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Becoming a True Champion Chat

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The “True Champion” Code

I will

- Consistently, and without reservation, strive to reach my full potential.

- Be committed and disciplined in my approach.

- Take personal responsibility, and any action necessary, to achieve team and individual goals.

- Demonstrate a deep desire to succeed, applying passion and heart to any and every task at hand.

- Show an impeccable and relentless work ethic that only true dedication provides.

- Set priorities, and make the required sacrifices, that enhance the chances for athletic success.

- Persevere through adversity with a positive attitude and concentration that strives toward excellence and mastery.

- Establish a mindset that highly encourages the belief and confidence that one can accomplish anything, if they are so willing.

- Apply a training and competitive focus that creates the opportunity to transform the impossible into the possible.

All set on a foundation of strong character and integrity that beseeches one to do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do

And so you may ask – “Why follow a code of such standard?”

Because I believe I can make a difference

And because I believe it

Then it is something I should do

Because it is something I should do

Then it is something I will do

So I toil and sweat both through the good days and the bad

Chipping away at any weakness that following the code may reveal within

Creating inspiration from athletic experiences of days gone by

From future experiences that have yet to occur

And from those who may someday attempt to walk the same path

Never giving up

Never giving in

And never swaying – but for a moment

From the Code of a True Champion

“Why?”, again, one might ask

Simply – Because I can!!!

                                 Kirk Mango 2009

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strong Leadership

Strong leadership, like a river,
keeps moving no-matter what lies in its path

Whether sand, rock, or even a mountain;
water will always find its way

It may be forceful or subtle, yet,
always present and relentless

Never giving in and never giving up
Wearing away any resistance that it encounters

It will take any course necessary in order to accomplish its goal
Whatever that goal might be

Yes, leadership is like a river, always moving forward and always in a positive direction, bringing with it all that it surrounds

Like a team with a captain steering the ship through treacherous waters setting the right example with his or her positive actions, choices and behavior

Never giving up, never giving in, and with true belief in their teammates and the direction they wish to travel

And like a river, always moving that team forward, and in a positive direction,
toward its ultimate potential and toward their ultimate goal

Whatever that goal might be

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Is a loss always just a loss? Not necessarily

Normally I try to keep my articles and blog posts specific to athletes as a whole and shy away from making them directly personal. However, I recently had the opportunity, and pleasure, of witnessing an example of the true caring discussed in my last blog article Four Attributes That Lead To Athletic Greatness. This vivid example occurred at the culmination of a volleyball match between the University of Louisville, the team my daughter plays for, and highly-ranked Purdue University during the first round of the NCAA tournament. Louisville lost in a hotly-contested 5-game match where lead exchanges occurred throughout. Yet, after watching the match unfold, in addition to seeing the personal and team growth and development the coaching staff promoted and encouraged during the season, I was left with a question, “was this loss really a loss or a beginning?” Oh yes, the scoreboard did read 16 – 14 Purdue at the end of the 5th and deciding game, giving the Boilermakers the go-ahead win into the second round, but the end of the story, hmmm – I am not so sure that will be the case here. From my perspective, I do believe that this particular “loss” may truly represent something much more than an end. That is if I am reading correctly what I saw written on the faces and in the eyes of the Louisville girls after the game as they re-entered the gym from their post-game locker room meeting.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Four Attributes That Lead To Athletic Greatness

Have you ever gone to a sporting event and noticed that the better players, the ones who stand out head and shoulders above the rest, all seem to have something in common with each other? That they, for some reason, tend to play harder, show more emotion, demonstrate a high level of skill, can consistently perform at an elevated level and seem to be the players, or player, that a team rallies around and looks to for their success. You know who I am speaking of, the ones that make a difference.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


My objective, through the writing of my forthcoming book Becoming a True Champion and the articles I publish on my blog, center on giving back to those willing to look at a perspective I believe can help them accomplish any goal they set. It was through an experience I had in high school sports, an epiphany of sorts, that I learned about myself and about what can be accomplished, if the right principles are applied, even though the odds dictate otherwise.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Part II: It’s All In Your Point of View – An athlete’s perspective can make all the difference

