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Coach’s Corner: with Michael Lotief: Champions Are Developed By Devotion & Disciplined

Champions just aren’t born. It takes years-and-years in the making of a champion. In this week’s edition of “Coach’s Corner”, UL co-head softball coach Michael Lotief tells us that “Champions Are Developed By Devotion And Discipline.” View this week’s blog, below.

Photo Courtesy: ragincajuns.com

 

Coach’s Corner: with Michael Lotief

CHAMPIONS ARE DEVELOPED BY DEVOTION & DISCIPLINE

 This was sent to me from a good friend, a great thinker and competitor and a great coach-teacher who has developed many champions:  Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, in the movie, “The Last Samurai”, commented about Samurai warriors:  “They are an intriguing people. From the moment they wake, they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seen such discipline.” 

Our kids remind me of Samurai WARRIORS.  Although we are many miles from perfection and we have plenty of work ahead of us to get our skills to a higher level (physical and mental), there can be no question that they are devoted and they do have incredible discipline. 

What is discipline? It’s hustle and sweat and fighting through pain. It’s eliminating excuses. It’s attention to details. It’s consistency. It’s hard work without having to be asked. But it’s more… In The Road Less Traveled, by  Dr. M. Scott Peck, he suggests that discipline is scheduling painful things now in order to enhance pleasure later. It is accepting responsibility for the results (or lack thereof) you are getting.  It is dedicating yourself to the PROCESS.  You must figure out what’s working and what isn’t. This requires self-examination, a willingness to be challenged, and relentless honesty. Then, you must choose a course of action:  one course of action over another.  Which will you choose?  This decision requires good judgment and courage, and most of all, discipline.  Can you be like the Samurai Warrior and devote yourself to “a perfection” from the moment you awake day by day by day.   Our DR. (Geoff Stewart/UL) has taught US that with MENTAL discipline – proper thinking and a proper perspective and the right attitude, we can transcend any difficulty of life.  Focus on the process and let others worry about the outcomes!!!

The game rewarded us this week with a big win over the #1 team in the country, ALABAMA.  The game also humbled us the next day, when we seemed to have Oregon beat 2 to 1 and then the “breaks” started going the other way – Christi Orgeron’s linedrive/RBI was stabbed by the pitcher to save another run, four seeing eye singles (3 never left the infield) and a couple of non-strike 3 head scratching calls, and #13 Oregon prevailed 5 to 2.  Does the importance of humility defy the importance of confidence?   GIVING A BEST EFFORT PERFORMANCE IS ALWAYS DIFFICULT.  Champions understand that it is their preparation (devotion and discipline) that allows them to consistently performat a high level. Performance will always have UPS AND DOWNS because people, by definition, are imperfect. However, with a disciplined approach, great athletes will minimize their “DOWNS” in performance because of their willingness to get back to work and because of their hunger to learn and their eagerness to go at it again.  They avoid the prolonged “slumps” because of their mental toughness – their devotion to their trade and the discipline of their approach.  Just like the Samurai Warrior.  

Improvement comes from the player’s desire to be competitive at/in practice.  It is your responsibility to make sure that you are improving daily.  ASK, “What am I going to do?”  If you have the devotion and the discipline, then the main impediments to lack of improvement are either a lack of technical understanding or a lack of the required strength.  Learn how to handle struggle, adversity and failure by accepting responsibility for your “OWN WORLD”.  The external competition (the success and the failure) should translate into a personal, inner drive to excel.  You must have an appreciation for the process; an understanding that the “journey” has deep meaning and value.  On a daily basis, take responsibility for everything – your fitness, whether you win or lose, whether you play or sit, whether you are positive or a whiner, whether you are going to improve or coast.  YOU are in control!  Every single day you wake up, commit yourself to excellence.

Can you drive yourself with self-discipline when others are not there?  No one is going to be there to constantly push you or insist that you get fit or hone your skills.  When it truly counts, you are on your own.  Your margin of success is based on YOU – your focus, your devotion and your self-discipline are the measures of your character. The game will challenge you to find the best in yourself, to learn and grow from difficulties and failures and to emerge stronger and more capable.  Part of the game is your development as a player; but more importantly, always remember that the real journey is about who you  become as a PERSON.

THE FERN AND THE BAMBOO

Here is a great story about THE FERN and THE BAMBOO (modified/edited), sent to me by another good friend, great teacher, developer of kids and avid RAGIN CAJUN Softball fan:

‘Do you see the fern and the bamboo in the woods?’
When they were planted, the fern and the bamboo were just seeds. But with light and water and care, the fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant
green covered the floor. But NOTHING came from the bamboo seed.

