Monday, July 30

Olympic Track & Field–The Real Games, Part I


We are through the first weekend of the Olympic Games. I thought the Opening Ceremonies were spectacular and I’ve had a chance to watch some swimming, gymnastics, cycling, team handball, badminton, rowing and beach volleyball. But, to me, the Olympics don’t really start until the track and field (or athletics for the non-Americans) begin. And that doesn’t happen until Friday. But to get you prepared, I have some interesting links to share with you about some of the people and storylines that are coming up. Here are a few of them. I will share some more on Wednesday. It will probably take you that long to get through this material!


First off, here is another list of good, bad, and bizarre events that used to be in the Olympic Games. Some of them sound kind of interesting!


In the “What Are They Doing Now?” category, here is a follow-up on four great Olympians from the past: Edwin Moses, Greg Louganis, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Mark Spitz.


There is always so much that goes on behind the scenes that we are often not aware of. Here are some of those stories. For instance, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal about a friend of mine, David Katz, and all that goes in to making sure the Olympic marathon course is accurate. David is in London, serving as an IAAF Technical Official.


Then there seems to be a fear that the World’s Official Kilogram is losing weight. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds serious and could affect everything from the weight of throwing implements to the weight of boxers and wrestlers. Or maybe not …


Here is a feature piece on a friend of ours from England, and the Chief Starter for the London Olympics, Alan Bell.


Here is a list of the longest held records in track and field.


Here is the Olympic track and field schedule.


Here is the entry list for every track and field event.


Here is Track & Field News’ preview of every track and field event.

Thursday, July 26

Olympic Games Countdown, Part II


The Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games are tomorrow. Here are a few more items of interest to get you in the mood. Since the Olympic track and field competition will begin on August 3, next week I will have some track and field items.


Shoe Wars – Behind all the fun and excitement of the Olympics is business. But what is in the best interest of shoe and apparel companies is not always in the best interest of athletes. And these companies work hard to protect their turf. Here are a couple of interesting articles on the “shoe war” at the Olympic Trials and a “barefoot revolt” proposed by some athletes.


Incentives – Athletes who earn an Olympic medal are often given special incentives from their nations or sponsors. Here are some of the more interesting ones!


Olympic Sports – There are dozens of sports competed at the Olympic Games and every year new sports are added and other sports are dropped. Here are some of the more strange Olympic events that are no longer competed.


Five Epic US Wins – To get you ready for the games, here are five of America’s greatest Olympic victories.


And, finally, another touching video from Proctor & Gamble.


Monday, July 23

Olympic Games Countdown–Some Things to Whet Your Appetite


We’re just four days from the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Like many, I always get excited about the Olympics. Yes, I realize that the whole process is rife with commercialization, profiteering, and hypocrisy. But there is something about the history of the Games, the huge international participation (there are 205 nations expected to participate), the pageantry, cheering for people representing your country, and seeing the emotions of the winners (and losers) that make the whole thing fascinating. 


Of course, the main attraction to me has always been the track and field competitions. That has become even more fun now that I have had the chance to get to know many of the athletes competing – for both the USA and other nations. When my daughters were young and competing in gymnastics, we were great fans of the Magnificent Seven. But I also watch a lot of sports that I never watch at any other time.


What sports do you most look forward to seeing during the Olympics?


I’ve been saving some Olympic-related links to share this week to help whet your appetite for the Games. I’m going to share a few today and a few more later in the week. Since the track and field competition doesn’t start until August 3, I will share some track and field links next week. I think they are all interesting. I hope you do, as well.


Olympic Events – From the Boston Globe, a list of all the events competed at the Olympics and a little bit about each one.


Remembering the First US Olympic Team – I bet you never thought about them.


Olympians Face Financial Hardships – We often don’t realize how much many athletes sacrifice to pursue their Olympic dream. Relatively few of them get wealthy representing our nation.


30 Greatest NCB Olympic Moments – Though this just represents Olympic achievements broadcast by NBC, it is interesting and you get to vote one which of the 30 are your top three. What did you choose? Mine were Rulon Gardner (later of Biggest Loser fame), Kerri Strug, and Derek Redmond.