In part I of It’s All In Your Point of View, I detailed a discussion my friend Jim and I had on the way home from a tennis match recently. This discussion centered its focus on the differences between our perspectives on our collegiate sports experiences compared to many of today’s youths, and their parents’, perspective. My purpose was to help answer the question, Why are their perspectives so different? Below is a list of several intrinsic-type components that, in my mind, help an athlete develop a better more positive perspective and, in the end, bring more enjoyment and fulfillment back to them. At least if they stay much more focused in these areas as their reasoning behind why they play.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote of the Month

"Be an athlete who chooses their own path becoming one who makes a difference, and part of a team’s solution, otherwise your path will be chosen for you and instead of being a solution you become part of a team's problem."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Part I: It’s All In Your Point of View – An athlete’s perspective can make all the difference

I was on my way home from a tennis match with a friend of mine (we both play for our club team here in Naperville Illinois), and we struck up a conversation regarding our own personal experiences and perspectives on college athletic participation. We were both college athletes, he was a ball player at SIU and I a gymnast at NIU. What I found most interesting about our conversation was that both of us had the same viewpoint on how we saw our collegiate athletic experience. Basically, neither of us could even imagine going through college without sports; that we truly enjoyed the experience, felt we gained a tremendous amount from it, and would most certainly do it all over again if given the opportunity. Two athletes, two different times, two different sports, but with the exact same perspective. Interesting, especially since I hear so much of the opposite from other parents who have kids playing sports at that level. This is in addition to the good number of athletes themselves who are currently involved (or were involved) in college athletics and who echo these same opposing sentiments. I, as did my friend Jim, find this to be a little sad and a little disconcerting to say the least.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Justified Behavior, Unsportsmanlike Behavior or Assault: You Decide

Below is a link to a videotaped recent incident of a coach pushing an 11-year-old out of a handshake line after a youth football game. It is obvious that the coach was very aggressive toward the youth; however, it does not show anything that might have caused such an inappropriate response. Take a look:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Inspirational Quote of the Month

“Putting forth the effort to accomplish something others believe to be impossible brings with it intrinsic rewards not usually found on the 'easier path'. Facing this type of adversity with determination and will on your side creates the opportunity for achievement not easily seen by doubters. In the end, however, it will not be the achievement of your goal that will hold the most value but the willingness to travel such an arduous path toward a goal which only you see as within your grasp.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

No-Cut Polices: Absolute or Independent Practice? / Realistic or Idealistic?

The concept of giving opportunity to all interested athletes wanting to participate in competitive sports, up through high school, is certainly an initiative worth looking at. I wholeheartedly agree, in principle, with the idea that the positive learning experiences, intrinsic values, and life lessons taught through participation in youth sports behooves us to examine the possibility of “no-cut” policies across the board. However, as the title of this blog implies (and as with most absolutes), the practicality of such a proposal raises many questions which significantly impact its realities. Below is a list of just a few of these realities that will need to be addressed, and tackled with feasible solutions, in order for broad-based, no-cut policies to be safely implemented.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Performance Enhancement: Where Do We Draw the Line? Part II – The Guidelines

Developing guidelines to address issues apparent in Part I of Performance Enhancement: Where Do We Draw the Line is certainly easier said than done; the complexities are obvious. What I would like to do is create a starting place, a beginning, from which we (and athletes) can more easily determine the point of performance enhancement that must never be crossed. The hope is to allow athletes the ability to continue striving toward their full athletic potential without risking their character and integrity or their physical/mental/emotional wellbeing. Below is my list, with explanations, of what these guidelines might look like:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Performance Enhancement: Where Do We Draw the Line? Part I – The Problem

We could make this simple and just say that using any performance enhancement deemed illegal is where:

> proper athletic training ends and cheating begins

> the attitude of “winning at all costs” exhibits major control

> the eroding of character/integrity establishes a strong foothold

It is a clear and definite line most anyone can understand, but is it clear enough? Does it truly define and clarify the underlining and intrinsic factors leading up to a choice such as PED’s (performance enhancing drugs)? Does that simplified definition give us the needed depth and breadth to rectify a problem that certainly has a gray area sitting between two extremes?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Olympics Are Upon Us: And what a “Games” it will be!!!!

Another four years has come and gone since the summer games of 2004 in Athens. My enthusiasm has certainly waned a little from what it was in my younger days, due in large part to the influx of professional athletes. (There was just something to be said for overcoming the adversity our amateur athletes faced in the old days.) However, there are several individuals/events/sports that have truly sparked my interest and motivation. I am looking forward to seeing how all the stories unfold. Here are my own picks for the games and why:

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton: Great Comeback Story????

