I would have left the bench Razor!

As the day unfolds, this loss is running me over! I am so sad for his family. As a father, coach, former athlete and a real fan of the man, I am crushed.

I remember meeting Ray Emery for the first time during rookie training camp. He was a confident, off the charts athletic young man playing what was and to a degree still is a very white game. In his time with the Ottawa Senator’s he became a celebrity of sorts for the great things he did and the not so great things he did. If he could stop the puck, he was granted an unconditional love from all. If he won, we would turn a blind eye to the behavior that the came with the trappings of success.

Fans loved the fact that he loved to fight but I always wondered why he enjoyed it. Did he enjoy it? Was it about something that ran deeper inside him? Were there demons behind the goalie mask? Was it part of his approach in his bid to succeed? Did it fuel him to succeed and in turn become his Achilles heel?

As a Senator, he drove a white hummer which would not have been a big story if he played in the NFL or NBA, but in the NHL it just didn’t sit well with the traditionalists. Everywhere that white hummer went so to did the attention of fans and critics. The white hummer reminded us of Ottawa’s small-town identity. Many a time I wished he played in New York or Florida.

He always seemed like he was trying to find his way. He got into trouble with the team for his tattoos. I was with The New RO and we did a story on Ray getting a tattoo at a local tattoo parlor on Rideau St. The team reprimanded the station and me for the story. His dying his hair blond created a stir even though a teammate a few stalls down had tattoos and had also died his hair blond all without recourse. I am not saying the team was racist, I just think the team was not prepared for an outspoken black athlete who was trying to find his way. Ray was an athlete trying to find his way in a bid to stay true to himself. He had Mike Tyson painted on his goal mask and the argument that he supported Mike Tyson the criminal, the rapist became a hot topic. The team convinced him it would be a bad idea to wear it after just 1 game. It was not a mistake by some kid who was unaware. It wasn’t about Tyson’s criminal actions. Sadly, very few saw the connection between the challenges Tyson endured as a young man making is way to the top of his sport and the challenges Ray faced growing up with his single mom and then eventually after she re-married, growing up in a bi-racial family. Like Tyson, Ray was a competitor. Ray was fierce and unstoppable. He would not take shit from anyone who judged him. He was okay with going through the door first and getting bloodied. Not sure if he was okay with being the hero in one moment and the villain in the next. Those close to him would know better. Would his fight get the best of him? Sure…just ask the equipment man for the team in Russia he played for. Ray slugged him after being pulled from a game. The mistake was the equipment man trying to get Ray to wear a baseball cap.

Of all his accomplishments he will likely be remembered most (on the ice and off) for his fighting Buffalo Sabres G Martin Biron and F Andrew Peters during a line brawl in Buffalo.

So many celebrated his willingness to fight. So many had hoped for it.

Watch the video and tell me what you see?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulyEnFh9Wvo

Now answer this question. If that had been any other NHL goalie and the opposing team’s tough guy went after him would anyone, everyone have stepped in? You damn right they would have! Would guys have left the bench? You damn right they would have. I was always struck by the mere fact that no one jumped in that night in Buffalo. No one left the bench. No one stepped up to protect their goalie. Forget the argument that Ray can handle himself. That is beside the point. Goalie on goalie fights happen (much to the regret of Martin Biron) but a tough guy going after your goalie is a no-no, or at least it had been until that night. Ray puts on a brave face, a knowing smile. It was as if the moment unfolded just as he had expected. He was on his own again. If Tie Domi went after Patrick Roy what do you think would have happened? If anyone breathed on Mike Vernon or Chris Osgood in Detroit, do you think the opponent gets to pass go and collect $200? Hell no.

The sports news will play his fight video over and over again to commemorate his passing and each time I see it I will get pissed off.

As a guy who has a background in team sports, I can say that if I was on the ice, I would have jumped in and it would have taken me a fucking millisecond. If I was on the bench, I would have jumped into the fray regardless of the consequences, come hell or high water. Someone was going to get fucked up. It may be me but at least I entered the fray. I take great pride in knowing that my teammates knew I would have jumped into the fray, win, lose or if I got my ass kicked. No teammate should ever be left on his own.

As popular as he was, I always felt like Ray was on his own.

One day after a Sens practice when Ray’s star was shining its brightest, I had a brief conversation with him, a conversation that began in the elevator and then down the walkway at the rink. Ray knew I played football and I guess it garnered me some semblance of respect and some of his time.

