Friend first…G.M. second. My time with Jo-Anne Polak aka JP Superstar

I had forgotten that she was given the nickname, JP Superstar! Wow, how time flies. I may have forgotten her nickname but I will not ever for forget how she personalized professional football.

I of course refer to Jo-Anne Polak, the first female General Manager in professional football.

 

For the many who don’t know and sadly, for those who forgot, Jo-Anne joined the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1987 and was named the teams business manager in December 1988. The title should have been Business Miracle Worker! She became co-GM with then head coach Steve Goldman a month later! As general manager, Polak became the first woman to hold an executive role in the Canadian Football League and the first woman general manager of a North American sports team. She held the position of general manager until stepping down in November 1991. I first met her in the off-season of 1989. I was heading into the locker room for a workout and she was there hosting a tour and working on her latest marketing marvel to re-connect fans to a team that had under-achieved like no other. The team’s hopes had been placed on the shoulders of Canadian RB Orville Lee, QB Damon Allen and K Dean Dorsey. Lee was drafted 1st overall the previous year, Dorsey had returned after a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and Allen arrived from Edmonton thanks to his connection with Head Coach Steve Goldman . The team also acquired warrior OL Gerald Roper and Rob Smith in 1989. Smitty beat Matthew McConaughey to punch when it came to not needing an excuse to go shirtless! All were significant pieces in the effort to build a team that could compete. 

Truth be told, Jo-Anne inherited a 6 ring circus. I could go on about my teammates and their love for Jo and I could go on about how she changed the football landscape in Ottawa and how she excelled in what was an “old boys” setting but that would be too easy and too obvious.

Yes, when we got our pay cheques the morning after a game we would  indeed race to the RBC on Bank St. and First Avenue before team meetings, to get them cashed knowing full well that there may not be enough money in the teams account to cover the payroll! Forever teammates but in that moment, arch enemies! Nothing personal but I got to get paid! Some guys got paid and some guys came back pissed off! Funny how you could pick them out in the crowd!

I could go on about the charity hockey game between the Rough Riders and the Perth OPP and how it got out of hand real quick, like at the drop of the puck. Ah, alpha males!!  Jo was our “coach” and she got out from behind the bench real fast. As the competitive energy rose, she took on this panicked look on her face! She booked it away from the bench and into the stands despite our assurances that all would be fine. She arrived worrying about  about branding and selling and was now worried about a full line brawl! Yes, Damon Allen always played the wing furthest away from the bench so he could extend his shift to about 7 minutes at a time and yes, Loyd Lewis would undo his skates between each shift and get riled up when he would miss a shift as he laced back up!

For me it was about her leadership under very personal and challenging life experiences.

The first came on July 5th, 1989. We had played the Toronto Argonauts the night before in pre-season play. Guys were on pins and needles knowing the roster was being cut down. I was in a special teams film session when I was told Head Coach Steve Goldman wanted to see me. There was a pause in the entire room. Was I being cut? Perhaps traded? I had a great training camp and had really found my groove going into my 2nd year as a pro. When I entered the office I saw Jo-anne first. I had laughed about a million times with Jo by then and when we looked at each other, she had an expression of sadness. I thought, “shit, I am gone!”.  Steve was seated behind his desk. He was clearly uncomfortable so Jo-Anne took the lead and I think Steve and I were both glad she had.

That morning, my cousin David had been struck by a car and had passed away.  He was working for a courier company and had been making a delivery downtown when the accident occurred. David was the oldest of 3 boys. His father is brilliantly funny! At social events, Uncle Gerry would make my dad laugh until his lungs fell out. Still does to this day! Aunt Claudette did her best to eliminate the hi-jinx, largely because Gerry’s humor was at the expense of french hockey players even though he and Claudette were fluently bilingual! David has two younger brothers, Shawn and Chris. Shawn was the quiet thoughtful one. Chris, known as Cricket and Boots, had more energy than anyone I had ever met. I didn’t get a lot of details when I was given the news. I just knew the loss was going to carry a lifelong magnitude that no one should ever have to experience. I know because I had a sister pass away when I was 4 and she was 5. Her name was ‘Jo-Anne”, and she was likely as spirited as my boss. Jo-Jo was riding a bike that was too big for her and she had fallen into a parked car, bumping her head. No need for details but I still cry to this day when I think about her. I imagine Uncle Gerry, Aunt Claudette, Shawn and Chris will always shed a tear for David as well.

