Last night I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater Hillsdale College and the kickoff to its "Sports and Character" symposium.
World Series MVP Curt Schilling was the speaker and leadership was his primary theme. Schilling is best remembered for his bloody sock in Game Six of the ALCS in 2004. A lot was made of the courage it took for Schilling to pitch with an ankle tendon sutured in place and that he was a hero to the long suffering Red Sox nation.
"I only did what I thought every one of my teammates would have done," Schilling stated. "In our world the words 'hero', 'great', and 'courage' have really been diminished." He also mentioned that he had never been more at ease on the mound and credited a casual conversation with God that eased the nerves and any doubts about the ankle holding up. "That night I had a moment of true faith. Never in my life was I more relaxed and enjoyed playing the game more."
Most of the night's talk was a set of stories of both sporting and personal highs and lows. It's quite evident that Schilling has taken every experience and learned something that has either helped him grow or is something he can share to help others grow as well.
[caption id="attachment_1345" align="alignleft" width="225"] Curt Schilling sharing his life experiences on Sunday night.[/caption]
Here are some quotes on a number of topics that give insight into the wit and wisdom of Curt Schilling.
On parents who push their kids too much in sports: "If you make your kid love a sport they will quit the minute you can't make them love it anymore."
On the "real world" that the college students will soon face: "Participation medals aren't the real world." and "If you leave your house every morning waiting to be patted on the ass for a job well done, it's not going to happen. That's because the rest of the world now is too busy waiting to be patted on the ass for a job well done."
On becoming the first team in Major League history to come back from a three games to none deficit in the 2004 American League Championship Series: "I told my teammates down 0-3 that we don't have to win the next four games. We don't have to even win the next game. All we have to do is win the next at-bat and the at-bat after that and we'll be fine. Just focus at the task at hand."
What I found most applicable to my career as an educator was the time he spent talking about leadership and accountability.
"Anyone can be a leader but there are so few true leaders."
"Leaders get paid to produce. Everyone else gets paid to work."
"You can get a job anywhere but it is really hard to find a place where you are inspired everyday. That's what real leaders do. They inspire people who are excited to come do what it is they do everyday."
On lessons in accountability he learned from the failure of his 38 Studios video game company and the $50,000,000 he lost of his own money in the venture.
"When you put your head on your pillow there's no escaping by making excuses that losing the 50 million was somebody else's fault...If you want to know what accountability is try having to tell someone their job no longer exists because of your mistakes."
Another part of the talk that really resonated with my life as a technology teacher and a dad of a daughter. A year ago Schilling began receiving an onslaught vulgar tweets directed at his daughter Gabby. Using his tech skills, Schilling tracked down the trolls and contacted their parents, bosses, and colleges. Several of the trolls were college athletes and immediately were cut from their respective teams.
"4 kids lost $140,000 of scholarships for 140 characters."
"It's hard to explain to kids 'forever' because the Internet is forever."
All insightful thoughts. Probably the best thing that Curt Schilling modeled on Sunday night in Hillsdale is that you can be a world famous professional athlete but you still face the same ups and downs and trials that everyone else faces. The key is to learn from each of those trials and grow.
An hour well spent.
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