The 20 Greatest American Olympians – There is a lot of room for debate on this list, but at least they included Al Oerter.


Olympians in Training – If you’ve never seen The Big Picture from the Boston Globe, you have missed some great photography. Here is a photo-essay on Olympic athletes from around the world. It may take a little while for it to load, but the pictures are worth the wait.


I always hate it when I fall for a marketers plan, but this ad from Proctor & Gamble is sure good. It makes me want to run out and buy some Tide right now!

Thursday, July 19

“New” Images From the Camera of Gordon Parks


To many who are my age and younger, the name of Gordon Parks is unfamiliar. And that is to their loss. Gordon Parks (who died in 2006 at the age of 93) was an African-American pioneer in many ways: the first to be a photographer for Life Magazine, the first to produce a major Hollywood film, a writer, a musician, and a participant in the Civil Rights struggles that our nation went through fifty years ago.

He was also born and raised (until his mother died when he was fifteen) in my hometown of Fort Scott, KS.

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Probably his most famous photograph, shot in 1942, is entitled “American Gothic: Washington, D.C.”

Parks came to mind this week when I saw an article in the New York Times that reported seventy never-before seen pictures of his had been discovered. They were from an assignment he had from Life Magazine in 1956 that depicted life in South for African-American families in the era of Jim Crew segregation. Though you might expect the photos to be provocative, they aren’t. But they are beautiful and moving in their simplicity, which makes them even more powerful. Here is another New York Times article on Parks from earlier this year.

If you are not familiar with Gordon Parks, take some time to get to know his life and his work. His work is incredible and his contributions to our nation are important. Your day will be richer for spending some time learning more about this man.

Below are a list of links that can give you more information.

Tuesday, July 17

Leadership Thoughts (and a Video) From Hoosiers, Part II

Last week I shared a leadership principle illustrated in the film, Hoosiers. That principle is the importance of commitment to the foundational truths and values of the organization you are leading and reinforcing them in a consistent and systematic way. As you do this, you build into your organization and your people the values and competencies that allow your purpose and vision to be fulfilled. But what you also do is broaden the base of those who believe in and are committed to that purpose, thus expanding the leaders and resources available to you.

I highlighted the coach of Hickory High School (played by Gene Hackman) and his commitment to the fundamental values he believed in even when they didn't produce immediate results or ingratiate him to the community. At a crisis point, when he was about to lose his job, the local basketball hero - Jimmy Chitwood - gave him his endorsement and joined the team. This final piece (as Jim Collins would say, "getting the right person on the bus") helped to turn the season. The right players are on the floor doing the fundamental things that achieved their purpose. The team began to win and they eventually found themselves in the state championship game - the smallest school to ever get there. The decisive moment of the game came with nineteen seconds left and the score tied. Hickory stole the ball and called a timeout to set up the game winning shot. The coach called a play that would use Jimmy as a decoy, but it is obvious from the body language of the players that they did not think his plan is the best one. When he asked what was wrong, Jimmy simply said, "I'll make the shot."

This is my favorite part of the movie. At this point, the coach did something he had not done throughout the film. He listened to his team and he scrapped his plan for theirs. And they won.

Here's the principle: as a leader, you have to be willing to listen to those on your "team". The players had proven themselves. They had bought into the system. They had built a foundation. They were solid on the fundamentals. They believed in the vision and purpose. And now the coach listened to them to get to the next level.

We need to do the same thing. When we have people around us who share our vision, believe in our purpose, and live out our foundational values we need to give them a voice in the direction of the organization. They often have fresh ideas and different perspectives that can sharpen our strategy and make the organization more effective. This does not mean we abdicate leadership. We just allow more people to share in that leadership and take ownership of the organization and its success. In our ministry to college students, those who begin to catch our vision and live out our foundational values have a great deal of input in the decisions we make as a group.