In the second year, the Fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. In the third year, despite the same light and the same water and the same soil and the same care, there was still nothing from the bamboo seed.

Should WE quit on the possibilities of the DEVOLOPMENT of the bamboo seed because it is not “growing” as quickly or as fast as the fern?  In the fourth year, again, there was still nothing from the bamboo seed.  Should we give up?   Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant. But just 6 months later, the bamboo rose to OVER 100 FEET TALL. 

It had spent five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave
it what it needed to survive.

You will never face a challenge that you cannot handle.  All the times you are struggling, remember that you are actually growing roots.  Don’t compare your development or growth to others.  Don’t just focus on the outcomes – the wins and the losses.  Focus on the process – your growth and development.  Surround yourself with teachers and coaches and friends and a support structure, who will NOT QUIT ON YOU but instead continue to nurture you.  Believe in your dreams and grow roots day by day!  You will rise high!  How high will the bamboo rise?  As high as it can!  Rise as high as you can. 

GAME-PRACTICE NOTES:

What a great win – beating Alabama – who was #1 in the country as ranked by ESPN/USA TODAY.  Since last week we listed some of the bad losses, I figured we could list a couple of big wins.  In 2001, we beat Arizona at the KIA in the Fullerton tournament; in 2003, we beat the #1 seed in our Regional, Cal State Fullerton and we eventually advanced to the College World Series; in 2004 we eliminated Arizona, the #1 National seed, by beating them 5-0 in post-season in the Tuscon Regional; in 2006, we beat Michigan, the defending National Champions 3-2; in 2007 we beat #2 Arizona State 2-0 and of course they went on to win the National Championship the next season; we beat Florida in the 2008 College World Series and they were the #1 National seed; last year, we beat LSU and Texas A&M in Regionals.  And last week at Disney (where dreams come true) we beat #1 Alabama.  ……Isn’t it weird how the game humbles you and then rewards you.  The Alabama win was so much fun.  The smiles on our girls’ faces.  The pride of our fans.  The game rewarded these kids for all their hard work and devotion and discipline……As I mentioned, the game has UPS and DOWNS.  We beat Alabama and then on Sunday, playing Long Island who is 3 –16 and having a tough year because of a lot of injuries, we were in a WAR.  It has nothing to do with not being focused or overlooking an opponent or not being prepared.  THAT’S the GAME.  How do the Yankees lose to the Orioles?  How do the Dodgers lose to the Pirates?……We are not the Yankees, with the highest payroll in baseball.  We do not have a roster of the top recruits in the country.  It’s not so much that we overachieve when we topple #1 or that we under perform when we lose to a team not ranked; in order for us to have success, we must execute the game and play good defense and get good pitching and make sure we get some timely hits.  If we do, we can beat anybody.  If we don’t, anybody can beat us.  Simple as that!….In our 20 games, Ashley Brignac has pitched 8 games and is 7 – 1.  True freshmen have thrown the other 12 games; they (Christina Hamilton & Shelbee Rodgers) are 11 – 1.  Bill Parcells, former NFL head coach, made some of the best quotes when talking about developing a starting QB in the NFL that apply to the developmental process of a pitcher.  When Drew Bledsoe got hurt, instead of letting a young Tony Romo start, he acquired a 40 year old Vinnie Testaverde.  In talking about his decision, he said, “there is no 1-800-INEEDAQB”.  In order to develop a pitcher (or a hitter for that matter), it takes many hours and many ups and downs and much sweat; there are so many intricacies involved.  That’s why, when you “got a good one” you relish it.  When the Denver Broncos/Josh McDaniels traded away a franchise QB Jay Cutler, the people in the know, knew what a major mistake and what a devastating decision it was.  One that cost that franchise any hopes of winning for at least the next two years and ultimately ended with McDaniels getting fired.  Or how about Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins deciding to go with Duante Culpepper instead of  Drew Brees.  We know how that ended up.  GEAUX SAINTS!  My buddies in softball continue to point out to me that “no top softball team in the country could survive if their senior pitcher transferred mid-term (November) for nothing in return”, and expecting 2 true freshmen (neither nationally reknown) to just step in without growing pains….Of course, our transfer, Courtney Hollier/2B was not released by LSU and is having to sit out the entire year…..Double whammie…..We found out last week that Taryn Broussard (transfer from Texas A&M, Soph/designated player) broke her ankle in the McNeese tournament and had to have surgery.  She will be out 4 to 8 weeks.  OUCH!……No matter what the circumstances we are faced with (injury, transfer, etc.), we understand the process and timeline and importance of developing our players through devotion and discipline.  When Tony Romo had early success after Parcell finally let him become the starter, my favorite quote in the press conference after a big win was “let’s not coronate him just yet”.  There are a lot of ups and downs in this business and the development process is long and arduous and tough.  Romo has only one play-off win so far in his career and he has been the starter for it seems at least 4 years.   How long is the process, Tony?  There are going to be ups and downs with these freshmen, as well as with all of our players and you cannot short circuit the developmental process…..What resources do you need in order to develop players?  When we played Alabama, there support staff outnumbered us by at least 2 to 1.  They had multiple graduate assistants, former players, male managers who looked like former baseball players/athletes, a crew to do the video, director of softball operations, etc.  No expense to be spared.  That’s the benefit of being in the SEC, I guess…..I have never looked at softball as year to year or season to season.  I have always referred to “it” as cycles; those 4 to 5 year periods where you get to see a group or nucleus of players develop and grow together……We have been here basically for two cycles”, and are ending the second and embarking on the start of cycle 3…..Developing players and trusting the process takes time and effort and energy.  Time is my most valuable commodity.  Patience is a tough sell in this instant gratification world.  All of my and Stef’s involvement in softball has been about development.  We did it in travel ball with much success (Image and Reflections), it has worked fairly well at UL and we are starting over with our 14U daughter (Impressions).  That’s why my “shout out” this week is to all the high school and middle school and elementary school teachers and coaches who put in way too many hours for way too little pay to help develop our children.  To me, coaches are first and foremost, TEACHERS, i.e. developers, as opposed to recruiters or fundraisers or slick, fast talking, used car salesmen….. Fans of softball/baseball are asked to be patient; that’s even the pace of our game.  There’s no fast break or NO huddle offense or 2 minute “hurry up” offense.  It’s methodical and deliberate and persistent…… So remember, there “ain’t no 1-800-INEEDA pitcher or hitter or player NOW”; if there was, my hair would not be gray and Parcells would still be coaching (probably not, Jerry Jones’ meddling would’ve worn him out by now; remember T.O)…. Mardi Gras was fun.  Congrats to KING Russell Dailey who does so much for Ragin’ Cajuns Softball (the new red outfield fence and the new perimeter fencing behind the outfield stands and the fencing in front of the stadium – AWESOME).  We enjoyed the parades and caught some beads and ate bar-b-que and had some fun THEN we went back to work and had a scrimmage under the lights.  Just like the Cajun culture – work hard always but have some fun too.  Does anybody like the team’s Mardi Gras masks?  How about some of the fans wearing there Mardi Gras masks to the next home game?