A conversation between myself and my daughter’s fiancé regarding character (or lack thereof) and sports, possible endorsees for my forthcoming book Becoming a True Champion – which certainly has a focus on character and integrity as a foundational principle, and the state of affairs with many elite and professional athletes today, prompted several questions. If an athlete, or any person for that matter, makes a poor character choice, a mistake (i.e. cheating, illicit drug use, etc.) are they destined to live out the rest of their life as an individual known for being short on character and integrity? Is it possible to rebuild the trust lost through a change in direction? If so, does this become a solid and respectable example for others, especially kids, earning back that previous loss of character? Basically, is there any redemption for such an individual?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Excellence in Sports: Five Questions You, The Athlete, Should Ask Yourself

What is it that truly separates the average athlete from the good or the good athlete from the great? If you answered that question with the word “talent,” I would say that that is only a small part of the equation. Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” Yes, skill (or development thereof) does have some basis in talent; however, the real message in that quote goes way beyond sheer talent, and even the skills of a sport (which can be learned and improved on). The key is in that last sentence, “the will must be stronger than the skill.” The power in that quote is exemplified in those last eight words.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Deeper Meaning Behind Youth Sports Participation

Principles of Greatness: A Visual Demonstration by Profiles International

To aspire to be something more, whether in sports, music, art, school, the workplace, or life in general, is a goal that few could argue with. The difficulty comes when contemplating the depth and breadth of what this actually means.

I like to think of that “something more” from the standpoint of what we have, or are able to develop, on the inside. Those positive intrinsic attributes which set a person apart from the group, that create the ability to achieve what others only think of, that govern our life choices and aid in building strong character.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Personal Ownership and Responsibility for Creating Athletic Success: Part 2

In an effort to further demonstrate this idea of Personal Ownership and Responsibility in Creating Athletic Success let me also relay to you a true event that occurred while watching my own kid play soccer on their high school team. It is customary for me to sit fairly quietly during games and just watch, giving only positive support when good shots, passes, or plays take place.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Personal Ownership and Responsibility for Creating Athletic Success: Part 1

In order to best explain what I mean by the individual athlete taking personal ownership and responsibility for creating athletic success, let me develop an analogy that might help demonstrate this concept and the choices/options that go along with it.

Let’s say that a female athlete wants to become a very good volleyball player. She loves playing the game and has a real passion for the sport, along with some good athletic talent. However, the coach and program at her high school is not on par with the level of play this athlete wants to achieve. In fact, very little time is spent at practice on drills and situational play that focus on improving the base fundamentals and individual skills of the game (something all athletes at all levels need to continually and consistently work and improve on). The majority of practice is spent scrimmaging and playing various team games. Fun, yes, important, yes (at times), but without the right balance of fundamental skill work throughout the season, not very developmental.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From The Athlete’s Perspective

Much of what I discuss in my blog and in my forthcoming book Becoming a True Champion, centers on the teenage athlete (up to any age) and the perspective they should take in order to gain what they could out of their athletic experiences. Through my years as high school teacher and coach, I have come to the conclusion that the more responsibility an athlete takes for the things they would like to achieve, the more control they have over the possibility of accomplishing what they want. It is this type of attitude that makes the seemingly impossible become possible.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Sportsmanship through Character – A MUST SEE!!!

Every once in a while I come across an excellent visual representation of what it means to express, without reservation, the true essence of doing the right thing just because it is the right thing to do or, in other words, Good Character. Inspirational in nature, it is most assuredly at the heart of many intrinsic components - one of which is Good Sportsmanship. Both demonstrate completely the idea above of “doing the right thing.” They are certainly two intrinsic components that we all hope young athletes either develop or reveal (or both) through their sports experiences, and are two aspects seemingly absent (or at least that is what the media leads us to believe) from our youth, high school, college, and elite level sports venues.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Striving for athletic perfection, Good or Bad?