The principle applies to any area of leadership. A wise leader will listen to those who share the vision, believe in the purpose, and live out the foundational principles of the organization - whether it be a church, a business, a club, or a group of officials at a track meet.

I want to be involved in ventures that are too important to be left up to just my wisdom and experience. But I also want to make sure that those I listen to are ones who share the vision, believe in the purpose, and live out the foundational values of the organization.

Thursday, July 12

Leadership Thoughts (and a Video) From Hoosiers, Part I


There really aren’t many good movies about basketball. There are quite a few good imagesbaseball movies. And several good football movies. There are good track and field movies, auto racing movies, golf movies, and even rugby movies. But there is only one really good basketball movie – Hoosiers.


Not only is Hoosiers a great movie about basketball, it also contains some great principles for leaders of every type. In this post and the next one, I want to look at a couple of those principles.


The first is this: We need a firm and consistent commitment to the foundational principles that will allow us to accomplish our purpose or vision. Gene Hackman’s character in Hoosiers, the new coach at Hickory High School, stuck relentlessly to what he felt were the fundamental values of winning basketball. Conditioning. Passing. Defense. Even when their was dissent on his team, he stuck by his values. Even when immediate results weren’t evident and the team was losing, he stuck by his values. Even when there was dissatisfaction in the community and his job was in jeopardy, he stuck by his values. He was convinced that these foundational principles would produce the results desired if he continued to practice them. And, ultimately, they did. Successful coaches are really good about this. But often times other leaders are not, especially those in ministry.


This is a truth that I need to remember. There is a vision, a purpose, to which God has called us. And there are foundational values and practices that will allow us to accomplish that purpose. But these fundamentals rarely produce immediate results or overnight success. They are vital, but often not glamorous. They are things like the centrality of God’s Word, a focus on producing disciples and leaders, and investing in individuals. They are values like teaching students about intimacy with God, integrity of life, involvement in community, and influence in the world rather than just getting their bodies to a meeting. These things are like defense, passing, and conditioning to a basketball team rather than slam dunks and three-pointers. They are the foundations of continued success and accomplished purpose.


But it is easy to get distracted from them and to start looking for the next new thing. What will draw a crowd? What will make us look appealing? What will make our audience like us? What are the “successful” (meaning larger) groups doing? What tickles the ears? What appeals to the masses? What is easier? What is more immediately gratifying?


As leaders, we have to keep pointing back to the fundamentals, the foundational values that long term success is built upon. We have to be convinced that if we continue to practice these foundational things – specifically, methodically, and consistently – then we will fulfill the purpose to which we have been called.


What are the fundamental principles that are essential for success in your sphere of leadership? Are you practicing those things specifically, methodically, and consistently? Are you keeping your eyes on the vision and purpose to which you have been called and the foundational values that will get you there? Or have you allowed yourself and your organization to get distracted and off course?




As a “treat”, here is a very nice video called Hoosiers Revisited. After the next post, I’ll add a video that features players from the 1954 Milan, IN team that the movie was based on.

Sunday, July 8

Olympic Trials Recap

I wanted to make one final post regarding the 2012 Olympic Trials, which ended last Sunday. Once again, it was a great meet with so many outstanding performances that it is hard to choose the highlights. Last week, I hit some of them from the first four days of competition. Now that the dust has settled, here is what stands out to me from the 2012 Trials …

High Jump Crew – I again had the chance to serve as the chief high jump officia2012 Trials - HJ Crewl at this year’s Trials. I was blessed to have a great group of officials to work with in Eugene.  They demonstrated professionalism and a willingness to work together to give every athlete the opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities and pursue their dreams made each of our events run smoothly, even though we had to deal with rain at each one. They made my job an easy one.