At the time, I was working with The New RO. the city was celebrity starved. How bad was it? We celebrated the likes of Marlen Copeland who was famous for a diamond nipple on a gold breastplate and not much more! By then the rumors of mischief were swirling around the hockey team like a tropical storm. It was the cities big little secret. Everyone wanted a piece of the team, with Ray being the preferred choice. A couple of my police contacts had told me stories about Razor and his teammate’s antics. The rolled BMW found in the farmer’s field. The pissed off husbands. Ah, the players were kings. Everyone wanted to be close to them. Every Jr. B wanna be wanted to have a beer with them. Single and married women have their tales to tell. The white hummer parked near a certain socialites residence in the middle of the day on a consistent basis traveled through the gossip mill. I don’t think anything can compare to the party that was the 2006-2007 Stanley Cup run. Maybe that’s why it’s so tough to buy into the present edition of the Senators. The party could never be the same. The team was great on the ice and the postgame was greater!

In a subtle, it was none of my business but I really cared way, I suggested he be careful. To keep his head up. That those who love his rise to fame would certainly also celebrate his failure. Again, he smiled that knowing smile, chuckled a little, shook my hand and said thanks. Then he walked on, alone with no one there to jump into the fray should another battle with an opponent or a demon arise. No one would be there to leave the bench.

I will miss you Ray. I will miss the young man who did his best to stay true to himself. The young man who fought, win lose or if you got your ass kicked. Thank you for being a warrior.
Rest in peace Razor.

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Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

The problem with the “fake it til you make it” approach.

Fake it til you make it!

Sometimes it works and sometimes…not so much.

How many times have you heard that great piece of strategic advice?  I am sure I have heard it over a hundred times in my lifetime but to be honest, it didn’t resonate with me until it came from Sir Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group, which controls more than 400 companies). Fact is anytime a “Sir” says something, people tend to listen with a little more interest and I did! It’s only a 13 second video but here it is… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoXhoZjkUVY

So, first and foremost, far be it for me to disagree with a guy who has enjoyed the success Sir Richard has enjoyed. In fact, I do agree with him. Faking it til you make it makes sense when you are in an “attack the learning curve” frame of mind. If you are entering an on-ramp and exiting at the next off ramp then all is good. The challenge of faking til you make it lies in the fact that we are all creatures of habit and we all have a knack of making the art of faking it a habit.

Settling for something that is mediocre is normal human nature. We see something we want, understand it takes a lot of effort and time to get it and then decide to settle for something else that is not exactly the level of the other thing, but it will do. We have all experienced it. We are creatures of habit and the more comfortable the habit the harder it is to break. The multi-million dollar self help industry is born from this reality. That is the trap.

We beat ourselves up because we are not the next Roger Federer, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Ellen DeGeneres. Sure they are all successful but its not like the clouds opened up when they were born and some higher power declared them destined for greatness. At one time they woke up believing that on that day they would change their world. We all do the same. We wake up poised to change the world and then by 9 am we have run out of gas, and opted to reverse our energy and put off to tomorrow what we could have done today.

I love the conversation between Susan Sarandon and Kevin Costner in the movie “Bull Durham”.  Sarandon plays Annie Savoy and Costner plays Crash Davis.

Annie: ...so you see in a former lifetime I’m sure I was Alexandria, the Czarette of Russia. What do you think?

Crash: How come in former lifetimes everybody was someone famous? How come nobody ever says they were Joe Shmo?

Nobody wants to be Joe or Jill Shmo but the majority of us are because we become competent fakers. We are indeed special but if becoming a star or maintaining your stardom requires an effort, the sheen from our star often fades.

The reality is we will endure more failed missions than successful ones. Life is inconvenient. How we managed that inconvenience will determine our success. What we do when it’s time to fight or take flight determines whether we are special. In that critical moment when we find ourselves in the fake it til we make it mode, we take off like a sprinter and soon slow down to sloth speed. We rationalize and negotiate with ourselves. No matter the outcome, you are guaranteed to win that negotiation. If you choose to battle then you will battle. If you choose to procrastinate then you will indeed procrastinate. You are guaranteed a victory when you negotiate with yourself.It may not be the best case scenario but it is a victory nonetheless.

Like an athlete building muscle memory, when we consistently opt for the  “fake it til ya make it” approach you will soon get used to faking it! Before you know it…the faking becomes your reality. Your original destination was the express lane but some how you got stuck in the collector lane.

