JORDAN Belfort speaks at 100km/h. It doesn’t require any stretch to imagine the Wolf of Wall Street as a high-voltage motivating force firing up people around him, though these days he’s more about training rather than trading.
In the “bad old days”, Mr Belfort motivated people to hit the phones to sell penny stocks to investors. People lost millions, while he made tens of millions. It all came tumbling down: he served 22 months in prison and made a deal to pay restitution to those he fleeced. But he also wrote a book, which is now a blockbuster movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
His story had it all: Ferraris, sex, drugs, yachts and oodles of cash. He is the dark side of capitalism, though some say the movie glamorises his experience and doesn’t sufficiently convey the tough times his victims experienced.
Speaking to the Sunday Times before he came to South Africa to talk at last week’s Success Summit, Mr Belfort says he found the movie entertaining, though parts were disturbing.
“I’m sober for almost 17 years. Seeing myself with drug-fuelled insanity was wildly entertaining, but I had the sweats. It was pretty tough.”
It’s taken away some of his privacy, but it’s been good for business. Actually, it’s been very good for business. When he spoke at the summit last weekend, he was billed second only to Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, one of Wall Street’s biggest success stories. It’s no small irony that one of Wall Street’s deepest embarrassments is now sharing a stage with Mr Wozniak.
When Mr Belfort steps onto the stage, he’s given a standing ovation by about half the hall — before he even starts speaking. People are shouting, women in particular are shrieking. Not the greeting most traders get when they have to speak in public.
So what was so enticing about trading? Mr Belfort says he loves the adrenaline rush, the fact that all your instincts and knowledge are “in the moment. And the money was very good.”
The movie depicts debauchery and excess rarely seen in mainstream cinema. What was it like living the life of excess?
“Honestly, when I look back it kinda sucked. I was stoned all the time; it was fun to have a yacht, go out for expensive dinners. I still love money, I think it’s great. Unfortunately I used to live life immorally and was spiritually bankrupt. Lucky I got sober, but to do it over again I would do it differently.”
He’s not flying around in private jets, and has one woman in his life, his fiancée. He gives motivational speeches, training and does charity work.
He says a lot of the movie was fictionalised. “I’m not minimising what I did, but it was heavily exaggerated.”
Mr Belfort says losing his soul to Wall Street was a process of over two years, despite starting with good intentions in 1988.
He admits he did things that were wrong: manipulating stocks and free riding, the practice of buying shares or other securities without having the capital to cover the trade. “But we were not taking crappy companies public. We were taking speculative companies public.
“What I was doing on Wall Street was not much different to what the big banks did in the global financial crisis. The only difference is I wasn’t bankrupting Iceland and Greece.”
Mr Belfort was sentenced to pay $109m (R1.2bn) in restitution, and in the deal forfeited $30m in assets.
For the first three years, while on probation, he had to pay back 50% of his income. He told the Hollywood Reporter he’s made $1.3m from the sale of the books so far, of which half went to the government.
At the summit, the gift of the gab is in full force. He’s a charismatic speaker, and touches on a technique he uses called the straight-line persuasion system.
He says you’re always selling, whether it’s ideas or concepts.
What holds back the average person from achieving wealth and success is that they can’t close the deal. “They can’t sell their way out of a paper bag.”
You first have to sell yourself.
Belfort’s tips on spotting a con artist
BEWARE of an offer that’s too good to be true. “I would swear if someone says it’s too good to be true it never is,” says Mr Belfort.
Walk away if:
• An investment is touted as being available for a few select people; and
• There is a lack of transparency, or those punting the product claim to have a proprietary formula.
He says you can do due diligence, but you can never totally protect yourself. “I’ve been taken to the cleaners,” losing $200,000 in a mining deal in South Africa and $100,000 in Zambia.
The Bridge to Life Jazz concert to raise money for C.H.A.M.P.S. will take place Friday, March 21 at the Pigg River Community Center. Hoppie Vaughan the Ministers of Soul will be the guest entertainer with performances by local talents André Peery, Cathy Mattox and Patice Holland.
Monday, March 10, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON – Staff Writer
Hoppie Vaughan the Ministers of Soul will perform at a local fundraiser on Friday, March 21.
The sixth annual Bridge to Life Jazz concert, which raises money to support the Bridge to Life with C.H.A.M.P.S. (Community Helping, Assisting and Motivational Program for Students) program, will be held at the Pigg River Community Center and will include a soul food dinner.
The concert will also feature the local talents of André Peery, Cathy Mattox and Patice Holland.
Vaughan, a native of South Carolina, is a guitar and bass player, songwriter and performing artist who began playing through East Coast club circuits with the “Hollowpoint” band.
He has performed with bands in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois and is currently the band leader for “The Ministers of Soul.”
He performed countless sessions as a bass player and demo singer for local Nashville songwriters, publishers and producers.
In the last four years, Vaughan has released four CDs, including “Hoppiesongs,” “Fat Daddy Band Live and Lovin’ It,” “Hoppie Vaughan the Ministers of Soul” and “Meansville Road.”
He now performs with “The Fat Daddy Band,” “The Ministers of Soul,” “The Pace Bros.” and as a solo act.
In addition to Vaughan, the concert will feature local talents Peery, Mattox and Holland.
Peery is a former member of several bands, including “The Nobles” and “André and the Blue Flames.” While serving in the United States Air Force, Peery was a member of “The Sensations,” and after leaving the Air Force, he joined an Iowa band called “Spectra.”
He is also the retired district executive for the V-Da-Li District (Franklin County) of the Blue Ridge Mountain Council of Boy Scouts of America, vice commander of the American Legion Post 111 and a United Way board member.
A Franklin County native for 18 years, Mattox is employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a a registered nurse and is the owner of Agape Consultant Services LLC. She is a member of First Baptist Church of Rocky Mount and has sung in the FBC New Beginnings choir for 15 years.
“I am very thankful for the portion that God has blessed me with,” said Mattox. “I know that all my help comes from the Lord, and it is only through Him that I am able to do my best to be a blessing to others.”
Holland graduated in 2000 from Franklin County High School. She is a 2004 honor graduate of George Mason University and a 2007 graduate of Stetson University College of Law. Holland currently practices law in Roanoke.
Tickets for the dinner/concert are on sale now for $25 per person or $45 per couple. Tickets should be purchased in advance by Monday, March 17.
Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. with the concert ending around 9:30 p.m.
Retired associate superintendent of county schools Florella Johnson and retired teacher and administrator LaVerne Tiggle are again organizing the event.
Johnson and Tiggle are founders of the C.H.A.M.P.S. organization, which helps mentor at-risk youth from middle school through high school. Proceeds from the concert will go toward the program.
“We have motivational speakers that sometimes come to speak to the youth and we visit colleges,” said Johnson. “We have taken the kids camping and visited Hotel Roanoke to teach etiquette. The money from this concert helps to fund these outings and activities.”
Johnson said all monies supporting C.H.A.M.P.S. is established through fundraising efforts.
“We try to provide cultural experiences for the youth,” she said. “We want to let them know that they can do it and we want to provide them with positive contacts.”
C.H.A.M.P.S. also encourages community service.
“We’re trying to get them to reach out to others,” said Johnson.
The program also teaches banking and money-saving skills.
“Money from our fundraisers allows these kids to go places they would never even have thought they could go,” said Johnson.
For tickets or more information, call (540) 483-8862, (540) 483-7436 or (540) 576-3978.
The Pigg River Community Center is located at 2410 S. Main Street in Rocky Mount.