GOOD TIMES:  A LOOK BACK

Former UL Softball Coach and UL Alumnus, Yvette Girouard announced her retirement as the head coach at LSU, effective at the end of the season.  “It’s been an unbelievable career, one I could never dream of,” said Girouard.  “It’s been a joy to come to work every day ….My last 11 seasons as a Tiger has been heaven after having been given the opportunity to spend 20 glorious years at my alma mater, Louisiana-Lafayette….”

Coach Girouard is a pioneer in our game.  She was a “fighter” and a tireless advocate for the sport of softball.  Through her efforts, she oversaw growth of softball at UL from 1981 – 2000 (20 years); and then 11 more years at LSU; total of 31 years of coaching college softball.   She enlisted many to the “cause” and was the instrumental personality in building the Ragin’ Cajun fan base.  She is a 2005 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame inductee.  She has racked up 1,257 victories – which ranks second all-time in NCAA history.  Her teams have had 29 consecutive winning seasons; won 9 conference championships; earned 19 NCAA Regional appearances; she is one of only 3 coaches in NCAA history to steer two programs to the Women’s College World Series.

The 2000 season wound up being the final one for Girouard at UL.  She would leave Cajun Country in the summer to take over as head coach at LSU.  She finished her stay at UL with a record of 759-252.  Girouard led the Ragin’ Cajuns to 3 Women’s College World Series appearances, 10 NCAA Regional appearances and 10 seasons of 40 plus wins.  Players who were members of the NFCA ALL-Region teams under Girouard were: 1984: Allison Gray, Stacy Gremillion (85), 1988 Janine Johnson (90), 1989 Stefni Whitton (90), