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Sunday at the Post

Honoring high school coaches, plus news and notes. Michael Lombardi

Print This January 24, 2010, 04:38 AM EST

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“Our players come from different backgrounds, regions and life experiences. The one thing they all have in common is that they received guidance and learned important life lessons from their high school coaches. These five finalists have dedicated their lives to teaching young players how to become leaders both on and off the field, and we congratulate them and all high school coaches for the roles they play in helping develop the leaders of our game.” – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

The NFL’S version of the Final Four is here, and besides the games we have on tap today, we also find time to honor the high school coaches who have played an important role in the game. Without the teaching and guidance of high school coaches all over the country, the NFL would not be the same. The farm system of high school for the NFL allows players to be captivated by the game, with the discipline required to excel and, most important, learn the art of competition. Each finalist receives a $2,500 cash award and a $5,000 grant for their high school football programs. The winner, who will be announced this week, will attend Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida as a guest of the NFL and receive a $5,000 cash award and a $10,000 grant for his high school football program.

Here are the 2010 finalists:

From the NFL press release:

In his nomination essay, Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Chris Hovan credited coach Chuck Kyle of St. Ignatius High School with teaching him to “grow up and be a man both on and off the football field.” Kyle coached USA Football’s Junior National Team to a gold medal at the International Federation of American Football Junior World Championship in July 2009.

Minnesota Vikings K Ryan Longwell had similar high praise for coach Craig Walker of Bend High School, crediting him with “helping me develop my mental edge.”

Seattle Seahawks DE Nick Reed recognized coach Robert Johnson of Mission Viejo High School as “pivotal to the success of the football program,” remarking that “best of all he still keeps in touch.” Johnson also coached Reed’s former teammate, New York Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez. “It’s a well deserved honor for coach Johnson,” said Sanchez. “I’m proud to know him. I’m proud to be close friends with him, and I wish him and his family the best.”

Winston Justice of the Philadelphia Eagles nominated coach Raul Lara of Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Justice remarked, "[He] was a good example on and off the field and expected the same from his players." Justice’s Philadelphia Eagles teammate DeSean Jackson is also a graduate of coach Lara’s football program.

T.J. Lang of the Green Bay Packers recognized coach Al Fracassa of Brother Rice High School, writing, “Coach Fracassa was an inspiration to me and every player he’s ever coached. He taught me humility and the importance of teamwork.” Coach Fracassa was named NFL High School Football Coach of the Year in 1997.

AROUND THE NFL…

“Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted... unbidden... it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us... passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we'd know some kind of peace... but we would be hollow... Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we'd be truly dead.” -- Joss Whedon

1. Now the season has ended for the Chargers, don’t expect them to take very long making a decision on the future of LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers need a back and know it’s not LT. The larger issue is what to do with specialist Darren Sproles.

2. Having worked at the Hotel, I know that the phone calls made by the owner are often perceived as interest on his part but are really fact-finding missions. His flirtation with Hue Jackson had more to do with getting to know Jackson than anything else. Don’t forget, it took the Raiders three years of interviewing Jon Gruden before they hired him. At the Hotel, there’s a process. Never confuse the process for a decision.

3. What makes it hard to be accurate about the Raiders coaching decision is that only one man knows what will eventually happen. However, all last week, there was speculation that current head coach Tom Cable might be interested in an offensive line position with another team. In fact, one team was calling around looking for recommendations on him. That doesn’t happen if the coach is secure.

4. Denver’s change at defensive coordinator was not because Josh McDaniels wanted to blitz less. In fact, from what I’m hearing, the Broncos might blitz more next season, regardless of who the defensive coordinator is. Right now, linebackers coach Don Martindale seems to the favorite.

5. Expect the Ravens to hire another defensive assistant to help Greg Mattison coach linebackers. It might end up being former New England defensive coordinator Dean Pees if he doesn’t get the Denver job.

6. Miami ‘s Bill Parcells really helped Eric Mangini keep his job in Cleveland because of his strong relationship with Mike Holmgren.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING...

“Someone I once knew wrote that we walk away from our dreams...afraid that we may fail, or worse yet, afraid we may succeed. While I knew so very early on that you would realize your dreams...I never imagined I would once again realize my own. Seasons change, young man. While I waited until the winter of my life to see what I've seen this past year...there is no doubt I would have waited too long, had it not been for you.” -- William Forester in the movie “Finding Forester”

Stanley Tucci, the best and worst times….from CBS Morning Show

The Spreadsheet Killed NBC -- Lessons from Jay Leno

THREE FACEBOOK SETTINGS EVERY USER SHOULD CHECK — From the New York Times

Larry Platt is no fool. He marched with Martin Luther King when he was a teenager. The Georgia General Assembly proclaimed Sept. 4, 2001, Larry Platt Day in Atlanta, because of “his great energy and commitment to equality and the protection of the innocent and for his outstanding service to the Atlanta community and the citizens of Georgia."