I am often struck by the galleries that follow professional golfers. As great as the golfers are I often wonder how many in the gallery are wondering if they could have been the one inside the ropes competing rather than on the outside cheering, if they had just focused on attacking the learning curve when they took up the game of golf. Did they opt to “fake it” and then got comfortable faking it to the point that it became the comfortable threshold of their learning experience? They learned enough to survive on the course but chose not to develop an expertise that would have allowed them to strive on the course? Is the margin for error that slim? They could have been the man but now they are shouting, “You the man!” from the periphery. Now, not everyone of them can hit a ball 350 yards or park an approach shot like a valet parking a Ferrari in New York City but isn’t the victory found in the act of trying?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I played professional football. Now, before the trumpets resound and the crowds cheers, it was the Canadian Football League and I made $33,000 before taxes my rookie year. this after being drafted 9th overall! In college I was able to fake it. I had no idea what defense the opponent played. I had no idea about their tendencies or what they were trying to accomplish. I was getting away with being the better athlete.

That changed when I I was drafted by Saskatchewan. When my name was called, I walked up on stage to meet Bill Baker. He was the teams GM and as a former player he was given the nickname of “the Undertaker”.  As we shook hands he said, “Welcome to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, you are now a free safety!”. WTF! WTF! I am a free safety. I just played 3 years of college football and without wanting to brag, I had built a pretty good resume. I was a 2x All-Canadian, conference all start, conference MVP, conference Rookie of the Year etc. I was a pretty good receiver! Yet, they drafted Jeff Fairholm (U. of Arizona) 2nd overall. So, I am now a free safety. I could have faked it in training camp and returned to school but I was done with university life and quite frankly, I  think the university may have been done with me as well!

I wanted to play pro football so badly that faking it was not an option. I had to go into attack mode! By avoiding the trap of faking it I was able to learn and in turn compete at a smarter and faster level. Eventually, I was traded to the Ottawa Rough Riders and shifted back to receiver. Talk about looking at the game from a completely different perspective. Everything made sense. I understood the chess game within the game.

When I left football I had no idea what I wanted to do but you would have thought I would have learned some life lessons along the way!

I signed up for a computer programming course at the local technical college. The world of I.T. where I lived was considered Silicone Valley North and there were tons of opportunities available. I spent a year and $17k to learn that I hated computer programming. The suit didn’t fit. I faked it and did not make it! Ironically, I went back to football and when I did I immediately realized that it didn’t fit me anymore as well.  Rather than tap out, I faked it for a year, made some money and re-calibrated my exit strategy.

So, faking it is an option but it only way bears value when it is a transitory step in your strategy.

Faking it until you make it only works if you are intent on getting out of the faking it lane as fast as you can. It works only if it is a layover between where you were and your next destination. No one wants to spend time at Newark International Airport, Kennedy or LaGuardia! They are hubs that lead to greater adventures.

So, how do we avoid the fake it til you make it trap?

What does it mean to you? We are all going to spend our time doing something. We look with envy at those around us who seem to be doing what they actually want to do. Who knows if they actually are? They may be full of crap, living the pretend Facebook perfect life. Who knows? I do know that if what you choose to do means something to you, you are more apt to go the extra mile. The art of developing your expertise and the energy that surrounds that effort transcends any need to fake it. The will to dig in is genuine. If you are invested you are a sponge. If you are a fence sitter you are a stone.

Game plan. Have a clear and concise exit strategy. Have a game plan that features hard and fast deadlines that will force you to get to the next level. Put some pressure on yourself to compete. Don’t get comfortable. Set incremental goals and don’t waver from them. If you are close to satisfying them then great. You have the option to give yourself some extra time. If you are nowhere near the neighborhood of satisfying the goals then you may want to ask yourself the “is this really for me?” question.

Be realistic. Set goals that you can reach. Expertise does not come in one fell swoop, its incremental and modular in nature. I remember back in grade 3 when I convinced my parents to buy me a geometry set. I vowed I would use every item in the case. I would use both of the set squares, I would protract with the 180° protractor, I would rule the class with the 15 cm ruler, I would never get lost thanks to the metal compass, and so on with the 9 cm pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser and the 10 mm stencil. As expected, I did not use all of them…in fact I barely used any of them.

Find another fake it til you make it adventure: If the suit doesn’t fit then don’t wear the suit. Find something that fits or comes close to fitting. There is nothing wrong with moving from one challenge that may not fit you to another that may fit you. Life offers very few absolutes. Finding what is worth your time is an imperfect science.