Local students, parents and teachers crowded in lecture halls at Colorado College on Saturday for the 22nd annual African American Youth Leadership Conference.
The event, held the past 21 years at CC, drew 427 middle and high school students for motivational speeches, music and leadership instruction.
“We need to start developing leaders as soon as we can,” said Otis Campbell, who has been involved in the conference for seven years, this year as executive director.
The conference, which first targeted minority males to discuss issues of AIDS, gangs and abstinence, as well as black history, has morphed into a broader focus on choices that young people make and their consequences, Campbell said.
About 60 percent of the students that attended this year were African-American, Campbell estimated.
The conference stresses good character and habits and developing responsibility, Campbell said. Younger students learn basic science concepts, while 11th- and 12th-graders are taught civic responsibility.
“We take the classical leadership styles and interpret them so (students) know what they mean at their grade level,” Campbell said.
New this year was the addition of motivational speaker Jeffrey Sapp, a Fort Carson native who was a Navy football player and All-American defensive lineman in the 1970s. He’s the lead writer and speaker for “Motivation with a Beat,” music-infused talks inspiring others to reach their full potential.
Much of the event included information students don’t typically get in school, such as steps to fill out a job application or just taking initiative, said Tiana Longmire, 15, a sophomore at Sierra High School who has attended for three years, this year as a volunteer.
While some groups, such as Educating Students of Color, aim to help young people after they’ve experienced jail, Campbell said, this conference focuses on “keeping kids on track.”
Last month, City Council President Keith King signed a proclamation making March 8 African American Youth Conference Day in the city.
Representatives from six school districts shared info about their programs with the 50 parents who attended adult sessions.
“I don’t want everyone to think they have to go to college to be successful,” said Darryl Baynes, of Wheeling, W.Va., who has taught science sessions at the event for 17 years.
“There’s so many jobs out there,” said Baynes of science, technology, engineering and math fields, noting many can fill necessary jobs by attending trade schools.
He used a Wimshurst machine, which produces high voltages to illustrate lightning and positive and negative electric fields.
At one point, he had several dozen sixth-graders form a large circle and hold hands, with one student placing his palm on a spherical electrostatic generator that uses a belt to generate electricity. The student put his elbow near another’s, shocking everyone.
“It felt really weird,” said Catalina Fern, 11, a student at Panorama Middle School, who participated in a few of the hands-on activities. She was scared, she said, but it didn’t hurt.
The event was sponsored by T. Rowe Price, Colorado Technical University and District 11, among others.
Connect on Twitter: @jessebyrnes
Kudos to Bianca Rodriguez, 24, who was one of a few students nationally who was selected for the prestigious 2013-14 Young People For Fellowship.
According to a press release, the fellowship is a year-long program that provides “… .passionate young leaders like Rodriguez with the tools to effect positive change in their communities.” She will use the award to start a youth initiative to help local middle school students explore social injustices through the fine arts.
Rodriguez said she “always knew” that she wanted to empower youth. As a youngster, she said she saw a lot of institutionalized racism and unfair disbursement of wealth.
As a part of the fellowship Rodriguez, a Miami Dade College English major, started “Art Critically” (AC), an after-school program that helps local youngsters explore social injustice issues through the fine arts.
“I love education and I love the arts, so I thought what better way to do both,” she said in a press release. The program started in September and now serves 50 students at Andover Middle School in Miami Gardens, where, she said the children “reflect, then paint, draw or create plays and then come up with creative solutions.” She said discrimination and crime are just two of the issues expressed by the students.
Rodriguez and her team of volunteers carefully designed the curriculum to reflect the needs of the community. In addition to her work with AC, Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of the MDC Hialeah campus’ literary magazine “Cafe Cultura,” and has won numerous awards for her poetry.
“Bianca Rodriguez is a highly creative, intellectually curious student,” said Ivonne Lamazares, an MDC associate professor and co-adviser to AC.
“She is a very ethical, empathetic person, and her work with underprivileged students through Art Critically, is a tremendous contribution and speaks to her commitment to making a difference in her community.”
For more information on Art Critically, visit: www.artcritically.org.
100 teens are
Our hats are off too, to South Florida teens who recently were among the 100 teenagers from throughout the state selected for the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine.
They are Carlos Marmalejo of Homestead; KiAundra Kilpatrick of Miami Gardens, and Jeanine Shraim of Sunrise.
The teens received an all-expense paid trip with a parent or guardian to Disney Dreamers Academy’s seventh year at the Disney World Resort. The event ends today.
While there, the teens participated in a once-in-a-lifetime, innovative, outside-the-classroom, educational and mentoring program. The program helps to inspire and fuel the dreams of teens, help them discover a world of possibilities and help them prepare for career paths ranging from animation to zoology. Motivational speakers and celebrities share their stories and provide insight on how to achieve success and dream big.
While at the Disney Resort, Tracey D. Powell, Disney Dreamers Academy executive champion said, “Dreamers have the opportunity to cultivate relationships with other renowned entrepreneurs and executives.”
Jazz in the Gardens will present a “Women’s Impact Conference and Luncheon” from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, at Shula’s Hotel and Golf Club at 6842 Main St. in Miami Lakes.
The program will be hosted by Jasmine Sanders, co-host of the D.L. Hughley Show and will start with registration and check-in, followed at 9:30 a.m. with workshops sessions, and other activities to include an authors lounge and a relaxation oasis. Lunch and entertainment will be from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Register today for you tickets at: www.jazzinthegardens.com. You may also call 954-558-9664 for more information.
women in uniform
The Sixth Annual Miami Beach Women’s conference and the city of Miami Beach will celebrate Women in Uniform, during the National Women’s History Month program to start at 8 a.m. with a complimentary “Breakfast with a View.” Hosted by the Miami Beach Chamber’s Women’s Business Council, the speaker will be Monica Zima of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Mayor’s Panel, featuring Women in Uniform, will follow from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
Panelists will include: U.S. Air Force Major Brook Cortez; WWII Marine Veteran Conni Gordon; Special Agent in Charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Addy Villanueva; Metro Dade Firefighter Phyllis Sloan-Simpkin.
The Women’s History March will take place from 12:15 to 12:30 p.m. when participants will march from Miami Beach City Hall to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden for a “Darden in the Garden” luncheon from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Tickets to the luncheon are $30 and $35 each. For tickets and more information go online at: www.womensexhibit.com.
Pearls and Hat
You can make your reservations now for the annual Pearls and Hat Tea party, sponsored by Angels from Heaven, Inc. a nonprofit organization that raises money to help support medical clinics and schools in rural Jamaica.
The tea party will be from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 22 at 2334 SW 181st Terr. in Miramar. If you go, the gate number is #097. After you enter, make a left then the first right turn.
The cost is $25 per person and is hosted by Cynthia Banks. To reserve your spot, call Banks at 954-394-7980 or Cecile Dixon at 954-593-6520.
All funds collected will benefit children and poor adults in Jamaica.
One of the highlights of the 21st Annual Commemorative Service and Youth Talent on Parade, presented by the African American Committee of the Dade Heritage Trust and held Feb. 9, was the winners of the essay contest, who wrote on the topic: “Why I Am Proud of My Heritage.”
The elementary school award recipients were: Riciyah Smith, first place; Herleyd Remy, second place, and Christian Powell, third place. All are students at Parkview Elementary School.
The middle school winners were: Jeremiah Harris, first place; Durwina Ofield, second place, and Tupac Kersainville, third place, and Brianna Parris, honorable mention. All are from Charles R. Drew Middle School.
The high school winners were: Leesa Annete Newbon, first place, North Miami High; Rickenson Charles, second place, Northwestern High School; Jayla Ware, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Gamma Delta Sigma Chapter, Buds of Spring, third place; and Jasmine Gorea, Northwestern High, honorable mention.
Other participants included: Keya Curtis, Kaysia Curtis, Brittane Rolle, Breanna Rolle, Jaquan Jordon Cannon, Chryatian Rembert, Twyon Bowe Jones, Adonas Jones, Jarron-Charles McKinney and Dance Group.
The program celebrated the history, heritage and culture of Miami’s African American community.
A “Celebration of Life” concert in memory and in honor of departed band members will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Gusman Concert Hall at 1314 Miller Dr. on the campus of the University of Miami.
The program will feature conductors Col. Arnald D. Gabriel, (USAF Ret.), Robert Longfield, and Tom Keck. Others on the program will include Erin Gittelson, oboe soloist; and Dale Underwood, sax soloist.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students and are available at the box office on the day of the concert. You may also order online at www.gmsb.org. Call 305-273-SOUSA for more information.
On stage for the WE Day UK at Wembley Arena , he joked: “You were probably hoping for Harry Styles so I’m sorry to disappoint you – no I’m not going to sing!”
Harry went on: “I feel extremely privileged, and incredibly nervous, to be standing here in front of you today at the first WE day to be held in the UK. Free The Children is a fantastic organisation, founded on an inspiring principal – that children have the power to effect change.
“Every single one of you has done something amazing to be here today. It may not feel like it to you, but I can assure you that collectively, your actions can and will, shape the course of our future. After all, we all share this planet, so we must help and inspire others to do the same.
“The world around us is changing fast. On one hand, it is a much more connected place. The internet is now part of our everyday lives, and social media has changed the way we communicate. What this means is that our generation although I am nearly 30 has the greatest opportunity of any in our history to effect change on a global scale.”
He was watched by girlfriend Cressida Bonas who attended one of his official engagements for the first time today when she joined 12,000 screaming schoolchildren at Wembley Arena.
“However, our society faces some very significant challenges. Each year approximately 100 million children are affected by disasters such as the Syrian crisis: 1 million children there have had to flee the country. Luckily, for most of us, it is unimaginable to picture leaving your home in the middle of the night, not knowing if you will ever return.
“But closer to home, there are many communities in this country facing huge challenges which will rarely, if ever, hit the news. Many young people in the UK, live in households where domestic abuse, violence and addiction are part of everyday life. Others provide long term care for a family member. These issues, and many others, can rob a child of their childhood. For these children, a little help could go so far.
“And in this way, the biggest impact you can have, as an individual, is within your own community. Sometimes the smallest of things, like helping someone cross the road; to climb a flight of stairs or lift their shopping into a car, really does make a difference. It doesn’t cost anything, just a little bit of your time.
“Often, without realising it, those we admire most are people who are committed to helping others: to giving their time freely to another; to volunteering like you guys. Every one of you here has inspired others by what you have done, and are doing, so please don’t stop.
“If young people at risk can be identified early; then supported and mentored by someone who has grown up in the same community, or had similar life experiences, then it is possible to avoid them going on a downward spiral. The mentors I am talking about are not super-human: they are people like you and I who are willing to spend a little time helping someone else.
“Every one of you here is already doing great things, like the hundreds of Diana Award winners or the pupils from St. Peter’s London Docks Primary School who are here. However, its important to encourage your friends to get involved as well. We all know how valuable the help and support of our friends can be.
“Multiply this what is going on today by thousands of times and you can see that by coming together you can change your communities and beyond. If each of you could get just one more friend to help someone else, you would have started changing the lives of 20,000 people.
“Some people don’t think it’s cool to help others; personally I think it’s the coolest thing in the world!
“My father launched the Step up to Serve campaign last year – he hopes that through this, and with the support of organisations like Free the Children, we can double of the number of volunteers in this country by 2020 – judging by the crowd in here today, I think we will be able to do it a lot sooner than that…
“Congratulations, keep doing what you’re doing, and enjoy every bit of today!”
Dressed casually in skinny jeans and trainers, Cressida, 25, arrived with her sister Isabella and her husband Sam Branson before Harry, 29, took to the stage.
The Prince, who was given a pop star’s welcome, joined stars of stage and screen at the UK’s first We Day, a North American-led charity programme which aims to encourage the world’s young people to engage in local and global social action to improve the lives of others. Sam’s father, Virgin entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic company helped sponsor the event.
The British schoolchildren attending the event were part of a movement of 2.3 million young people, mainly in the US and Canada, involved in the We Day programme, an initiative of international charity Free The Children.
More than 180,000 young people came together in stadiums and arenas today to listen to motivational speakers and watch entertainment.
At Wembley, speakers and performers included former US Vice President Al Gore, film stars Jennifer Hudson and Clive Owen, singer Ellie Goulding and rapper Dizzee Rascal.
Princess Beatrice also attended the event in support of Harry.
Kristina Hernandez — Staff
REDLANDS The Redlands branch of the American Association of University Women invited 600 female eighth-grade students from the Redlands Unified School District and nearby Yucaipa to be a part of its 20th annual STEM Conference Thursday at the University of Redlands.
Classrooms around the campus served as destinations for workshops that focused on science, technology, engineering and math focused careers with professionals sharing their experiences.
Thursday’s conference was planned by a volunteer committee with the intent of building confidence in young women, emphasizing the importance math and science have in many careers, and encouraging further education on the two subjects, said event spokeswoman Anne Viricel.
“This is to allow these young ladies to know about these jobs, that these are existing jobs,” she added. “They’re also going to talk about what education is needed and what is interesting about what they do. These is (a chance) for young ladies to be exposed to opportunities in various fields.”
Among the professionals in attendance were RUSD speech therapist Janis White, YMCA of the East Valley Healthy Lifestyles coordinator Wendy Derosier, senior curator of geological sciences for the San Bernardino County Museum Kathleen Springer and master hairstylist Victoria Simanton.
“I’m part of a $48 billion industry,” Simanton began her presentation. “Even during the Depression in the 20s, hair salons did well. Why? Because it is an inexpensive way to feel good.”
Simanton had another career in mind before jumping into the hair industry. She thought she was going to make a lot of money becoming a world famous painter. But a trip to a hair salon with her two children changed her mind.
She enrolled in beauty school and learned there was more than cutting hair — there was a science behind it.
“They often ask me, ‘What can I take in college even though I’m going to be a hairstylist?’ And I would tell them, ‘business, art, communication and any of the sciences — especially chemistry.’ There’s a science (behind it),” she said.
Thursday’s conference was available to students free of charge. They had to apply to attend. Once approved, they were registered for workshops based on their interest, Viricel said.
Lunch was provided, and was followed by a variety of motivational speakers and a keynote address delivered by Maria Klawe, a renowned community scientist and scholar, and president of Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.
Thursday’s conference was made possible through donations from various community organizations including the U of R, the Optimist Club of Redlands, Sorenson Engineering and the Rotary Club of Yucaipa.
To learn more about the conference or about the AAUW, visit aauw-redlands-ca.org.
Ryan Tran was 13 the first time he saw CoachÂ Carter on cable at his home in SanÂ Jose. He remembers watching as Carter, played by SamuelÂ L. Jackson, locked his RichmondÂ (Calif.) High basketball team out of the gym and threatened to cancel the season if the players didn’t improve their grades. I bet my dad loves this movie, Ryan thought, for his parents stressed discipline and academics. Ryan never imagined something similar happening to him, though. Until it did.
