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Volume 21 No. 1
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To the class of 2011 …

Members of the sports industry were among the commencement speakers on college and university campuses across the country this spring. Presented here are excerpts of their advice and words of wisdom.


New York Giants general manager
University of Tennessee, Martin

In this book by Wayne Cordeiro, "The Divine Mentor," he talks about the last 5 percent. … Ninety-five percent of the people with some measure of training can already do what you choose to do. But it's the 5 percent that you do, that you bring to the table, that unique 5 percent — that's what we're asking from you. That unique 5 percent that you can bring to the table, nobody else has that 5 percent. … So what I'd like for you to do with your classmates right now is make a pact. Turn to your fellow classmates on the right and left and just say "Give me five." And that means I'm going to hold you responsible to make a difference, not to blend in, and to make this world a better place.


NFL Players Association executive director
University of Maryland

The question of do you really care enough about who you are and who you'd like to become: My hope today is that you will answer that question with an emotional and passionate "Yes." Yes! There will be those people, I promise you, there will be lesser people who will attempt to convince you that having a passion and risking failure and believing in something noble is pointless and the pursuit of it is futile. My only advice to you is to reject them. Utterly reject them. Choosing to care enough will always mean that you have to strive harder and demand more for yourself. It will also mean that every now and then, you will pick up a mantle and fight for somebody else.

 For more on Smith's speech, see


WTA, Women's Sports Foundation and World TeamTennis founder
University of Vermont

As a youngster, I played a lot of team sports. Basketball was my first sport … tennis was my last sport, and as a child, I noticed one thing — or, many things — but one theme: white balls, white clothes, white socks, white shoes, white people. Where is everybody else? At 12 years of age, I made a commitment. I had an epiphany, and I made a commitment that I would dedicate my life to equal rights and opportunities for both boys and girls, men and women, the rest of my life. And nothing's changed. …

Study history. The more you know about history, the more you know about yourself. You're going to have a tough time. It's a tough time to go out and work. I'm not here to discourage you. In fact, I'm here to encourage you, but I know a friend of mine who sent out over a thousand résumés. He had 71 interviews on either the phone or in person. He took over eight months to land his first job. And his dad is in the industry of communication and he had contacts. We all tried to help him get this job. It is tough, but you can do it. I want you to keep learning, think about little steps and small victories. Little steps, small victories.

Like, I'm trying to master my iPad. I've gone from a BlackBerry, and I have an iPad. And I can tell you, if I ever master, or just get close to using it properly, many are going to celebrate. Especially at the office in World TeamTennis, my business, they're going to be thrilled.


Olympic gymnast
West Virginia University School of Medicine

For those of you that remember watching the 1996 Olympic Games, you probably think that I'm going to share a story about my goldmedal performance with you all. No, I want to share a story with you all of when I made a mistake, where my mind worked against me. During those Olympic Games, I made a mistake in the all-around competition. … I get to my second tumbling pass, which was a round-off, whip back, back handspring, two and a half punch run — if you're not a gymnast, you're clueless, but I just like saying it anyway. … So I get to that tumbling pass, I made a mistake and I fell. …

You know we always like to point the finger if we make a mistake in life. We like to look around us. Maybe it was the tumbling mat, maybe the lights were too bright in the Georgia Dome, heaven forbid the fans were just too loud: All 50,000 of y'all were just too loud. I wanted to look outside and point the finger, but once my career was over, I realized that I could only point the finger at myself and it started up here with my mind. … When you are confronting a situation, a challenge, a fear, a setback, an individual you maybe had some negative experiences with, first take some time and think about what's going on in your mind. Because your mind will make or break you.


Basketball hall of famer
New York Institute of Technology

For so long, basketball was the master cylinder that moved my life along. Everything I did related to the time I spent on the court. Hoops were the foundation for all that I achieved. But now I have come to a sea change. I've gotten to that point where I can make the transition from baller to scholar. … When I got out of UCLA, I had a professional career in front of me, but that foundation that I had built at that time really has served me very well, because it's been 22 years since I stopped playing professional basketball. And now I can't rely on hoops. It's something else that's happening in my life, and I've become a writer and now a filmmaker. It is all based on the foundation that I got at UCLA and my education.

So many of you are also at a point where you are making such a transition. Your lives as students have come to an end, and you're going out into the world to make your own way. It is a moment that is both scary and exciting. Scary because the job market at this point in time is not in the greatest shape for newcomers, and exciting because you will get that chance to test your own wings. Will it be like you imagined? …

But you should know that life is at all times an adventure, one that you will learn to enjoy and look forward to as the years go by.


Tour de France champion, Lance Armstrong Foundation founder (Livestrong)
High Point University

Dr. Nichols pulled me aside and he said, "I want to talk to you about something. I want to talk to you about something called 'the obligation of the cured.' … It's an approach to how you walk out of this hospital. There's two exits. There's a private exit over here, where you're going to walk out and nobody will be there. Nobody will see you, nobody will hear you, nobody will ever know you were here. Nobody will know you had cancer, nobody will know what you went through, you leave a private man. And that's fine. But there's a public exit, too. It's on the other side. When you walk out, there's going to be a lot of people there, and they're all going to know your story, and they're all going to want to hear your story." He said, "You get to decide which side you walk out."