LEADERSHIP TIP OF THE WEEK…

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” -- Colin Powell

This week’s tip comes from John Baldoni

John Baldoni is a leadership consultant, coach and speaker. He is the author of eight books, including “Lead Your Boss, The Subtle Art of Managing Up”

How Leaders Should Think Critically

If you want to succeed in 21st Century business you need to become a critical thinker. Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management figured this out a decade ago and as dean has been working to transform his school's business curriculum with greater emphasis on critical thinking skills. As Lane Wallace explained in the New York Times, what Martin and many others are seeking to do is approach learning and problem solving from a multicultural platform that borrows from academia, business, the arts and even history.

Critical thinking has always been a prized attribute of leadership, but over the years, especially as business schools have emphasized quantitative skills over qualitative ones, critical thinking dropped by the wayside. Now, as the rate of complexity rises, the need for critical thinking resurfaces.

David A. Garvin of the Harvard Business School told the New York Times, "I think there's a feeling that people need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it's questioning assumptions or looking at problems from multiple points of view." With this, Garvin, who is a co-author of “Re-Thinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads,” neatly summarizes a foundation for how to begin to instill a critical thinking mindset.

Let me expand further what you need to do to think critically:

Question assumptions. Critical thinkers are inquisitive and look to find the what and the why behind every proposition. We saw the need for this when our financial markets melted in 2008. Crisis can bring out the best critical thinking because it forces you to question how and why you ended up in trouble.

Adopt different perspectives. Take advantage of the genders and cultures represented in today's diverse management landscape. An Indian-trained engineer may not view a problem the way one raised in Iowa will. Both may have the same problem-solving tool kit, but their different experiences can provide valuable insights.

See potential. Assumption-busting and harnessing multiple perspectives are deductive skills. Critical thinkers should also have a creative bent that allows them to see opportunities where others see obstacles. For example, one executive may see a production snag as a problem whereas a savvy thinker must view it as an opportunity to revamp the process to produce something new.

There is one additional aspect of critical thinking that is vital to today's leader: managing ambiguity. The speed of business, intertwined as it is with global factors and complex supply chains, dictates that you will never know all the variables. Therefore, you need to get comfortable with operating in an environment where change is constant and rapid decisions are required.

In a world of growing uncertainty one thing is certain; we will need sharp critical thinkers who can size up the situation, realize the potential where others may not and seize opportunities through prompt decision-making.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK…

“I must learn to love the fool in me, the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries.” -- Theodore Isaac Rubin

As only NFL Films and Steve Sabol can, here is the career of Rex Ryan

STORIES TO SHARE...

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. -- Goethe
Adrift

Adam Khan, Self-Help Stuff That Works

In 1982, Steven Callahan was crossing the Atlantic alone in his sailboat when it struck something and sank. He was out of the shipping lanes and floating in a life raft, alone. His supplies were few. His chances were small. Yet when three fishermen found him seventy-six days later (the longest anyone has survived a shipwreck on a life raft alone), he was alive -- much skinnier than he was when he started, but alive.

His account of how he survived is fascinating. His ingenuity -- how he managed to catch fish, how he fixed his solar still (evaporates sea water to make fresh) -- is very interesting.

But the thing that caught my eye was how he managed to keep himself going when all hope seemed lost, when there seemed no point in continuing the struggle, when he was suffering greatly, when his life raft was punctured and after more than a week struggling with his weak body to fix it, it was still leaking air and wearing him out to keep pumping it up. He was starved. He was desperately dehydrated. He was thoroughly exhausted. Giving up would have seemed the only sane option.

When people survive these kinds of circumstances, they do something with their minds that gives them the courage to keep going. Many people in similarly desperate circumstances give in or go mad. Something the survivors do with their thoughts helps them find the guts to carry on in spite of overwhelming odds.

"I tell myself I can handle it," wrote Callahan in his narrative. "Compared to what others have been through, I'm fortunate. I tell myself these things over and over, building up fortitude...."

I wrote that down after I read it. It struck me as something important. And I've told myself the same thing when my own goals seemed far off or when my problems seemed too overwhelming. And every time I've said it, I have always come back to my senses.

The truth is, our circumstances are only bad compared to something better. But others have been through much worse. I've read enough history to know you and I are lucky to be where we are, when we are, no matter how bad it seems to us compared to our fantasies. It's a sane thought and worth thinking.

So here, coming to us from the extreme edge of survival, are words that can give us strength. Whatever you're going through, tell yourself you can handle it. Compared to what others have been through, you're fortunate. Tell this to yourself over and over, and it will help you get through the rough spots with a little more fortitude.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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