Having Jo-Anne there, sitting close by as I called my Uncle Gerry, not knowing what to say or do will be etched in my memory bank forever. She wasn’t just about the bottom line and football. Jo was about the relationships.  In the blink of an eye, she had earned my trust. She was a “show me, don’t tell me” type of leader! Always had been, always will be.

The second memorable, emotional moment came in 1991. I had established myself as a CFL pro by then and was part of a team that had a lot of potential. In the off-season, the team signed big name free agents Glen Kulka, Tony Cherry, the late John Mandarich, and David Williams. Some would argue that the team crossed the line in terms of the unspoken gentleman’s agreement that teams not sign other teams big name free agents. Some would call it the art of collusion! Coach Goldman and Jo-Anne opted to go big and create some positive heat around the team. The result was a vengeful group of competing General Managers. Fortune favors the bold but it could also come back to bite you in the ass.

We played Calgary on October 13th. I injured my knee and had anticipated being placed on the teams injured list. It was an eventful morning after the game because the team doctor opted to drain fluid build up in my knee. I was assured it would accelerate my return to the roster. When he drew back the syringe, there was blood and not the fluid he had anticipated. This was indeed good news. My knee was fine. I did have a 2 inch tear at the base of my quad but that would heal. I was going to miss some time but nothing to worry about. At least that’s what I had thought. Now, in the CFL, teams use re-callable waivers as a tool in building their weekly rosters. If a player is place on re-callable waivers and claimed, the original team can recall the player. Through all of this, the player has no idea all of this is going on. We are just a pawn in the game of football life! The fly in the ointment is teams can only place a player on re-callable waivers once a season. Now, if a player is injured and is placed on waivers, the odds are a team won’t claim him because they don’t want damaged goods. That is in a perfect world but things were not perfect between other teams General Managers and the Riders. Ah, yes…those vengeful general managers?

So, out of the blue, I get a call the next day from a guy I know from my football circle that I choose not to name. He is chatty with me than asks me about my knee. I told him that I would be fine. I explained the injury believing I could trust him. in football, trust, like contracts, is often broken. The next morning, I am called into Steve Goldman’s office. He broke the news that I had been claimed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I was stunned. He went on to tell me that I was placed on waivers in a bid to hide me because of my injury and that Hamilton had crossed the line and claimed me. I asked him how that could happen. I then learned that I had been placed on re-callable waivers earlier in the season. WHAT! In a blink of an eye I was property of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In one moment, I was on the rise and an active community member and the next, I was an after thought. I remember flying to Hamilton and being met by absolutely no one from the team and staying at some roach motel in a sketchy part of town! What a disaster!

When the news broke, I went to my apartment to pack. Jo-Anne had been on her way to Fort McMurray for a charitable event with Bobby and Dennis Hull when she called me. Before I could get pissed off she apologized and was in tears which led to my breaking down. The transaction had not been her call. Our conversation, her dismay and apology was genuine. In that moment, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was no longer a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders but would forever be connected to Jo-Anne. Here is the kicker. She was going through her own difficult time as she and her first husband had separated.

I am grateful. Who wouldn’t be. It’s not everyday you spend time with JP Superstar. I know being the first female GM of a professional football team was not easy but she did it with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a diet coke with Wendy Lisowski laughing her ass off in the passenger seat!

The cool thing about Jo was she could sell. Whether it was kazoo or paper airplane themed nights or convincing me to wear a lobster suit and host the teams keynote off season fundraiser!

The next season, as a member of the Tiger-Cats, I paid Jo-Anne a visit with a couple of teammates in tow. No appointment necessary. We walked into her office, hung out with her and laughed. My teammates were astounded. Then, to no one’s surprise, Jo gave the guys tickets to the game so they could hand them out to people we met downtown.  The guys added about 12 new female Tiger Cat fans to our fan base that afternoon while walking around Sparks Street!

There will never be anyone like JP Superstar! She had me at hello! Can’t say the same for opposing GM’s like Cal Murphy, Bill “The Undertaker” Baker or Joe Zuger! All great guys but don’t take this personal when I say, with Jo…it was personal.

I can’t tell you the score of any game but I can talk Jo-Anne Polak until the paper planes land from the top of the south side.

——————————————

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Gretzky lie to me?