It was a Friday night nine days before ChristmasÂ 2011, and SanÂ Jose’s GundersonÂ High had just lost ugly at LosÂ Gatos: turnovers, bad shots, sloppy defense, one-on-one moves. Gunderson coach Mike Allen stood in the visitors’ locker room, staring down at his players. At 38, Allen wasn’t that far removed from his days playing pro overseas and, before that, at SanÂ Jose Christian College, a Bible school where he was an Allâ€‘America twoÂ guard. He’d added a few pounds to his wide-hipped, 6′ 1″ frame but still had the look of an athlete. Though he rarely raised his voice, he was furious. Seven games into the season Gunderson was 3-4, and Allen had seen enough. Enough showboating, insubordination, tardiness and bullying of teammates. “I want all of you to give me your jerseys,” he shouted. “Take them off. Right now!”
The players did, wondering what would happen next. The following morning after practice, Allen gathered them for an announcement. Seventeen boys, ranging in age from 14 to 18, peered up at him. They were a diverse bunch, as one might expect in the strip-mall sprawl of south SanÂ Jose. Gunderson’s students were more than 50% Hispanic, and the rest were a mix of Asian-Americans, SouthÂ Asians, Vietnamese, whites and African-Americans. Most were lower-middle to middle class. Ever since a student was stabbed to death at the nearby light-rail station a decade earlier, Gunderson had had a reputation, deserved or not, as unsafe; SiliconÂ Valley magnates sent their children elsewhere, and so did the parents of elite athletes.
The 2011-12 boys’ basketball squad showed promise, however, despite an unorthodox lineup of four combo guards and one power forward. The guards were Ryan, a junior playmaker and straightâ€‘A student; senior Lodi Vertilus, a long, athletic football wide receiver; Lamar Smith, a brash senior who attacked the rim like a tiny Latrell Sprewell; and Joaquin Gallardo, a gritty junior with a sweet shooting stroke. A year earlier the Grizzlies had finished a surprising 14-8 in Allen’s first season, losing in the first round of the Central Coast Section of the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs. This year they were favorites to win the middle division of the Blossom Valley Athletic League. For the first time in ages, there were expectations.
Which makes what Allen did that Saturday morning even more surprising. In a calm voice he announced that he was suspending the startingÂ five — Ryan, Lodi, Joaquin, Lamar and big man Jose Silva — for disciplinary reasons, the exact nature of which remains a matter of dispute two years later. One point was clear, though: The players were not to show up for practice on Monday. The only way for them to rejoin the team, Allen said, was to return with a parent and meet with him.
Allen thought he’d laid down the law. But when he arrived for practice on Monday, a little before 6Â a.m., he found the suspended starters outside the gym, under the HOME OF THE GRIZZLIES, along with the rest of the team. As Allen approached, Lamar spoke up: “Coach, we want to talk to you.”
“You’re wasting your time,” Allen said. “You can’t be here today. You need to leave.”
Then Allen walked to the back of the gym to unlock it. Once inside, he turned on the lights and strolled across the court to open the front doors. What he saw then stopped him cold.
Only four boys remained under the sign outside: a pair of freshmen, Jonathan Chavez and David Awolowo, and two sophomores, Mel Sotelo and Mohamed Ali. Not only had the five suspended players vanished, but so had eight of their teammates, including all the upperclassmen.
Allen peered out into the predawn grayness, then back at the four boys who now composed the Gunderson varsity. It was one of those moments, Allen would later say, when you find out who you are as a coach and as a man.
“All right,” Allen said, holding open the door, “let’s get to work.”
And so the boys huffed through Allen’s beloved medicine-ball drills and ran a truncated version of the weave. That afternoon Allen called up the two jayvee players he believed could survive on the varsity, James Miller and Evan Conry. That gave him six boys. None were older than 15.
Three days later Gunderson hosted Leland, a neighboring school that would finish the season just above .500. As the Grizzlies warmed up, the visiting fans murmured, wondering why the jayvee was on the floor. Then it hit them: This was Gunderson’s varsity. Within minutes the rout was on, layup after layup by Leland. James missed all nine shots he took. The final score was 76–30.
Four more times before the new year the Grizzlies played with their skeleton crew, and four more times they lost. Even the boys’ parents found it painful to watch.
At this point no one would have blamed Allen for welcoming back the RenegadeÂ 13, as one newspaper later referred to the suspended players and their teammates who walked. Allen had made his point. He’d stood his ground. Plus, a full-strength Gunderson squad would still have had a good shot at the playoffs.
But that’s not what Allen did.
What happens when a coach draws a line in the sand? How does it affect the trajectory of his life and the lives of his players?
Allen became something of a folk hero. “The mutiny at Gunderson High,” an article in the San Jose Mercury News called it. “We weren’t being that disrespectful,” said Eddie Perez, one of the seniors quoted in the story. “[CoachÂ Allen] wants to run the team his way and doesn’t listen to our own opinions.” Allen’s perspective: “These kids nowadays feel they are privileged and have a right, but they fail to realize what being part of a team is about.”
The story hit a nerve. Not that disrespectful? Readers flooded the MercuryÂ News with letters chiding the boys. “I would rather support students with a little less talent but good manners and sportsmanship than these self-centered students,” wrote Juanita Walters of Milpitas.
“Finally, here was an adult who was willing to put ego and winning aside in order to grow character in the young men he coached,” wrote Elizabeth Vander Esch of SanÂ Jose.
The comments section on the MercuryÂ News‘s website swelled with vitriol. Though the GundersonÂ 13 were defended by a smattering of friends and relatives, and by some of the dismissed starters themselves, the vast majority sided with Allen.
Soon TV trucks showed up at Gunderson games, mobile antennas sprouting into the night sky. National columnists weighed in. The story became about more than one man, a group of teenagers and a basketball team. It became a referendum on what we expect of our coaches and our children. It became the story of youth sports in America.
Allen himself received a tidal wave of supportive emails, more than 1,000 in the months that followed. Eventually the movie people called. This is just like CoachÂ Carter! they said.
Only it wasn’t, because reality is rarely like the movies. In real life Carter wasn’t exactly the mentor he appears to be in the film, at least according to one of his former players, who said later that he didn’t have their futures at heart. No doubt some of this is jealousy, or resentment. But the point remains: Real life is messy. It’s complicated. So is what happened at GundersonÂ High. It’s the kind of tale that offers no easy heroes and villains, that lacks a clear wrong and right.
It’s the kind of story that is all about perspective.
Stay strong. That’s what Allen told himself during those first weeks. It was his mantra at practice as he watched his players clank layups. It’s what he told himself on the sideline as Gunderson lost one game after another — to SilverÂ Creek, to Independence, to Pioneer, to Overfelt and, worst of all, by 48Â points to Branham. It’s what he reminded principal Dominic Bejarano and athletic director Chris Corbin when they began to have doubts. After all, it was one thing to support a new coach on principle, another to squirm on the sideline as your school got embarrassed and parents demanded to know why their sons could no longer play.
Most of all, stay strong is what Allen told his team. You’ve crossed a picket line, he told them. Be ready for what comes with that. You are not going to win a game this season. Be O.K. with that. This is about commitment.
To give the players a fighting chance, he went back to basics. Rather than his usual pressing and fast-breaking, Allen ran a simple motion offense and relied on a 2-1-2 zoneÂ D most of the time. He told his lumbering center, Big Mel, to not even cross half-court; otherwise he’d never get back on defense. None of it mattered. The losses piled up. At night Allen sometimes pulled over to the side of the road and wept. He wondered how he would make it through a whole season. Then again, he’d come through worse.