Faking it until you make it should be a very uncomfortable comfort zone experience. At the end of the day, the goal is to create your own right time and right place.

——————————————

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

I am giving my brain away.

“I could while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain. And my head I’ll be scratching, while my thoughts were busy hatching, if I only had a brain.”

Friday evening…B.C. Place, Vancouver, B.C.

Somewhere in the red zone (between the 20-yard line and the goal line). I woke up to Dr. Mark Aubry looking down at me.

I asked him what happened? He told me I got hit!

“No shit I got hit!”.

I could hear voices.  I could taste blood.  I could hear the opposing players arguing with the officials about their ruling it was indeed a catch and not a fumble.  I could hear the crowd responding to the replay of the hit on the big screen.  I always wondered what an “audible gasp” sounded like.  Now I knew.

I had a couple of teammates telling me to hang in there.  Who they specifically were I couldn’t tell you.

I remember it all like it happened this morning which is odd because it happened back in the fall of 1990.

I had always assumed that you would not remember anything after getting knocked out, but I did.

A few moments earlier I was exiting the huddle after QB Damon Allen called the play.  The play called for me to run a 12-15 yard hook route on the right side of the line of scrimmage.  I went through my usual pre-snap checks and balances.  What is the body language of the defensive back covering me?  Would he play man or zone? Would he play press coverage?  Would he blitz?  I caught the strong side linebacker peeking my way which told me he was looking to cheat in his drop to his zone.  I was not surprised what with it being an obvious passing situation.  Just to be sure, I tracked the free safety.  Where he lines up often dictates the defense you will see.

On this occasion,  he was playing at depth (about 15-17 yards away and in the middle of the field) which told me he was going to drop deeper to defend against any deep passes.

Based on all of the variables, I had a good sense that I was going to get the ball.

As I took off on my route, my first steps widened me away from the SAM linebacker in a bid to avoid his trying to bump me off my route. I knew that once I got passed him I could settle at 12-14 yards in a window between him and the middle linebacker.  It was a route I had run a million times during my career.  I was confident.  Maybe too confident!  I got to depth, settled down and gave Damon a target. This was simple pitch and catch!  He delivered a dime hitting me right in the middle of my jersey numbers with the pass.  I was all set to take off up field in a bid to gain some extra yardage…then BOOM!

The last thing I saw were brown eyes.  The very same brown eyes belonging to free safety Robin Belanger.  The very Robin Belanger that had I failed to notice cheating up on coverage as the play unfolded.  Safe to assume I noticed as soon as he sent me into la-la land!

*Of note, I only knew it was Robin Belanger after I watched the game film a couple of days later!

After Dr. Aubry established that I had been knocked out, I miraculously sat up, yet was wary of the news that was about to come, because I knew something was not right.  I felt like I had gotten run over by a truck!  I asked him what the damage was.

He replied, “Separated shoulder, a broken nose, a few teeth had pierced your lower lip and you likely have a concussion.”. 

All were injuries I would recover from.  It’s not like I blew out my knee (which I did in 1993).  I didn’t think twice about making a recovery and getting back on the field.  The concussion didn’t even trigger an element of fear or doubt.

“With the thoughts I’d be thinking, I could be another Lincoln, if I only had a brain.”

Yes, I was done for the day.  In hindsight, it was also the day I subconsciously decided that I would play the game safe.

It was not the first time I was knocked out and thanks to a combination of forces (an ability to catch punts and being on a bad team) it would not be the last.

The first knockout took place in Ottawa when we hosted the Toronto Argos.  I ran a shallow crossing route and saw the LB on the other side of the field drop back into zone.  Cool, I would just gear down in the space he vacated and all would be good.  Yet, that was not just any linebacker.  It was all-star Ben Zambiasi.  He was a former Georgia Bulldog, tougher than nails and sly…very sly.  I had heard stories about Zambiasi but as a young, seemingly invincible fool, I chose not to give any of those stories credence.  That I regret…a lot.  I didn’t see him but I sure felt and heard him.  As I geared down, I looked to the QB and it was in that moment the lights went out. Zambiasi had dropped a few steps then torpedoed me and I was sent ass over tea-kettle.  The wind was knocked out of me but rather than panic, everything was oddly calm…almost surreal.  The best way to describe it may be he hit my Control-Alt-Delete button.  I knew I was hurt but not injured. I could hear Zambiasi arguing with the ref that I had ran into him but I couldn’t see anything! I tried turning the lights on by opening my eyes and closing them over again but nothing.  I know I scared the crap out of my teammates what with their looking down at me and watching me blink my eyes over and over again! Odd thing is, I did not leave the game. I missed a couple of plays but continued to play.  There was no “how many fingers?” questions.  I was asked how I felt and I said great! I wanted to compete.