It was the summer of 2001. Team Canada’s Olympic training camp began in Ottawa at Ottawa U.  A who’s who of media types were on hand including yours truly (who was not part of the who’s who club!).

I took a seat in the front row of the press room like a kid looking forward to the first day of school. I was going to get straight A’s this year! Honor roll here I come! This one was going on my demo tape!

The Team Canada Olympic Team brass entered the room and made their way to the stage and after a brief review of press conference instructions from the media rep, the floor was opened for questions and, like everyone else in the room, I raised my hand.

As luck would have it, I was selected first. I had a great question for Team Canada Executive Director, Wayne Gretzky.  I was going to set the tone! With one question I was going to trigger an in-depth, thought provoking, life changing, symbiotic dialogue between The Great One (TGO) and Kenneth Russell Joseph Simon Maurice Evraire Jr. (KRJSMAJ)! A question that would lead to a lifelong friendship. He would call me by my nickname (Cowboy) and I would call him Gretzk or Wayner!  All because I had a question that no one in the room would have thought of but would all would go on to poach for their stories.

Boy, was I wrong! On all counts!

I asked, “With a roster filled with star players, the worlds best, will it be difficult for some of them to adjust to 3rd line and 4th line roles and less ice time?”.

He pondered my question for a millisecond then responded, “No, they are the best players in the world and if they can’t adjust, they wouldn’t be here.”

Ta-da! There it was.  Short and sweet. Nothing more, nothing less!

The media relations guy took the mic from me and gave me a look that reminded me of the Soup Nazi character in the series Seinfeld. “No more questions for you!”. I could almost hear the rest of the media throng mumbling “what an idiot!” to themselves. Back to media 101 summer school for me!

All I could do was sit there and pretend I was completely intrigued with all of the other questions and answers shared during the presser, when in truth, I just wanted to get the heck out of there! Time just seemed to slow down! I was pissed. I was pissed because, one, I thought I had a great question,  two, I thought it warranted a longer answer and three, I thought..no wait, I knew The Great One was wrong! I had been in a room filled with pro athletes before. Adaptation and change only take place when it benefits the individual. I get the entire team sport thing but it has been my experience that great team players are great team players when it benefits them.

My football instincts were telling me to crack back block the crap out of WAYNER when he left the stage. (Wayner…what a dumb-ass nickname!).  Yep, the solution was to just ear-hole his hockey playing, jofa helmet wearing, frosted hair tips attitude then and there. Dave Semenko isn’t around to protect you now pal! Call Mark Messier and I will call Darren Joseph.  Shout out to Marty McSorley, I will make a toll-free call to Glenn Kulka!

If you google search “football player ear-holes the greatest hockey player ever” you won’t find anything because after taking a couple of deep breaths, I chose to take the high road and keep my emotions in check.  Why? Because I knew I was right. Talent doesn’t always win out. The ability to adapt does.

    (courtesy of The Hockey Hall of Fame)

It took some time (6 months)  but I was eventually proven right.

On February 18, 2002, Gretzky lashed out at the media at a press conference, frustrated with media and fan comments regarding his team’s uninspiring 1–1–1 start in pre-Olympic Games exhibition play. He would go on to say his rant was designed to protect his team as they adjusted and worked to become a gold medal winning team.

I jest when saying The Great One lied to me but the fact of the matter is,  any roster including a team made up of the world’s greatest players, needs time to adjust to new roles. Head Coach Pat Quinn had to find those players within this all-star roster willing to change their game. He had to find a new set of strengths within a number of players that would translate into success. As good as the players were, Quinn and his staff had to do some serious coaching. Team Canada didn’t just show up and dominate. They had to earn their title of Olympic Champion the hard way. I think that is part of the reason why the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games gold medal meant so much to so many and continues to, to this day.

Every team will need to adjust….it’s inevitable. This truth applies to sports teams, small businesses all the way through to Fortune 500 companies.

When watching a best of 7 playoff series be it in hockey, basketball, baseball etc, the ability to overcome the physical challenges combined with being able to counter punch from a strategic perspective is everything. The margin for error is far greater in the playoffs versus a regular season game because the teams see each other every second night. The differences between the teams become so finite thanks to the in-depth understanding of the opposition. The same applies to the business sector. Everyone is competing for their piece of the pie. The tide can turn at any time. Being able to adapt is key.