Allen grew up in Cincinnati, Denver and Tacoma, Wash., raised by a single mother in rough neighborhoods. As a teenager he fell in with the wrong crowd before finding structure and purpose in two institutions: basketball and church. While playing open gym hoops on a visit to SanÂ Jose Christian College the summer after graduating from high school, he was pulled aside by the coach, Glen Miller, who also led missionary trips. “I could care less about your athletic ability,” said Miller. “Basketball is a tool you can enjoy, but I produce leaders who change the world.”
Allen was inspired. Even though basketball was his worst sport — he started playing only as a junior — he decided to attend SJCC to play for Miller. By the time Allen graduated, in 1996, he was student-body president and an All-America, and SJCC had won three National Bible School championships.
Allen lit out for Europe to follow his dream of a pro career. He played in Poland and then Sweden, accompanied by his wife, Virginia, who bore him a son, Jacobi. One day when Jacobi was 21â�„2, Allen returned to their apartment, and Virginia handed him divorce papers. She left with Jacobi that afternoon. Allen says he didn’t hear from her for four years. Then one morning in 2004, while he was in Korea on an exhibition tour with the Harlem Ambassadors, he got a call from the Santa Clara County (Calif.) DA’s office. You need to come pick up your son by tomorrow afternoon, or he could be put up for adoption.
Shocked and scared, Allen left the Ambassadors and boarded a plane for the U.S. And that, as he now recounts in motivational speeches to church groups and to players at basketball camps, is when his life stopped being about him. He won custody of Jacobi and raised him as a single parent, just as his mother had raised him. Over the next five years, while employed as sports ministries director at Calvary Church in Los Gatos, Allen built a thriving side business as a basketball-skills trainer. Soon his program included 1,000 kids, and his website was filled with video testimonials. He coached a girls’ team at a Catholic school, ran an AAU squad, directed a boys’ jayvee program. He gave speeches on themes such as “maintaining moral purity” and “being a soldier for Christ” and “discovering your destiny.” He married Anna Walker, the p.r. director at The King’s Academy, a Christian school, and they had a son, Braydon, and later a daughter, Michela. Then, in 2010, he was contacted by Gunderson about its coaching job.
Allen’s goal when he arrived at Gunderson was to build a lasting basketball program. Like CoachÂ Carter, Allen held the boys to academic standards: They needed to maintain a 2.5Â GPA to play. This angered some players and parents; after all, the football team didn’t need grades that high. But Allen held firm. Same went for practice. Show up 30 seconds late and Allen locked the doors on you. To encourage competition he held one-on-one varsity tournaments before each game to earn a jersey. In the summers he expected players to join his traveling team and train at his facility in LosÂ Gatos, paying if they could afford to. During the season he woke at 4:30Â a.m. and drove from house to house picking up players for practice, sometimes making two trips when his Chevy Blazer got too full. He worked long days, finally falling into bed at midnight, but he loved it. He felt he had a purpose, a plan.
From the beginning Allen had been determined to change the basketball culture at Gunderson. During his first season he considered suspending the upperclassmen for disciplinary reasons but felt he was too new to the job to do so. After he heard the jayvee coaches curse at players and was told by players that the coaches were talking behind his back, the coaches were let go. So Allen coached both jayvee and varsity for the final dozen games. Over the summer he recruited Marc Taylor, an assistant at The King’s Academy, to be his secondÂ inÂ command and the new jayvee coach. Taylor cut quite a figure at practice, a giant, barrel-chested bald man who alternated between yelling at the boys and looking out for them. If Allen was aloof, Taylor was the opposite, and the players appreciated his tough love.
Taylor was of the same mind as Allen when it came to building a program. He hated the culture of AAU ball — the lack of fundamentals and the players’ constant need for validation. We used to have self-starters, he’d say. Now they’re all “attaboys.” You need to say “attaboy” to get them to do anything. Both Taylor and Allen disliked helicopter parents and kids who defied authority. “Our job is, You got to meet the standard,” Taylor explains. “Then if they don’t, it’s on them. They have to submit.”
Neither coach had much patience for the attitudes of the seniors in the fall of 2011. They hadn’t joined Allen’s summer league teams. They arrived late for practice on occasion. Allen felt their body language was disrespectful. They looked in the stands after making shots rather than running back on D. They intimidated the younger players, leading Allen and Taylor to worry that they would inhibit the freshmen and sophomores and “infect” them with their attitude. So, according to Taylor, early on the coaches put together a game plan for a “worst-case scenario.” If need be, they’d tear down the program and rebuild it with kids who cared.
But how to know when that moment had arrived? The night of the LosÂ Gatos game, after taking away the players’ jerseys, Allen says he couldn’t sleep. Partly he was embarrassed. His Grizzlies had been blown out in the town where he trained players in the summer, by a team that included some of his pupils. He felt that the Gunderson starters were trying to take over the team, and he was torn. Cede authority, and he would sacrifice principle for victories. Stand firm, and without its best players the team might not survive.
Sometime after 2Â a.m., Allen prayed. God, I don’t want to have to make this decision, give me the peace to do it. By the time his alarm clock went off two hours later, he knew he was taking the right action. Even so, he had no idea how it would turn out. Imagine making that kind of leap, knowing you’d be questioned by parents and administrators, that your son would be repeatedly asked about it in middle school, that you’d receive anonymous hostile phone calls, thatÂ you’d lose every game, that you might get fired.
On top of it, there was something Allen had told no one but his closest friends: Anna had a tumor in her stomach. She would need surgery, and there was no guarantee she’d live.
The thing that carried Allen through those dark days, he says, was faith. He believed he was doing the right thing.
The right thing. It’s an interesting concept. The seniors first approached Mohamed Ali on the afternoon of the suspensions. “You’re going to walk out with us, right?” they said. “You’re our boy, right? You got our backs, right?” Mohamed didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say.
That night he returned to the two-bedroom apartment he shares with his parents and five siblings near Gunderson. Mohamed’s mother and father emigrated from Somalia before he was born, and his father worked long hours driving a cab. When Mohamed became interested in basketball, his parents weren’t happy. You must focus on school, they said. That’s how you build a future in this country. But for Mohamed the game, even if it never came easy to him, provided a mooring, a connection with others. In middle school, if you didn’t play you were, in his words, “a nobody.” So he played, and he began to love the game. By his sophomore year at Gunderson he’d grown into a skinny 5′ 11″ boy who glided up and down the court. That year he would throw down his first dunk, in a pickup game in front of whooping friends. What was more American than that?
In Allen, Mohamed saw a lifeline. For two years they’d trained together in summer camps and individually. Though Mohamed bristled at Allen’s demanding ways, he knew that to play, he needed to show the coach respect. And playing was the most important thing. That’s why Mohamed stayed at the gym that Monday morning. He feared he was letting down his friends on the team — his “brothers,” as he called them. He worried that they wouldn’t respect him. But he could not walk.
The other three players who stayed had their own reasons. Jonathan Chavez and David Awolowo were freshmen and felt little kinship with the upperclassmen. As for Mel Sotelo, a sophomore, his parents had divorced and he’d moved in with his father in SanÂ Jose rather than go out of state with his mother. He’d made sacrifices to play. He couldn’t just give that up.
The first game was thrilling for the four players and the two who joined them from the jayvee. They were starters on varsity. They were leaders. They got to shoot a lot.