(Funny thing is Ben Zambiasi was on the coaching staff when I joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats. My fondest memory was his plotting to steal the team bus after a season ending loss in Edmonton. I was an eager recruit but regrettably, the mission failed.)

The third time I got knocked out was in San Antonio, Texas. As a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders, we traveled there from Memphis as part of a 2 city road trip.  By then, I was trying to recover from a surgically repaired torn ACL, just finishing out the string!  Truth is, I never completely recovered.  My knee doesn’t completely bend.  The knee cap was bogged down with scar tissue despite my going in to have it cleaned on 4 separate occasions!  I was holding on to the game and was a mere shadow of my former self. Life beyond the game scared me.  During my recovery, I enrolled in a Computer Programming Diploma Program  at CDI College, even though there was nothing about me that screamed computer programming.  Everyone was seemingly in computers and they were making money doing it.  Why couldn’t I?  Sure, I wasn’t passionate about it but I was in survival mode.  So much so that I returned to what was in essence, an abusive relationship that was not good for me.  Like they say, “It’s better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t know”, and I knew football.  All for $55,000 before taxes!

Did I mention we were not a very good football team?  So much so, that the coach in his infinite wisdom had me return punts.  Now, I was never a burner to begin with but as luck would have it I was one of the few on the team that could catch a punt which is all that I was asked to do.  Why? Because every time we lined up on punt return we tried to block the damn thing.  Great idea if it works but bad for me if it doesn’t.  If we are going for the block, I have next to no blockers available to help me out.  It just made sense what with our being a bad football team, that we would be fail miserably in the category of “blocked punts”.

I swear I could hear the Texans punter Roman Anderson laughing before he punted one my way.  It was in the Alamo Dome so tracking the ball was challenging to say the least.  His hitting the ball about 9 kilometers up didn’t help either.  By the time the ball came down and was caught, I was surrounded by the Texans punt cover team.  I utilized the old “duck and cover” technique which fared well until the 2nd quarter.  As luck would have it Texans FB Tony Burse, all 6 ft. 220 lbs. of hurt, figured out my strategy.  He whacked me pretty good.  There were 2 sounds…him hitting me and my hitting the turf. This time the lights went out and back on quickly.  Just a flash!  I immediately regained my focus but in that moment, completely lost my will to play.  That was when I decided I would retire at the end of the season.  I also decided I was not going to return punts or play football for that matter on that day.  The trainer pulled me from the game.  I went to the locker room, showered, took a couple of pain killers and then drank a few beers on the team bus while listening to the rest of the game with the bus driver. He was pretty chatty and I had nothing to say.

“I would not be just a nothing, my head all full of stuffin, my heart all full of pain. I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry. If I only had a brain.”

So, I am giving away my brain.  It may be the only thing worth giving away once everything is said and done. I have had 2 cardiac ablations for an atrial fibrillation issue. My back and hips are stiffer than a Regina wind storm and my memory is starting to go.

I am a father to 3 wonderful, precocious children. I have a wonderful, patient partner in Pamela, who has gone to hell and back with me. I have been impatient, moody, confused and frightened. I have also avoided seeking help for fear that there is some real damage. Again, another example of my dancing with the devil I knew versus the one I don’t know.

I am sharing my story because by going public, I have intentionally forced my hand.

I have chosen to share my story because I have decided to seek help. I have decided to avoid the trap of thinking I am invincible, that I am okay and that I am being brave by “manning up”, by not doing anything.

If I didn’t have kids, I probably would not be seeking help. Picking yourself up and pretending you are okay and getting back into the game is not an act of bravery.  Asking for help is.

I would have continued to live in the silence.  To simply exist but my kids need me.  Elijah, Summer and Nate need me.  Pamela Joy needs me.

I am not regretful. I grew up in Lebreton Flats and spent hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  We did not have much besides big dreams and great parents.  My dad, Ken Sr., played minor league baseball with Pete Rose and Ritchie Allen.  My mom, Paulette, was and still is our Rock of Gibraltar.

