• Coach K’s Letter to His Younger Self

    Posted: March 14th, 2018


    The NCAA tournament for men’s college basketball begins Thursday. Often a Final Four favorite, the Duke Blue Devils are a No. 2 seed in their region – largely thanks to coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s led the team since 1980.

    As Duke takes on Iona College Thursday in the first round of the tournament, the man known as Coach K writes a letter to his younger self and shares his historic path to becoming the most winning coach in Division I college basketball.

    Dear Mick,

    Keep playing those schoolyard games – I know that they are the best part of your day and you might not yet know that they are also important to your future. Those games you play with Moe and rest of the boys are laying a foundation for your future as a member and leader of teams.

    And the games you play when they have all gone home and you are alone with the ball and the hoop, those are equal in their fundamental value. When you envision yourself in championship moments, counting down the seconds in your head, driving past invisible defenders – you are giving yourself a destination.

    There will be stops along the way that you could not possibly imagine. Did you know, Mick, that you will be the first in your family to go to college? Did you know that your father, the elevator operator, and your mother, with the eighth-grade education who cleans office floors at night – those children of Polish immigrants – did you know that they are doing those things to ensure opportunities for you and for your brother?

    You will become a cadet and a basketball player at one of the greatest institutions for leadership in the world. Their encouragement will send you to West Point.

    And when you grow up, when you become a head coach, first at Army and then at Duke, when you find yourself coaching a team in championship moments, you will feel as if you’ve been there before. Because of what you are doing right now in that schoolyard in inner-city Chicago, you will know what to do. Never underestimate the immense power of your imagination. You will use it all your life.

    There will be a time in your future, when you are approaching 50 years old, when you will become disconnected with those things you learned in the schoolyard, where it wasn’t always about winning and when the experience and the feeling were what mattered most. The pressure will become heavy and you will feel that burden in your body as well as in your mind. Your family will ask you to take a step away from the team and the game you love. It will be hard, but please listen to them and let them help you reclaim the part of yourself that finds joy and meaning in the process and that understands the importance of balance.

    And Mick, take it easy on your mom, OK? It won’t be long before you realize that she is your first hero. Your passion for creating opportunities for the next generation begins with her, as does your sense of humor. Watch her. Listen to her. She is selfless and courageous.

    For whatever reason, life will be good to you. It will offer you many opportunities, and you will do your best to make the most of them. Your ability to seize those opportunities lies in what you are doing right now and the people you have around you. Please pay attention. You will be talking about that schoolyard a half-century from now. You will still be able to feel the pavement beneath your feet and experience the joy of the countless celebrations of imagined victories. You will tell stories of your mother’s courage to locker rooms full of athletes and gymnasiums full of hopeful high school graduates.

    You’re not going to believe how lucky you are.

    Coach K

    Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coach-k-duke-basketball-mike-krzyzewski-note-to-self/

Belief

Belief can mean the difference between a fear of failure and the courage to try. On a team or in a family, belief makes each individual stronger and also fortifies the group as a whole. The basis of belief is in individual relationships.

- Coach K
Collective Responsibility

We win and we lose together. Handling the responsibility for wins and losses together removes the burden from one individual’s shoulders and distributes it among each member of the team. That atmosphere is conducive to high-level performance and places you and your team in the position to be bold and unafraid, and if you should lose, you are not alone.

- Coach K
Balance

Take care not to allow one aspect of your life to so consume you that you neglect the others. Balance can put things in perspective, can bring you joy even when you are down, and can allow you to be at your best in all aspects of your life.

- Coach K
Adaptability

You have to adapt what you do based on who you are. In teaching, you must remember that no group or individual is the same as who you taught the day before, the year before, or the decade before. Your plan has to suit who you and your team are right now.

- Coach K
Care

When you care about someone or something, you show genuine concern for that person or thing, in good times or bad. When you care about one another and about your purpose, you are compelled to put your feelings into action. Care creates an atmosphere that breeds success and gives you the confidence to try again.

- Coach K
Courage

You can possess countless good qualities as an individual, but if you don”t have the courage to proceed, you may never see those qualities come into fruition. It takes courage to put what you believe to be best of you on the line, to test it, and to see how far it takes you. Courage means daring to do what you imagine.

- Coach K
Commitment

When you are winning, your commitment is never challenged. But loyalty and dedication during difficult times can be tough. When commitment doesn’t waver, that’s when you have the greatest chance of winning. You can never give up.

- Coach K
Challenges

No matter how successful you believe yourself to be, you can never feel as if you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle. There are always new and wonderful challenges out there, and part of maintaining success is knowing when you need to accept them.

- Coach K
Adversity

Adversity can teach you more about yourself than any success, and overcoming an obstacle can sometimes feel even better than achieving an easy victory. Through adversity, you can discover things about your endurance, your ability to turn a negative into a positive, and your personal strength of heart.

- Coach K
Communication

Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication. Communication does not always occur naturally, and must be taught and practiced in order to bring everyone together as one. The most crucial element of communicating is telling the truth.

- Coach K
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