Sure, they heard about the exiled players. How they had written a group letter to principal Bejarano stating that “Coach Mike Allen has not responded to requests for an explanation” and that “we feel like our season is in jeopardy, something we would very much like to avoid from [sic] occurring.” How they had gone as a group with one of the parents to talk with Allen, but the coach hadn’t budged. (To both the administration and parents, Allen provided few specific examples of what the players had done wrong, arguing that the aggregate of many acts had led to the suspensions.) How some of them were texting Allen, asking to be allowed back on the team. How Ryan and his father, Linh Tran, eventually met with the coach without success, and each side had a different account of the meeting.
Some boys still on the team felt bad for Ryan in particular. Jonathan considered him a role model: another undersized guard who played the right way. He would later wonder if Ryan was just “collateral damage” in Allen’s conflict with the other players.
The six boys couldn’t dwell on it, though. They had games to play. Except that with each lopsided loss, the thrill dissipated, even as the reporters arrived. Who wanted to get creamed on TV? The players began doubting themselves and blaming one another. Worse, the dismissed players came to watch them. Mohamed remembers seeing them clustered in the bleachers. Some were laughing and mocking Allen — “Oh, my God!” they’d chortle after one mistake or another. Others, like Ryan, just looked on, expressionless.
School days were almost as bad. You’re not really my boy, the exiled upperclassmen said to Mohamed. Instead, they whispered, Mohamed was a traitor.
David, the freshman forward, became so embarrassed that he ignored team tradition and stopped wearing a tie to school on game days. His low point came on Jan.Â 18, after Gunderson lost again, to EvergreenÂ Valley. In the locker room David began to cry, something he hadn’t done in years. Allen walked in, and Bejarano, there to support the team. But David couldn’t stop. He hunched over, the tears seeping out. He considered quitting, or transferring. He wondered whether there would even be a Gunderson basketball team in a year’s time.
Finally, on Feb.Â 10, the season ended. Gunderson had lost 21Â games in a row. There were whispers that CoachÂ Allen wouldn’t return. That kids were going to leave. Allen had stood his ground, but at what cost? And for what benefit?
It wasn’t right. This is what stuck with the players who walked. It wasn’t right how Allen booted them off the team without explanation. Tardiness? Showboating? Those were reasons to bench someone, not to jettison an entire startingÂ five. Hell, Allen had suspended Ryan Tran. Only a month earlier the coach had nominated Ryan for Gunderson Athlete of the Month.
It wasn’t as if the rest of them were all screwups, either. Lodi Vertilus was an honor-roll student, as was James Lee. Joaquin Gallardo had spent the summer working out with Allen. As for the eight who weren’t initially suspended but had stuck with their teammates, what was their sin, showing solidarity? Loyalty is supposed to be applauded, especially among young men. Coaches demand it. The military prizes it. Even if walking out was impulsive, wasn’t it commendable the way these boys stood up for one another?
Unity was something in which the boys took pride. A Band of Brothers, they called themselves. Some of them grew up in tough circumstances, with absent or struggling parents. The basketball team was their second family. The players had spent weekends at the park, running the court all afternoon. Afterward they had played NBAÂ Live or watched NBAÂ ball at somebody’s house. Life had taught them that sometimes your friends are all you have.
The night of the suspensions they started a group message on Facebook and decided to stand as one. That way, they assumed, Allen would have to talk to them. Sure, the coach rubbed many of them the wrong way, with his holier-than-thou attitude and rigidity. Others just wanted to go back to how it was before Allen arrived, when the coaches let them jack up shots and call their own plays. Some of the players talked openly about hoping Allen would be fired. But others liked Allen. They considered him a father figure. He’d welcomed them into his home; they’d met his wife and kids. He was a good man. They just wanted to be heard. They wanted respect.
After the walkout they were giddy. They’d stood up to authority. They’d stuck together. It felt important. As the days passed, though, it became clear that Allen didn’t see the suspensions as the first step in a discussion — even for the eight who had left in solidarity. (Allen says they “dismissed themselves” and didn’t meet his requirement that they show up with their parents; the players say they were never given a fair hearing.) Excitement turned to anger. Anger turned to concern. They tried to talk to Bejarano and the AD, Corbin. “They didn’t trust our word,” one of the 13 says. “They usually don’t at that age.”
In the end the 13 were left with a void. All those mornings and afternoons they had gone to practice were now empty. No one wanted to play ball or talk about the game. Without the carrot of the team, some of them got poorer grades. At first it was amusing to see Gunderson get creamed, but it also hurt. For many, this was their senior season. This was supposed to be their moment.
The news stories hurt just as much. Renegades? Mutiny? At one point a MercuryÂ News columnist, Scott Herhold, took up Ryan’s cause, noting his straightâ€‘A grades and good relationship with Gunderson’s coaches and quoting his coach at the basketball Hilltoppers Academy, Steve Shaw, who said, “If I had 10 of the best players and five of Ryan, I would pick the five Ryan Trans.” But public opinion wasn’t going to change. These kids got what they deserved.
In June nine of the 13 graduated, walking across the stage and off into the world. None appeared in the team basketball photo. Their stats were missing on the MaxPreps website. It was as if their senior season had not existed.
The Prodigal Son
It’s hard to pinpoint when the turnaround began. Maybe it was that summer, when six Gunderson players spent three months working with Allen in his program, paying if they could. Or maybe it was in the fall, when 35Â kids showed up for varsity tryouts. Or perhaps it was on that June morning in 2012 when Ryan Tran, now an incoming senior, sent a text message to Allen: “Can I come to the gym today?”
The oldest of the four Tran children, Ryan was expected to set the bar, and boy, did he. By thirdÂ grade he was tutoring second-graders in math. In fifth grade he won a President’s Award for Educational Excellence. Obsessed with basketball, he practiced for hours in the family driveway, encouraged by Linh, an aviation engineer. Linh and his family had immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam when he was 21, and he worked three jobs while getting his degree in electrical engineering at SanÂ Jose State at night. Any son of his understood the value of hard work. Despite his slight frame, Ryan was playing on traveling teams in middle school and was on track to be a three-year varsity player at Gunderson.
After the suspensions, Linh had been irate. Tell me what my son did wrong, he asked Allen in JanuaryÂ 2012. The coach’s response, according to the Trans: If you don’t know why, I’m not going to tell you. Linh met with the administration. He contacted media outlets. He sent mass emails to the CIF, to other schools. He wanted answers. He felt he never got them. Allen says he offered to let Ryan back on the team provided he accepted a bench role. Ryan says he told the coach he wouldn’t come back without his teammates.
Ryan didn’t touch a basketball until April. His father pushed him to go to the gym, but Ryan just wanted to melt away.
It took him weeks to send the text to Allen. His friends were shocked that he wanted to return to the team. After all you went through, they said. But Ryan loved basketball too much.
He expected Allen to say they had to talk. But the coach just said yes. It was enough, Allen now says, that Ryan had “humbled himself,” and by allowing Ryan back, Allen felt he was “humbling myself.” When Ryan showed up for practice, the two didn’t discuss what had occurred. Instead the team went right back to work. But it took weeks for Ryan to talk to Mohamed and the others who had stayed. Theirs was now strictly a working relationship.
There was plenty to work on. Even with Ryan’s return, the Gunderson roster contained gaping holes. The team had little depth, less experience and no size outside of the immobile BigÂ Mel. Jose Silva joined Ryan in returning to the team but went down with an injury. In the first game of the season the Grizzlies lost to LosÂ Gatos 75-48. In the weeks that followed Gunderson lost twice more to push its winless streak to 24 games.