I knew as soon as my dad lifted me up on to the ticket box outside Lansdowne Park so I could see one half of the field as the Rough Riders played the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, football would be my way out.

With that said, as much as I loved the game, Pamela and I will have plenty of discussions regarding our kids and their playing contact sports.

Here’s the rub in all of this. I have no idea if what I just shared made sense.  I guess that is yet another reason I have decided to donate my brain. They will likely find nothing (pardon the pun!).

Gosh, it would be awful pleasin, to reason out the reason, for things I can’t explain. Then perhaps I’ll deserve your and be even worthy of you.
If I only had a brain!

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Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

First Step in Leadership? Learn to Learn

I am coaching tyke football for the Nepean Eagles and I am excited!

My excitement extends from my love for the game and from my wanting to coach my 8 year old son who has decided he wants to play!

I get to coach kids up!

We will win some games and lose some games. That is a guarantee. Funny thing is the kids forget the scores of the games (win or lose) about 24 hours after the fact, so the focus for me is not on the scoreboard. Yes, I want them to compete but more importantly I want them to learn how to learn and the value of putting themselves in the position to compete that will invariably offer a high rate of success.

Now keep in mind, the team is made up of 7-9 year old boys who for the most part have very little knowledge of the game. They may think they know a lot about the game but in all honesty, they don’t know squat which is why I am excited.  They are a fresh canvas and their football experience as a tyke can set the tone on their relationship with the game as a player and/or as a future coach.

WORTH NOTING>>>The photo below is not of the Eagles! 

Let’s continue!

There is a great responsibility with being a coach! I have seen far too many get locked in on the trophy rather than the teaching! I have seen a lot of coaches enjoy early success but have no plan B in place when the opposition figures them out. Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I have seen a dynamic running back who is the fastest kid on the field take off on a sweep and score a bunch of touchdowns but look lost when a well prepared team neutralizes his speed. The kid is looking to the bench for answers and the coach is telling the kid to run the play, not wanting to admit that the play doesn’t work and that the failure to develop a plan B, a counter punch is on him!

So, coaching up means coaching with competency! Competency begins with a willingness to grow, to evolve.

Which leads me to share what I think is an invaluable foundation for anyone who is tasked with helping others up to succeed regardless of the arena! It could be  a tyke football team or a high tech startup. Football team or Fortune 500 company.

Initially described as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, the theory was developed at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970’s. I found it while studying former Navy Seal Mark Divine (https://sealfit.com) and how Navy Seals are trained in a bid to enhance their performance in the field. Now, I am not asking my Eagle tykes to plank for an hour but I will utilize the “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 4 stages are as follows…

  • Unconscious Incompetence – Almost all of the kids have no idea what they don’t know! They may think the way I coach isn’t useful. They will want to go run into each other with no sense of technique or skill because they are unaware that they lack the technique and skill. The only way to move to the next level of consciousness is to coach up until the light comes on. Once that light goes on..the real learning begins! By coaching up I can stimulate the kids desire to learn and that is when the game becomes a craft!
  • Conscious Incompetence – So, now I have an athlete that has conceded to the fact that there is a skill or knowledge deficit.  This is a stage where the margin for error is great! Coaching Up with a high degree of competence will set the tone. When a kid bumps into his/ former coach a few years down the road, how the coach taught that athlete in this stage will determine how they react. Happy and excited = coaching success! Unimpressed and disconnected = coaching failure.  No one is perfect. No one masters a skill in a moment. The making of mistakes in a safe environment is integral to the learning process at this stage. Explaining the 5W’s (what, when, where, who and why) is invaluable! Hey kids, this is what we are going to do, when we are going to do it, why we are going to do it, where we are going to do it and who will do it!) Again, it goes back to their becoming craftsmen or craftswomen!
  • Conscious Competence – The Eagles now know how to do something! Tackle, throw a ball, carry a ball or run a play! Yet, repeating the skill a couple of times does not make one a master. To get there, some muscle and mental memory work is required. That requires concentration! The kids may get the play right, then try again and misstep, try again and misstep, then try again and get it done correctly. Limiting the number of missteps requires a refining of the conscious involvement requires concentration. Practice makes almost perfect!
  • Unconscious Competence – Ah grasshopper! You are now a master! You have put the time in! The light is on, the motor is purring like a kitten and you can drive the mission
    with one hand on the steering wheel and one hanging out the window! The kids have had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Once the Eagles have mastered a skill they can now build on what they have learned and begin the process of mastering another skill. Soon, based on habit forming behavior, they can source out the new challenge and attack it on their own, trusting the learning process.

