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The Perfect Effort

When I was hired as a varsity basketball head coach, one of my first tasks was to assemble a staff. I needed a frosh/soph coach, junior varsity coach, and at least one assistant coach. It is always a challenge to put together a staff that you trust and to ask people to commit hundreds of hours of their time for very little pay. Every high school coach out there coaches out of the goodness of their heart because it sure as hell isn't about the money! As soon as I was hired, the first person I called to join me was Duke DaRe. Coach DaRe played high school basketball and football at De La Salle in Northern California and then walked onto our basketball team as a 3rd/4th string point guard at UC Santa Barbara while I was serving as Director of Basketball Operations.

I remember meeting and watching Duke play against our guys when he visited the campus as a senior in high school and there was something different about him. He was just a flat out competitor who played really, really hard. As a player, that was all he had. He was 6-foot nothing, an average shooter, and not super quick or athletic. What Duke lacked in athletic ability, he made up for in grit, toughness, and will to win. He would do anything it took to win from diving for lose balls, risking his body taking charges against players that outweighed him by 50 pounds, and was fearless whenever he attacked the basket. He earned a spot on that team by being on the winning team each game that afternoon. All Duke knew how to do is win.

This comes as no surprise to me. Like I said earlier, Duke is an alumni from the fabled De La Salle Spartans. The team that had a 152 game winning streak in football that spanned two decades and is well chronicled in the Hollywood movie, "When the Game Stands Tall." Imagine not losing a game for 15 years! As a senior, his basketball team made it to the Division 1 State Championship game and almost dethroned Southern California powerhouse, Mater Dei, who was loaded with D-1 players and had an up and coming star in Stanley Johnson who now starts for the Detroit Pistons. At the start of that game, I thought De La Salle didn't have a chance. They didn't have the players Mater Dei did. They didn't have 7 foot centers (yes, centers, plural), 6-7 wing players, or a future NBA lottery pick coming off the bench as a freshman. But De La Salle was well coached, played their style, and were more physical than Mater Dei, just barely losing in the final minute. For 32 minutes, they out-competed Mater Dei, giving themselves a chance to win, but the cards just didn't fall their way.

Where am I going with this? There is a culture at De La Salle that was defined by their former football coach, Bob Ladouceur, that Duke would preach at our practices. Coach Ladouceur never asked a player to be perfect on every play. That is impossible and sets us up for failure every time. I have never seen a team in any sport play a perfect game. There are always mistakes. Instead, Coach Ladouceur asked his players to give a perfect effort from snap to whistle every time. The only thing we are in complete control of on the field or court is our effort and each and every player is capable of giving a perfect effort every play. However, perfect effort requires engagement from the whole person. Athletes need to be present physically, emotionally, relationally, and mentally. They must be ready to engage, and stay engaged, with their whole self to offer the perfect effort of which Ladouceur speaks. (

If you want to take your game to the Next Level, give a perfect effort. We are all capable of doing so but we rarely, if ever, do it, even as adults if we are truly honest with ourselves. That's why De La Salle reached "perfection" for 152 games. They were taught to give nothing other than a perfect effort. At Next Level Sports Camp, we will have a 30 minute leadership seminar each day after lunch focusing on what it takes to become a leader and give a perfect effort. No other camp is doing anything like this. Sign up today for an athletic experience unlike anything else!

Sources: "10 Life Lessons from Youth Sports (Part 3)"

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