There is some debate on whether perfection is a concept that athletes should strive for. If you Google striving for sports perfection, you will certainly find a variety of information detailing both sides of this issue. Much of this information centers on whether the attitude toward perfection is of the maladaptive or adaptive variety, the latter being preferred. After reading through several of these articles, and relating it to my own personal experience with this concept, I find that a person’s own belief system and how they themselves view the idea of striving for athletic perfection makes all the difference.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What We Truly Want to Teach and, in the End, Really Want “Them” to Learn

If you have visited my website Becoming a True Champion and/or this blog, and taken some time to read the information/material available, you have probably noticed my definite and deliberate focus on the value of the intrinsic rewards that can be gained through participation in competitive sports if the athlete holds the right attitudes and perspectives and puts forth his or her highest efforts. It is certainly a major focal point in my book Becoming a True Champion and a concept I refer to time and time again.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More on Youth Sport Specialization

It is common practice for me to routinely surf the internet for articles regarding youth sports issues. The title of this blog certainly supports that activity and diligence in this endeavor provides much food for thought as I contemplate what next to post. This week I came across two articles on two different websites that discuss their viewpoint on sports specialization, a topic I most assuredly have an interest in. The first, Should my child specialize? by Juliet Cassell, discusses several of the same concerns and/or risks I listed in my previous 3-part article on the same subject, Specialization in Youth Sports Good or Bad?. Ms. Cassell’s article has good references and support for the points listed and is most definitely worth the read.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Part 2: Preventing Youth Sport Injuries

Here again are the four areas of conditioning/training for injury prevention that I feel are often neglected by many youth sports programs.

Functional Sports-Specific Training

This type of training focuses on developing an athlete’s strength, endurance, speed, quickness, etc. in the specific muscle groups needed for the best performance in the sport participated in. Most importantly, it forces concentration on the actual functioning of the muscles and joints used, making sure that muscles on both (all) sides of a joint are equally trained and that joint movement is well executed. What this does is create a good balance between all muscle groups involved, thereby helping to protect the joint from injury in addition to enabling greater efficiency and effectiveness of movement.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Part 1: Preventing Youth Sport Injuries

In my article The Rise in Youth Sports Injuries, I discussed how prevalent youth sports injuries have become and listed several articles as reference. In this post, I would like to offer some basic principles of injury prevention by directing you toward articles that detail important pieces of this information. Additionally, in Part 2, I will take this a step further by encouraging conditioning/training in four other areas that are often neglected. The time spent will be well worth the effort.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Video Demonstration of a "True Champion"

My coauthor, Daveda Lamont, recently sent me the link to this youtube video depicting what she felt exemplifies many of the principles discussed in Becoming a True Champion. I wholeheartedly agree! Dustin Carter truly demonstrates an awe inspiring commitment to becoming the best he can be. The path he has chosen and, most importantly, the process he will go through to travel this path will be of tremendous intrinsic reward and value to him no matter what happens.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Rise in Youth Sports Injuries

In my last article, Specializing in Youth Sports, Good or Bad, I touched on the current increase in injuries to young competitors playing sports. Just the fact that the sheer number of young athletes participating has gone up over the last several decades, would automatically cause an upswing in the number of young sports enthusiasts having to seek medical attention. There is just an inherent physical risk in competitive sports that cannot be denied.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Part 3: Specialization in Youth Sports, Good or Bad?

Getting back to our focus on specialization, another factor that athletes (and their parents) need to keep in mind is that different sports can and do bring different circumstances into the mix. There are some sports that tend to have a genuine overlap between them, more so than do others, and because of this overlap they do not require as much specialization. It is almost as if the sports truly complement each other. Take football and wrestling as one example. I am sure you can find many good football players who are also very good wrestlers, especially in the middle and upper weight classes. In fact, I personally know of two who were solid football players and became state champions in wrestling. There are other sports that also tend to have similar overlapping characteristics. If size, speed, agility, jumping ability, coordination (hand/eye), etc. are high priorities in a sport, then usually these attributes easily carry over to another sport that has the same high priority for these athletic skills.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Part 2: Specialization in Youth Sports, Good or Bad?

I suppose the best answer to this question of specialization in sports (and I know I might get some grief for this) is that there really is no best or right answer, at least no right answer for everyone and every situation. There are just too many variables in order for one answer to truly be beneficial for all. In fact, doing so would not only be inappropriate but completely unfair to the athlete and/or situation they might be faced with. So, even though it might seem vague at first, let’s start with some general guidelines (and I do mean general; some will even come up with scenarios that would simply not fit these general guidelines either).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Great Article on the Pervasiveness of Steroid Use in Sports

I apologize to readers for not posting the 2nd installment to my Specialization in Youth Sports, Good or Bad article (something I will do late next week), but I came across a piece that references true experts, like Dr. Yesalis, in a discussion regarding steroid use that I thought was good and important to direct attention to. The title of the blog article is PSU Prof Yesalis and "Game of Shadows" authors Williams and Fainaru-Wada on steroid panel at Penn State; Yesalis says 95% of NFL players use HGH and it is from an online blog journal called Steroid Nation.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Part 1: Specialization in Youth Sports, Good or Bad?