When you ascend to the top of a mountain, you don’t stand there overlooking the land below and exclaim to the world, “I am a mountain climber…lets go sit on the couch!”.

No, you want to climb more mountains. Bigger, taller mountains!

You want to build on what you know. You want to experience the “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” again, again and again!

My goal is to prepare the kids for the challenges that lie ahead, short term and long term. I want to coach them up to succeed in the now and for that moment when they move up to the next level of play! I want them to apply “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” to all that they choose to do and for it to become a habit that they can rely on in all facets of their lives.

By doing so, the victory lies in the moment when I bump into them ten years down the road. If they are excited and remember their football experience like it occurred the day before, then I did my job! If they turn the other way or have little to say…I failed!

Coaching and leadership has absolutely nothing to do with the little trophy they give you for winning a game. Changing someones life through empowerment will never fit on a mantle at home!

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popsicle Moments Make Teams!

I recently posted an invitation to leaders from all walks to consider kenevraire.com as a team building reward or maybe a kick-start for their team. One reader made this comment…

I have to disagree. Unless the reward is further education or training. Rewards are earned based on performance. If your employees are not provided with the tools, training and, education to be able to perform better, then your rewards program is going to fail.

So I replied with the following…

Thank you for your comment. I agree that further education and training is a great reward in a bid to elevate individual competencies but from a team perspective, the focus should be on “group” growth. I remember practising with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on what felt like the hottest day of summer. Guys were competing on the field for more playing time, for a greater role within the game plan but the turning point of practice and perhaps the season came when the coach stopped practice and opened up coolers filled with popsicles. Yes, it was only frozen sugared water on a stick but it brought the team together. The coach didn’t have to do it, but in one small gesture, he rallied the team and made the entire professional football experience quite “personal”. I remember sitting down with teammates from Tampa FL, Compton CA, Rochester NY, Winnipeg MB, Toronto On, and other places throughout North America, relaxing during what was a shared experience. Thanks to moments like the popsicle break, I was willing to go through the wall for them because I cared about them. I was going to show up early for work stay late and find a way to succeed because I knew they would do the same.

This morning, I woke up feeling compelled to expand on my position.

The cool, trendy thing in corporate culture today is the celebration of “the team”.  Truth is since the 70’s, business leaders have come to the realization that decision making should not be reserved for a few. Decision making was not the providence of a couple of voices in window view offices on the top floor. The expectation that the rest of the company as a whole should follow faithfully without a say, had begun to change. The value of input, the value of acknowledging that there is indeed an “I” in team – the invested, inspired, initiative-taking individual was a turning point.

Today companies have foosball tables, in-house daycare, open concept layouts etc. all in a bid to inspire and connect the human spirit found within the team.

Back to that hot July day in Hamilton.

I remember the team struggling and guys were not in a great mood. We had to bus up to a high school field located on the escarpment in Hamilton which was a pain the gluteus maximus.

As per life in the Canadian Football League, there were a couple of new faces competing for jobs, unhappy veterans who felt they were not getting their playing time, upstart players who wanted more playing time. Everyone was competing for a paycheck. The pressure was enormous but the fact is, it was just another Tuesday for us! It was just another regular day filled with competition.

The special part of the experience was the unspoken understanding that each man, though uber competitive and fighting for a job, would do all he could to help the team win. No one man was greater than the team and its goals. It was about the team for the star players, for the back-ups and for the practice roster players.

Yet, how do get a group of high testosterone, high energy individuals to buy in?

The coach could share an inspirational pre-practice or pre-game speech and some guys would buy in and some wouldn’t. Some players tune out and some tune in! Yes, we get that we have to play hard, play smart and do all we could to win. We have been hearing that speech since our days playing kids football.

I have not heard a pre-game speech that could ever rival the popsicle break as a source of inspiration.

As mentioned, mid-practice saw an unscheduled time out. We wanted to get the practice over with but Coach John Gregory called us to the centre of the field. That’s when he told us to relax, not press too hard and that there was a lot of football to be played. Then he motioned to the training staff to bring out coolers filled with popsicles!

In the blink of an eye, the entire energy surrounding the team had changed.  Everyone found shade, everyone shared and everyone cared.