Then, on Dec.Â 12, Gunderson played Thomas More, a nonleague school that would finish the season 19-6. Another blowout loomed. As he did before every game, Ryan led his teammates in prayer. “It’s O.K. to mess up,” he said. “Don’t get mad at each other. Now let’s pray for no injuries. Let’s pray that we have a good game.”
The Grizzlies came out on fire. Ryan sliced through the defense for layups. David swatted away shots. Mohamed and Jonathan clogged the passing lanes. Gunderson led early, then More made a run in the second quarter. This is your time! Allen roared at his players at the half in the locker room, banging on a table. This is what you prepared for, why you put in all those hours! In the second half the Grizzlies held strong. The final score was 68-57, Gunderson. Allen teared up in the locker room. So did some of the boys. The Grizzlies had won for the first time in more than a year.
One win turned into two, then four, then eight. In February 2013, MercuryÂ News reporter Julia Prodis Sulek wrote a story about Gunderson’s “incredible journey.” In the space of a year, she wrote, Allen had made the program competitive again by playing his way. It was “something beyond vindication.”
Competitive would have been enough for all of them. Just finishing .500 was a huge achievement. But then, on Feb.Â 12, Gunderson played Andrew P.Â Hill in the first game of the Blossom Valley tournament. The game tilted back and forth until, with 19Â seconds left, the Grizzlies had the ball with the score tied. In the stands, parents and students stood, screaming. The ball ended up in Ryan’s hands. He stood at the top of the key, looking up at the clock: 15Â seconds. 10. Finally, at five, he drove left, spun in the paint and pulled up. All those years of practice paid off. He lofted the ball from seven feet out. The buzzer blared. Swish. Then: pandemonium. Ryan raced toward the bench. His teammates mobbed him, hugging and bouncing. So did Allen.
Nine days later Gunderson did it again, beating Carmel in its first game of the section playoffs. That the Grizzlies lost to Salinas in the quarterfinals did little to dampen the buzz. The Grizzlies were the feel-good story of the SouthÂ Bay. In an unprecedented occurrence, Gunderson players swept the BlossomÂ Valley division’s awards for senior of the year (Ryan), junior of the year (Mohamed) and sophomore of the year (David). Adding to the excitement, a group of talented freshmen was arriving in theÂ fall.
A mere 14 months after the walkout, Gunderson was on track to become a power.
How do you measure the impact of a coach?
It is a cool night in SanÂ Jose, and gangly teenagers stream toward the Gunderson gym. Inside they run wind sprints. Medicine-ball drills come next, then the weave, then three-on-two drills. Allen stands at midcourt, hands on hips, watching silently. Occasionally he stops practice. “Never put your hands on your knees,” he admonishes a bent-over sophomore. “You’re not tired. Do not ever even think tired. Your opponent will know.” The boy nods, straightens up. He does not talk back.
On the baseline, hardly winded, stands Mohamed. Now a senior, he is 6′ 2″, graceful, confident. He finishes the break with soaring drives. NAIA and junior colleges are interested. He has become the leader of the team, and Allen couldn’t be more proud. When the two part, they say “Love ya.”
On the other side of the court stands David. He has grown into a dominant post player, 6′ 4″ and 183 pounds, while carrying a 4.0Â GPA. He speaks glowingly of his coach, saying, “He’s just really inspiring, you know? You just can’t give up on a man like that. He’s just so passionate.”
Not far from David is Jacobi Allen, who is now a freshman. He is wide-hipped and long-armed, like his father, and he plays with passion. Farther down are more freshman reinforcements: a 6′ 5″ starter and another who had seven interceptions as Gunderson’s starting cornerback. All three have played and trained with Mike Allen Sports for years. The pipeline is in place. Gunderson is a favorite to win the league. (They will finish the year 17-12 and make the section quarterfinals.)
Allen is in a good place. His wife is healthy, the tumor successfully removed, and she coaches the Gunderson girls’ soccer and cross-country teams. Allen’s off-season clinic continues to grow, and Allen aspires to one day become a college or NBA coach. He works as hard as ever; after practice on this night he will stay at the gym until 11Â p.m., shagging balls for two high school girls as they work on their jump shots.
He is pleased with the program’s progress, proud of how opposing coaches comment upon the demeanor of his players, how his bench is always attentive and cheering. He’s proud of how hard the boys study — eight varsity players were recently named to the honor roll — and the effort they put out on the court. “I know how much of an effect I’m having on people’s lives, on players’ dreams,” Allen says. “I’m having an opportunity to change lives, like I needed when I was young.”
As for the GundersonÂ 13, Allen says he hasn’t spoken to many of them. He says he did invite them to an alumni game, but none showed up to play. Asked if he would do anything different given a second chance, he says no, but he does wonder if he “wanted it more for them than they wanted it themselves.” He says he hopes the 13 learned from the experience: To always be respectful. To understand that when you are part of a team, it’s not about you, that it’s a together thing.
“My hope is for them to know how important it is to work together through everything,” he says. “I wish that they would have followed through with the simple request. Marc [Taylor] and I saw what was needed in order for them to get on track. Because we don’t want them to be where they are today.” He pauses. “That’s the unfortunate thing, the pain I have. Wondering where these guys are today and are they setting a good example.”
Where These Guys Are Today
After Gunderson, the 13 dispersed. Lodi headed to DeAnza College in Cupertino. Joaquin eventually went to SanÂ Jose State. Lamar got a job. One player ended up in downtown SanÂ Jose, spending his days not doing much of anything. The others worry about him.
From afar, the 13 watched as Gunderson went from laughingstock to contender. They thought about what had happened. Tried to process it. When a reporter called, in the winter of 2013, they were reticent. “I have no further comments on that situation thank you though,” wrote Lamar in a Facebook message. Lodi responded enthusiastically at first but then stopped talking. Others spoke only on condition that they not be named.
Life lessons? Yes, they got those, though perhaps not the ones Allen intended. “I learned that life is a cold, hard world,” says one of the 13. “Some people might be happy and excited for you, but when it comes down to push and shove, they won’t be there for you. Adults have so much self-esteem and respect for each other, they’re not able to say, ‘You’re right’ or ‘I’m sorry for what happened, can you please forgive me?’ ”
The 13 assume there was a reason for what happened; they say they just don’t know what it was. “Maybe I’ll get to speak to CoachÂ Allen about it later in life,” says one. “We can just kind of be mutual and say, ‘Why did it happen that way?’ ”
There was only one member of the GundersonÂ 13 who was willing to talk on the record. He arrives at an In-N-Out burger joint in SanÂ Jose the week before Christmas, nearly two years to the day since he was suspended. He wears black-rimmed glasses and a wispy goatee.
Ryan Tran is doing well. His senior year at Gunderson he was class president, scholar-athlete of the year and valedictorian, graduating with a 4.0Â GPA. He is at UCLA, where he studies five to six hours a night and plays off and on with a practice squad that scrimmages against the UCLA women’s basketball team. It’s a way to stay around the game.
He says he tries to forget about what happened that winter, even while admitting that it remains “a big part of my life.” While joining a UCLA club he was asked to share an experience and told the story of the walkout. On his application to MIT he was asked about the most challenging part of his life. He wrote about that lost season. He wonders now if that’s why he didn’t get in.
Still, he says he wouldn’t do anything different. “I needed to stand up for myself as well as for these other guys,” he says. “We were kicked off but not told why.” And while Allen says that Ryan “humbled himself” by coming back his senior year, that’s not how Ryan sees it. He considered transferring, then decided that would be cowardly. “By staying I could show that what happened isn’t going to faze me,” Ryan says. “That, if anything, it makes me stronger.”
