Monday, September 21, 2009

A review of Calipari's book

A reprint of my Sept. 3 SlapShot column published in the Woodford Sun

I spend an inordinate amount of time involved with sports, not only in my professional life, but also personally.

Obviously, sports consume my workday. Off the “clock” I watch sports as a fan and participate as an athlete. My experience in college hockey was an extremely significant part of my life.

With all of this focus on sports, I have to confess that I sometimes struggle with the significance of that which consumes so much of my life. I mean really … sports – so what?

Every once in a while, while in the heat of competition or pontificating on this game or that team, I hear that little voice.

“Dude, it’s just a game.”

But from time to time, something comes along to remind me that the valuable lessons learned on the fields and courts of athletic competition apply in my everyday life.

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari’s new book Bounce Back serves as such a reminder.

For those of you looking for a “sports” book in the strictest sense of the word will find yourself disappointed. Fear not Cat fan, the book has plenty of references to basketball, and provides some interesting insights into the heart and mind of your coach. But Calipari’s focus really centers on practical ways to bounce back from setbacks in life. The book was written to help you – not entertain.

Drawing primarily from his experience of getting fired from the New Jersey Nets, and to a lesser degree Memphis’ loss to Kansas in the 2008 National Championship game, Calipari takes the reader through a step-by-step process in dealing with and overcoming setbacks, whether personal or professional. His advice focuses on practical steps – surrounding yourself with people who can help, maintaining a positive attitude, being proactive and engaging in serious self-evaluation. Bounce Back even contains interactive exercises throughout.

As regular readers know, I’m not much of a Wildcat fan, so I wasn’t exactly ga-ga about reading a book by the Wildcat coach. But the publisher sent me a prerelease, so I decided give it a read. I’m about two-thirds through and I have to admit, the more I read, the more impressed I become.

The book makes for something of an odd read because Calipari wrote it assuming that the reader is in the midst of a setback. It takes you step-by-step through the process of dealing with personal adversity, from the moment of the “trigger event”, the anger and frustration, and all the way through to the ultimate success of the bounce back.

I’m not experiencing any type of setback in my own life, so it was initially a little hard to relate. But as I got into the book, I started to recognize principles I can adopt.

My wife will tell you that I am NOT an optimistic person by nature. I’m definitely a “glass half empty” kind of guy. But in reading through the chapter entitled “Next – the Power of Amnesia,” I realized I would be far better off to develop a more positive attitude and dwell less on the negative.

The underlying message Calipari communicates is that we control our own destiny. We will always encounter obstacles, but how we face them will determine the course of our journey. Too many people ride through this world as passengers in their own lives.

What a waste.

“You have to be adaptable; you will do that by having a positive attitude, unrivaled energy and a vision of where you’re headed,” Calipari writes.

Honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of rah-rah self-help books. But as I’ve read through Bounce Back I’ve realized that so many of those simple principles I’ve learned out on the ice – self discipline, hard work, a positive attitude and a refusal to quit apply just as much in “real life.” I need to utilize those same principles in my work and my relationships.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of the book – even you Louisville fans.

Maybe sport isn’t as insignificant as I sometimes think.

Quick Shots

A couple of weeks into the fall and Woodford County High School has three undefeated teams. Both the girls’ and boys’ soccer team are 3-0-1 and the football team is a perfect 2-0. All three squads show a lot of promise, but they’ve also shown they still have a lot of work to do.

The Wildcats open their football season this weekend against Miami of Ohio. The Cats have a pretty tough schedule. After its opener against the Redhawks, UK has a bye and then 11 straight games, starting with Louisville on Sept. 19. As usual, Wildcat fans seem a little over optimistic. I’ve heard many UK faithful on talk radio predicting a 9-3 or 8-4 season. Looking through the schedule, I would call 7-5 optimistic. The team should beat Miami and Louisville, but after that I look for them to lose three of their four games against Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Auburn. Of the remaining games, Mississippi State, Vandy and Georgia certainly don’t rank as gimmies. Then there is Tennessee. The Vols are rebuilding under new coach Lane Kiffin. Maybe this is the year the Big Blue will finally take down the dreaded Volunteers. At least they play at home so they won’t have to listen to “Rocky Top” 1,000 times.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough pre-season football. I’m ready for the real thing!

And on a personal note, I’m thrilled that the ice is back up at the Lexington Ice Center. That means one thing – hockey time!

Quote of the Week

“I've got six players coming in who think they poop ice cream.”
-UK coach John Calipari on his heralded recruiting class

Puck to the Head

They make this SO easy. This week’s puck flies at former UK coach Billy Gillispie. Alleged drunk driving. The upside for Wildcat faithful is that he just made the University of Kentucky administration look like geniuses.

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