Olympic Standards – I don’t remember near as much concern about the Olympic “A” standard as we had this year. At this year’s Trials, the “A” standard (or lack of it) was conspicuous. In each of the men’s and women’s high jumps, only four athletes entered the Trials with an Olympic “A” standard. And, in each case, one of those athletes didn’t make the finals. Which means that the three who had that standard were the only ones eligible to go to London unless someone new cleared the height on that day. Though we have plenty of qualifiers in the sprints and hurdles, that’s not the case in many events. There were multiple athletes who came through with clutch “A” performances at the Trials. If you look at the US team going to London, you will notice that we aren’t sending full squads in any of the race walks, either triple jump (only one qualifier for the women), the men’s hammer, or the decathlon. (You can see the squads, minus the relay pools, here. Because of standards, not all qualifiers finished in the top three. For example, in the men's javelin, neither the first or second place finisher at the Trials is going to London, but place 3-5. In the women's 10,000 meters, Trial finishers 1, 4, and 7 make up the Olympic team.) All this seems to point to a decreasing depth among track and field athletes in the US, even though track and field is the top participation sport for high school girls and number two for boys. We are losing more and more of our top athletes to other sports because the generate more recognition, more scholarships, and more lucrative careers.

Clutch Performances – One of the most exciting parts of the 2012 Trials were the clutch performances by so many of them to not only make the team, but achieve the needed standard. There are too many to mention, but time and time again – from the men’s 10,000 meters on the first day to the women’s long jump on the last day – athlete after athlete came up with the performance of their lives to punch their ticket to London.

Galen Rupp – F2012 Trials - Galen Rupprom his high school days, Rupp has been the great hope of American distance running. And he has lived up to that. I remember watching him at the 2009 NCAA Championships, stopping during the 5,000 meter final to put his shoe back on and then still decisively beating the rest of the field. At this year’s Trials, he won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races. In the 5,000, he beat Bernard Lagat (who finished second at last year’s World Championships) for the first time in thirteen races and broke Steve Prefontaine’s Olympic Trials record, which has stood since 1972.

Women’s High Jump – This year’s women’s high jump was special. First of all, there were great performances by both Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett. Both cleared 6’ 7”, which for Barrett was a two inch personal best. If they jump that way in London, both could vie for medals. Another reason was the excitement generated for the event. Much of that came from Chaunte, her “showmanship” and her efforts to involve the crowd. But all the athletes benefitted from it. 2012 Trials - Amy AcuffFinally, it was special because it featured the past, present, and future of the event. Chaunte and Brigetta are in their primes (or entering their primes). But there was also Amy Acuff, making her fifth Olympic team. She will be 37 by the time the London Games start. And then there was 15-year-old Gabby Williams. She was too young to participate in the USATF Junior Championships earlier this summer, so she came to the Trials. She finished fifth, jumping 6’ 2.25”. In doing so, she tied the 21-year-old national record for high school sophomores – a record owned by Amy Acuff.

Razorback Olympians – It is always exciting to see some of the Razorback athletes make the US Team. On this year’s US squad will be Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, Jr., and Jeremy Scott. Of course, there will also be Razorbacks on other squads: Marek Niit (Estonia), Alistair Craig (Ireland), Raymond Higgs (Bahamas), Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica), Regina George (Nigeria), and Tina Sutej (Slovenia). There are probably others that I’m missing.

Ashton Eaton – World Record in the Decathlon. Enough said.

The Dead Heat – We may never know the whole story and there are plenty of conspiracy theories.

2012 Trials - Nieto Rejoices
The Agony and the Ecstasy – The drama of the Trials are what make them so compelling. There is the ecstasy: Jamie Nieto winning the high jump after not getting to go four years ago because of no “A” standard, Dathan Ritzenheim placing third and hitting the standard in the men’s 10,000 after placing fourth a few weeks ago in the marathon Trials, Brittany Borman winning and PRing with an “A” standard in the javelin on her last throw, Lance Brooks doing the same thin2012 Trials - Bryan Clayg in the discus, Chelsea Hayes PRing by over a foot in the women’s long jump. The list could go on and on. But there is also the agony: Bryan Clay realizing his quest to be the first man to medal in the Decathlon in three Olympics had come to an end, Julia Lucas struggling down the stretch in the 5,000 meters only to lose the last spot by .04 seconds, and all the others who spent that last four years preparing for this chance only to see their dreams not come true.