These days Ryan feels neither loyalty nor animosity toward Allen. He appreciates how the coach welcomed him back and encouraged him, “but it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t respect the decision he made the year prior.” Asked if he’d recommend Allen as a coach, Ryan hesitates, then laughs. “I don’t know,” he says finally. “I’d say yes for skill development and training, but not for learning about the game of basketball.”
How about as a molder of young men?
This time Ryan doesn’t hesitate: “No. Not forÂ that.”
Two years ago Mike Allen drew a line in the sand. Today the Gunderson basketball team is undeniably stronger. His players invest countless hours in the sport. They keep their grades up. They respect authority. They have become better players and, perhaps, better men. All in large part because of him.
Some argue that this is all you need to know. That the end justifies the means. That, as Taylor puts it, “sometimes you have to take the hit because the reward is so great.” Sometimes for progress to occur, real progress, there has to be, as junior guard Jonathan Chavez — one of the four who stayed on the team in 2011 — put it, “collateral damage.”
Others believe this is missing the point. That, in the big scheme of things, youth coaching is rarely about sport itself. That instead it’s a safe place for young people to test boundaries and learn about authority, to wrestle with ideas such as sacrifice and loyalty. That its most important lessons may not become apparent for years. “They are young men — if you have to punish them, punish them,” Linh Tran says. “But they love to play basketball. We all make mistakes. The coach makes a mistake. The players make a mistake. But if you’re a grown man and you do that to a young person, that’s not the right thing to do. They’re in high school, but they’re still children. You’re able to give them opportunities to learn their lessons.”
Where you come down on the matter may depend on who you are. A 16-year-old sees the world differently from a parent, who sees it differently from a coach. Should we show allegiance to our friends or to authority figures? Should we live in the present or fixate on the future? These are not easy questions to answer, especially for a teenager. Allen says he hopes that the Gunderson 13 learned how important it is “to work together through everything.” One wonders if, in the end, it was only the boys who needed to learn that lesson.
We recently launched a new initiative at our company, Fishbowl, called Oceans Institute (Lighthouse Lifelong Learning) that seeks out individuals of uncommon courage and inspiration who teach us how to be a “lighthouse” to one another. We look forward to sharing the “best of the best” segments with you.
The subject of our first discussion is Chad Hymas, one of the country’s most sought after motivational speakers today. We are honored to share with you the lessons he taught us during his brief visit to Fishbowl last month. The Lighthouse lesson we learned from Chad is: “We all have a choice each day. We can be a light for others or be as harsh as a wave that crashes against them.”
Chad gets up every morning with a smile on his face. He does more living in a single day than most of us do in a week. Our team wanted to know how Chad has been able to be so positive and so motivated despite the obstacles he has faced. “Your setback is the platform for your comeback,” says Hymas.
Chad definitely thinks and acts differently than others. At first we thought it was in order for him to survive. After meeting Chad we discovered it’s actually so he can thrive. He has a way of helping people adjust their internal weather patterns and set them right again so that they can get back to the business of doing their best.
Chad’s life took an unexpected turn when he suffered an accident 13 years ago that broke his neck. This debilitating injury took him down but most definitely not out of the game of life. A year and a half later, Chad broke a world record by wheeling from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, a total of 513 grueling miles. Today, Chad is a member of the National Speakers Association and he speaks at more than 200 events a year worldwide.
Lighthouse Lessons Chad Shared with the Bowl
1. Three Words that Stifle the Spirit of the Entrepreneur
The words I, Me, and My can immobilize an entrepreneur. Chad encourages us all to focus more on what we can do for others instead of ourselves. “Compliment people. Magnify their strengths, not their weaknesses,” he says. “You can’t reach what is in front of you until you let go of what is behind you, and that includes letting go of judgment of yourself and others. Try not to focus on what you don’t have, but what you can do for others.”
Chad reminds us that “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Chad believes that if you work hard on behalf of others, success comes in great abundance.
2. Two of the Most Powerful Words Every Entrepreneur Should Follow: Show Up
Chad volunteered to speak at Fishbowl’s winter holiday event to inspire individuals in the community who needed an extra boost. As luck would have it, we experienced a record snowstorm that day. More than 350 people had RSVP’d and we had added extra chairs for the “standing room only” event.
On Friday, we began wondering how we would fit everyone into the auditorium. On Saturday morning, the heaviest snowstorm of the season hit. We were concerned about Chad. He lives in an area of our state that is close to the Great Salt Lake and the snow is extra heavy there due to the “lake effect.” If we get five inches of snow in our part of the state, Chad’s ranch will get more than double that.
Chad travels alone to most local events in an older model van. While we fretted and worried and wondered, Chad drove to the event because he said he would. He didn’t let anything stand in the way of making good on his commitment. He arrived at the event early, in fact. Instead of presenting on stage, Chad sat in the middle of the audience with the 88 people who showed up. His message was “Show up in life. Work hard. Forgive. Don’t Judge. Stay humble.” Chad also encourages us to keep in mind how we “show up” for one another in times of crisis – when a friend or coworker needs us most. Do you have his back or do you add another layer of gossip to the fire? “There is always more than one side to a story and more than one solution,” Chad says.
Chad also recently showed up at his son’s basketball game, this might not seem like a big deal until you know the rest of the story. Chad had been stuck in Iceland! But he found a way to get back just as the game started to support his son. Chad taught us that we can all improve a little each day in how we show up (literally and emotionally).
3. The Best Entrepreneurs are Codependent
Business News of Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Source: Graphic Online
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Motivational speaker and Chief Executive Officer of Legacy and Legacy, Mr Albert Ocran, has advised Ghanaians and the youth in particular to shun what he described as the consumption mentality and rather cultivate a habit of saving towards rainy days.
That, he said, will help provide a stream of financial resources to many people through which they can use to invest and/start businesses by themselves.
Mr Ocran, who is also the CEO of Combert Impressions, a printing house based in Accra, gave the advice at the National Convocation of the Springboard Road Show held at the Accra International Conference Center (AICC) on March 1.
The event, which brought together hundreds of young participants from all over the country, was the Greater Accra Regional version of the regional Springboard Road Show, which runs from February 1 to March 15.
The event is an annual initiative of Legacy and Legacy and supported by dozens of corporate institutions.
It serves as a platform on which young people are inspired through series of motivational speeches to make real their dreams.
This year’s road show was under the theme ‘repositioning.’
The Accra event was graced by Pastor Mensah Otabil, the General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) with Mr Ace Ankomah, a Managing Partner at Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa Ankomah, a law firm based in Accra, and Mr Albert Osei, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Koko King as speakers.
Speaking on entrepreneurship, Mr Ocran, said many business ideas were aborted by lack of funds, a challenge he said could be solved if people embraced a saving culture.
“High income is not a guarantee for financial stability. It is the ability to save and invest that is the solution. If you are earning Ghc1,000 a month but fail to invest and someone earns Ghc100 but invests part of his/income, at the end of the day, the one who bests will be better off than the one who earns high,” he said, and thus called people to resist the temptation to spend all their earnings without investing.
Mr Ankomah and the CEO of Koko King advised participants not to let challenges in live hold them down but work towards realising their dreams.
In addition to the motivational speeches, which were climaxed by the one from Pastor Otabil, there were breakup sessions where corporate institutions in the financial services sector advised participants on how to, among other things, make career choices, save towards starting their own businesses as well as make investment decisions.
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