And I said, "Dr. Nichols, without even looking or peering to see how many were out there" — obviously there were none, but in my mind, it felt like there were a lot — I said, "You've got a deal. I'm going out the public side, with all those people out there."

We're all going to face that challenge. You get to decide, do you embrace that, do you share that story, do you try to help others through the sharing of that story? That's your decision. Both are fine. The world, on the other hand, will be much better if you walk out on the public side, whatever it is that you're facing.


Former MLB pitcher
New England Institute of Technology

I played baseball for 23 years [and] I now run a team of people that is close to 300 people strong, located in downtown Providence (R.I.), I'm proud to say. And I've come to learn something that held true whether it was the '93 Phillies, the '01 Diamondbacks [or] the '04 Red Sox: Everything and anything that has to do with success in life is based on people, and it's based on a passion. And finding ways to be around and with people that inspire you and that you inspire is something you should strive for in every facet of your life. …

One of the things they talk about when they talk about the student body is, you're a bunch of scrappy students. Now, I appreciate scrappy because I played with Dustin Pedroia, but I look at what it is that I'm trying to do from a business perspective [and] from an entrepreneurial perspective with a company we started, and I understand that we're in a different time and in a different place. And when I watch these young kids come in with résumés from schools around the country and I understand that at the base of their education is a passion to change the world, it's beautiful to see, it's fun to be engaged with. At the end of the day, I get to watch you do what it is you have a passion for doing, and it's a very powerful thing.


ESPN college football analyst, former coach
Trine University

Attitude is going to be critical the rest of your life. You're going to have people say negative things; you're going to have people doubt you. Do not be discouraged by the 99 that don't believe in you; be encouraged by the one person that does. People are always going to be telling you you can't do something. …

I'm at Notre Dame, we're going down … to play in the Sugar Bowl to play Florida. We're an underdog. … We go out to dinner, I'm in a great mood … The waiter came up and he recognized me and said, "You're Lou Holtz, head coach of Notre Dame aren't ya?" And I said, "Yes, sir." I took out my pen thinking he wanted an autograph, and he said "Let me ask you a question." He said, "What's the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios." And I said, "I don't have a clue." He said, "Cheerios belong in a bowl, Notre Dame doesn't."

Well, I'll tell ya, I'm rather competitive. It put me in a bad mood, it made me mad, and my wife said to me, "You're going to let somebody you never met before, you're never going to see again, doesn't care a single thing about you — you're going to let him ruin this evening with your family?" And she said, "You're smarter than that. You can't let other people control your thoughts." I said, "You're right, honey. He's not going to ruin this evening." My attitude changed. I got in such a great attitude I called the waiter back here and I said, "Son, let me ask you a question. What's the difference between Lou Holtz and a golf pro?" And he said, "I don't have a clue." I said, "A golf pro gives tips" — which he found out when the evening was over. So life, it's not complicated, but attitude is critical.


West Virginia men's basketball coach
WVU College of Physical Activity and Sports Science

I was riding in a truck with this guy and he didn't have a rearview mirror. I said, "Phil, you don't have a rearview mirror in your truck." He said, "Boy, we ain't goin' backwards." And I think that's important, you know. We need to — and I'm probably as guilty as anybody — but everybody says we need to stop and smell the roses. They tell me that all the time, you know: "You don't slow down enough. You need to stop and smell the roses."

I was always afraid when I stopped and smelled the roses [that fellow Big East Conference coaches] Jay Wright, Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun would go running right by me, so I have a hard time stopping. But I think it is important that once we go on our career track that we don't look back, that we go and we chase our dreams — and we aspire to be the best we can be.


MLB commissioner
Medical College of Wisconsin

Those who have spent their lives in baseball have gained a wonderful appreciation for the life's work that is now ahead of you. The old adage goes that "The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint." Over the course of a six-week spring training, 162 regular-season games in the ensuing 183 days, and a month of postseason play for a lucky few teams, it is no wonder why the members of a club's medical staff become as interwoven with a ballclub as anyone on the field of play. There is a rhythm to the season that is dictated, in large part, by the club physicians and athletic trainers who tend to those who take the diamond each and every day. Baseball players and athletes of all kinds are able to achieve their dreams because of the efforts of men and women like you in educating them, keeping them healthy and helping them improve.


Pittsburgh Pirates chairman
Bethany College

I was reminded [recently] by a bit of baseball poetry from a former president of Yale, a former commissioner of baseball, a bit of a poet philosopher: Bart Giamatti. And he reflects on the passage of time and specifically how life can and does pass us by in his "Green Fields of the Mind": "… There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn in it. But I need to think that something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game. Might as well be that, in a green field in the sun."

There are times when each of you will have a sense that life is moving by quickly, and let me suggest that you will all need something in your lives that lasts and [is] a touchstone of that permanence, something to believe in. And let me suggest that for each of you that might be your experience here at Bethany. Remember your time here, your friends, professors, the good and the bad. And when you need to believe something of real importance can last forever, I'd hope that you would think of this place, these buildings, and more importantly the people around you and the moments you shared together.

— Compiled by Molly Hogan