I laughed out loud at jokes shared between Lonzell “Mo” Hill (2nd Rd. draft pick of the New Orleans Saints), Wally Zatylny (fellow CIS All-Canadian from Bishops University), Richard Nurse (Hamilton boy who went to Canisius College) and Scott Walker (from Lenoir-Rhyne College Bears – Hickory, North Carolina).

I learned that LB Terry Wright (Temple University Owls) and I shared birthdays (July 17th), I watched John Motton (LB – University of Akron Zips) do an impression of DL Mike Jones (Brockport State Golden Eagles) watching plays on the Jumbotron in the Skydome while the defensive huddle moved downfield away from him. At one time, the Toronto Argonauts complained to the refs about his being too close to their huddle. They thought that he was trying to listen to their plays! From that moment on, Mike was known as Jumbotron!

Getting to know your teammates on a personal level is key to any team’s success. It is the foundation for success.

The “popsicle” moments make a team. The “popsicle” moments get the team through the tough times.

I can barely remember the scores of games but I can tell you that RB Archie Amerson (Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks) was the toughest player, pound for pound, I have ever seen on the football field. I can tell you that no one understood half the things WR Tony Champion (Tennessee-Martin University Skyhawks) said and that no one will ever forget any of WR Earl Winfield (North Carolina Tar Heels) stories, including the one about fellow UNC alumni member Michael Jordan giving Earl a pair of NBA rookie season Air Jordan shoes and how Earl decided to wear them when he went out to cut the grass!

I will never forget LB Tony Visco (Purdue Boilermakers), knowing he wasn’t going to make the team, calling his own number to blitz every play during a pre-season game, which pissed off defensive coordinator Joe Moss to no end. Who could forget watching game film in the dark and hearing Coach Moss’ dog (half-blind poodle named Sam), bumping into the furniture?

Spitball fights, nailing teammates shoes to their locker rooms, a father and son walking into a bathroom at a player autograph signing event to see C Dale Sanderson (University of Tennessee Volunteers) with no shirt on and Wally Zatylny, also with no shirt on, applying temporary tattoos to each other in advance of heading out to Tailgate Charlies for a few beers with teammates!

I love my teammates. I was willing to pay the price asked of football players because of how I felt about my teammates. Not because of a great pre-game speech!

When I left football I brought popsicle moments to other teams I was a part of, be it the news team at The New RO and A-Channel, the Ottawa Invaders or mu family!

Popsicle moments will make better teams.

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

Thank you Ottawa 67’s AAA Minor Bantams – CHAMPIONS!

There are many moments when I am amazed at the transformation a team can experience by simply buying in. I have seen it in the boardroom. I have seen it in career transition seminars.

And now I have seen it in the Ottawa 67’s AAA Minor Bantam hockey team. Now, getting a room full of teenage boys to focus for any length of time can be challenging, to say the least, but this team was destined for great things!

Head Coach Jim Cooke gets it! He understands the value of building the team and he understands that bringing a new voice to the locker room was the key. I signed on for 5 sessions, scheduled through the season. They were a very good team that could become great with a little help.

I spoke to them about incremental growth, focus, the finite difference between winning and losing and the knowledge that it isn’t about their opponent but rather, it was all about them and what they do. They would reap what they sow…guaranteed!

Tonight, they face the best team in the league in a do or die playoff game that will reward the winners with a trip to the semi-finals. The losing team would be done for the year.

Like the Grey Cup Champion Ottawa REDBLACKS, the 67’s had an up and down regular season.

The REDBLACKS were underdogs going into the championship game against a Calgary Stampeder’s team that went 16-2 during regular season play.  But they prevailed. Here is a link featuring the day before the championship game clips. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWMqKHSN7lo&t=65s

The focus was on the REDBLACKS being a team that had overcome challenges during the season and were battle tested, unlike the Stampeders. I asked them about the Stampeders not being punched in the face all season (literally and figuratively). They had not faced adversity like the REDBLACKS.  Talk about a fun study of quiet confidence in an athlete and a team!

The 67’s had 6 games left in the regular season. I showed them this video and I challenged them to go 5-1 and become the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs. I wanted them to become the team that no one wanted to play.  They re-focused, promised an incremental improvement in their individual game that would benefit the team and guess what. They went 5-1 over their final 6 games.

They eliminated the Ottawa Senators AAA in semi-final play and then overcame the Ottawa Valley Titans to win the title.

Congrats to the boys and the coaching staff on a job well done!

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17