I have been debating for a while now on writing an article that focused on the growing trend for athletes to specialize in only one sport. It certainly is a hot topic in high school athletics, especially between coaches, parents, athletic directors, etc., and it definitely can create heated discussions between these parties due, in part, to strong opinions on the subject. I will be writing this article over the next two weeks and dividing it into 3 parts in order to break up its length. Below is part 1.

I would estimate that over the last two or three decades, there has been a definite decrease of the number of young athletes who participate in a variety of sports (usually referred to as the multi-sport athlete), especially at the high school level, and a definite increase in the number of athletes who focus their attention on only one sport. This begs to ask the question, as the title of this article indicates, whether this trend is a good thing or bad.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Competition and Motivation

If you are (or were) an athlete, then you know exactly what the title of this post is all about. For many a competitive athlete just the idea of being able to compete is one of the motivating factors behind why they play sports; they just love the exhilaration of the competitive arena. It is not winning that necessarily drives them, even though competitive athletes hate to lose, but the enjoyment they get out of the challenge competition brings to them. Knowing this simple fact about the competitive athlete can bring great motivational rewards in training when applying this concept to practice sessions. This is true whether it is done by the coach or the athlete themselves.

Friday, March 14, 2008 article on “Youth sports drawing more than ever” by Laura Hilgers

In my last blog post The “FUN” in Sports Participation, I make reference to the large number of youngsters involved in sports using figures reported by the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) in their 2000 census. I state in the blog that these numbers, 32 million, are not likely to decrease in the future.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The “FUN” in Sports Participation

Youth sports participation today has become more popular than ever. It is estimated that approximately 10 million high school age students participate in extracurricular athletic programs in the United States. If you take into account all sports participants from age 6 to 18 years of age, the number more than triples to approximately 32 million as reported by the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS) in their 2000 census. And based on current trends, it is more than likely that these numbers will not be decreasing anytime soon.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Steroids in Professional Sports and Youth Sports, WHY?

It is in the wake of the Mitchell Report, which sheds light on the pervasive use of performance-enhancing substances (Steroids, HGH, etc.) in professional baseball, that I direct this blog's attention to an article in the Sports Parenting e-magazine titled Denial, Apathy, and Win-at-All-Costs Sports Culture Fuels Steroid Abuse by Bruce Svare, Ph.D,

In his article, Dr. Svare provides good insight into the “why” behind steroid use in sports today and suggests an approach that will decrease and deter the risk of their use by young athletes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Parents Need to Know About Employing a Performance Enhancement Professional

Before you consider hiring a performance enhancement professional for your sports-minded child you should first ask yourself this question: Why do you want to secure the services of someone to supplement the training your children are receiving from their school or club coaches?

If your answer centers on getting your son or daughter a college scholarship, creating a young Olympian, or even making them the star of their team, then it might be best to reconsider this option. These types of goals need to come from your children themselves, and, in most cases, at latter stages of their sports careers. In addition, it is very important to keep in mind that only a very small percentage of athletes (out of the significant number who participate in sports) will ever reach a level high enough to garner a college scholarship, and an even smaller percentage will gain Olympic status. The odds for the latter are astronomical.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Great Youth Sports Websites #1

While surfing the net I came across several websites that encourage and promote a healthy experience for young athletes. I would recommend that any athlete, parent, or coach involved in youth, high school, and even collegiate sports take a look at what the following sites support. All, in one way or another, seem to have a mission that centers on improving and changing the current trends many see developing in sports today. There is a wealth of knowledge, experience, and information available on most of the websites listed.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Perspective in Youth Sports Today

As a teacher, former coach, National Champion, and two-time All-American (and father of two Division I scholarship athletes), I have been genuinely saddened by the loss of perspective in sports, especially youth sports, and the lack of understanding about how athletic success is achieved. What our young sports enthusiasts should be learning by going through this process and what they are learning are two different things.


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