwork are actually giving everything that we have to developing into a better person on a daily basis. This giving is a total commitment to the team’s goals, a confidence in teammates, and a realization that a team will accomplish exponentially more than individual.

This is the basis for Mr. Eliot’s quote from his book Help the Helper. This quote was found in his book when he was describing a basketball team. With a change in ownership, the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA began to focus their mindset on giving to others rather always taking. Each NBA team has sound plays they believe will allow them to be successful with their athletic ability. In the Trailblazers case, their extreme and unbeatable teamwork developed when they depended on each other, rather than depending on the play that was designed.

This is the compounding of energy. Relating this to basketball, the feeling that five are stronger than one, when five play as one. This is true of our hand, each finger plays an important role, however individually they are weak. When these fingers are placed together and work together, they become an important piece of a tool that accomplish great things.

Question of the Day:

Knowing that giving develops confidence and extreme teamwork, what can you do today to serve and give to one of your teammates?

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Ensuring Your Message Sent AND is Received


About three years ago, my oldest son, Simon decided he wanted to play catch with me. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and attempted to enjoy our first catch. After about 10-15 throws back and forth, watching him use his left hand to throw, my mind jumped ahead to the possibility of having a left-handed pitcher in the family. As he threw with his left hand, he also stepped with his left foot. I could only bite my tongue so long. I proceeded to provide high quality coaching and feedback to him. As I returned the ball to him for another throw, my high quality feedback to him was as follows, “Simon, use the other foot.” As attentive as a three year-old can be, he took the ball in his left hand, looked at it and decided to drop the ball and kick it to me with his right foot. He did exactly as his coach had said he used his other foot.


Coaching and pushing people forward to achieve at their highest level is all about sending and receiving messages. Whether you are a coach, a parent, or a player, you are sending a message, and it is important to ensure the message you are intending to send is the one that is received.


As a coach, involve the player in allowing them to provide feedback on the message they receive. Do not be afraid to ask the player, “What did you hear me say?” or “What does that look like to you?”


As a player, do not be afraid to ask a coach, “Is this what you are asking me to do?” or “Is this the adjustment you want me to make.”


As a parent, ask your son or daughter the messages they received during practice or a game. This can easily be incorporated into the Daily Register that was discussed in last week’s message. (Click here to read last week’s post on the Daily Register.)


The more I work with teams and individuals, the more I am convinced that success is based on the connection of the individuals in a network of energy. This energy is contagious and will spread creating a larger network of energy. The connection begins with messages being exchanged in support of the development of the athlete.


Players, coaches, and parents I would love to hear your feedback on methods you have used to ensure your message is being heard and interpreted in the way you envisioned.


Click below to complete a one-question survey and I will share the responses with our Community of Competitors. Remember our goal is to help everyone in this community become the best they can become.


How do you ensure the message you intended to send is interpreted properly?

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Your Actions = Your Signature

As we wrap up the Independence Day weekend and embark on a new week, I wanted to let you in on a little tidbit of information I learned this past weekend.  On July 4th, I decided to read the Declaration of Independence with my family.  (It was longer than I expected, and with the ages of my children, after about 1 minute I was the only one listening.)  As I neared the end of the Declaration of Independence, I noticed the names of the individuals that signed this document were listed.  There are a total of 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence.  Not surprisingly, the list of individuals that signed the Declaration of Independence is a Who’s Who’s of names engrained in our country’s lineage:

Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Jefferson
John Adams

The one name that is glaringly omitted from the signatures…George Washington.  

This struck me, here is George Washington, noted as a great leader, the man responsible for winning a number of battles in the Revolutionary War, the first President of the United States of America and his signature is not on the document that established this country’s independence.

This is yet another reminder that we do not have to be the first to be recognized as an integral part of a revolution.  George Washington is known for being a great leader as the first President of the United States, however there were many things that led to this first and it was based on his body of work, and established ability to lead, not a signature he placed on a document.  George Washington’s actions were his signature, and while his actions were not perfect, they were carried out with conviction, belief.

This week, focus on your actions, and forget the notion of perfection, and focus on conviction, for your actions are your signature.

Click on this link to check out Doug Conant’s Blog Post on 3 Leadership Lessons Learned from George Washington

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Recognizing Memorial Day

For many the Memorial Day weekend signifies the beginning of summer. The community swimming pools open, school year’s wind down, and family gatherings abound. Memorial Day is steeped in the tradition of recognizing the sacrifices that so many people have given to provide the freedoms that we enjoy in America today. The traditions and rituals of honoring and caring for those that have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty is a powerful reminder of the teamwork and commitment to each other that is a part of a soldier’s service to the American people.


The United States military branches are well known for “never leaving an American behind.” This is true for the fallen American Soldier as well. A fallen soldier is accompanied by another soldier on the flight home to Dover Air Force base and remains with them until they are returned to the family. We must continue to recognize those that have given their lives to support our freedoms. It is what Memorial Day is built on.


(Yochi Dreazen and Gary Fields wrote a powerful piece on the returning home of the American Soldier. The article entitled, “How We Bury the War Dead” appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 29, 2010.)


Creating teams with the Heart of a Competitor can learn two lessons from the way United States Soldiers are treated:


  1. Each member of the team is valued.

Regardless of race, ethnicity, or rank, each soldier is treated with dignity and respect. Their service to the country is honored and recognized.


  1. The struggle within your own team can change the way you treat each other.

The Civil War was a major reason the treatment of the fallen soldier was changed. Congress decided that those soldiers that fought for the country deserved to be recognized for their sacrifice and set up the national cemeteries that we have today.


Know that the struggles you face as an individual, a team, or an organization will change you. These changes we undergo are essential to becoming the people, team, or organization we are destined to become.