This fact leads me to the 3 Cs…Communicate, Collaborate and Conquer. They should serve as the principals that make up the foundation that every team is built on.

Communication is everything. It begins with 5 Ws (what, when, who, where and why).

There was a time when a coach/CEO/manager would tell the employees to do something and they would just go about doing it, whether it made sense or not. It’s the “Jump! How High?” approach. Fact is, the one voice, the providence of one and only one offers a high risk, low reward outcome. Times began to change in the late 70’s. The realization that the silent majority had been an untapped resource came to be. Silence was no longer accepted. Speak up and forever support your team was the new approach.

Today, asking the 5Ws (what, when, where, why and who) helped to create a low risk-high reward scenario. It is the foundation of my coaching.

Create the opportunity to succeed by providing answers to questions before they are asked. Answer the what we are going to do, why we are going to do it, where we are going to do it, when we are going to do it and who is going to do it questions. By doing so you create a win in the bid to elevate overall team proficiency and competency!

Communication segues to Collaboration. A leader/decision maker is not always right. The idea may be bang on but the roll out strategy may need some significant tweaking. Collaboration is designed to utilize people’s strengths. Collaboration sets individuals up to succeed. Fewer questions are left unanswered and more problems are solved when working with others.

Conquering is the by-product of healthy communication lines and ensuing collaboration.  When a mountain climber makes his/her way to the top of the mountain, the very next thought should be, “I need to go find me a taller mountain, a greater challenge!”. 

No matter how talented your team, the need to adapt and overcome, the need to expect and accept evolving roles in a bid to succeed as a team is inevitable.

Coach Up!

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

Leadership is not easy! Ta-da…the secret is out!

Let me state the obvious. Leadership is not easy.

Never has been…never will be. There will be days when the last thing you may want to do

is lead! There will be times when you want to just sit in the back of the bus and watch the street blocks go by!

It’s a natural response when you take on a role of leadership. As invincible as you may think you need to be, yes, there will be days when the last thing you ever want to do is stand in front of the band as it makes its way down the parade route!

“Let them lead themselves! They don’t listen to me half the time anyway!”

When that moment of hesitation or doubt arrives, stand in front of the mirror, look at yourself and ask one question and one question only.

“Did you expect this to be easy?”

If you answer yes, then you need to re-visit why you have taken on the responsibility of leading others. If you answer no, then a great opportunity to raise your team’s game is at hand!

First and foremost, it’s not your job to make the team succeed, it’s your job to put the team in a position to succeed. One man or woman does not make a team but a leader that continues to search for growth opportunities within his/herself and the team does!

“High-risk leadership beckons many, but few accept the call. Apollo 13 succeeded at critical moments like this because the bosses had no hesitation about assigning crucial tasks to one individual, trusting his judgment, and then getting out of his way.” Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Kranz

Leading others is a great responsibility. It’s personal. It requires someone who is special and is led by the single-minded desire to see other’s succeed. It requires someone who recognizes the day to day investment and sacrifices his team makes.

Think about it…when someone punches the clock for a total of 40 hours a week, that is half of their week minus sleeping.  Yes, one could argue that the company has an investment in them and they should just do their jobs, but do not lose sight of the fact that the employee has also invested in the company and the investment they make in terms of effort, focus, going the extra mile will reflect the type of leadership they receive, good, bad or indifferent.

Hiring someone or someone accepting a job offer is a professional decision influenced by a series of personal circumstances, unique to each company and individual.

Great leadership equals buy in…bad leadership equals buy-out!

Leadership is not about one person sitting atop the mountain enjoying providence over all as it was in pre-70’s business world, but rather an open journey that is built on a foundation of trust, patience, communication and respect.

Self-correction is key to leadership success. Without it, you will fall into the trap of simply repeating the same mistakes!

When it comes to leadership, there is never the “hit a walk-off home run and win the game” moment. You may hit a home run but there is always another game, another plate appearance and an opportunity to either hit a home run or strike out.

It doesn’t matter if you lead a team of 500 or a team of 5!  Leadership is a tenuous journey.

“Leadership is fragile. It is more a matter of mind and heart than resources, and it seemed that we no longer had the heart for those things that demanded discipline, commitment, and risk.” – Gene Kranz – NASA Flight Director.

Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and remind yourself that it’s not supposed to be easy…but anything of value worth fighting for never is.

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned a 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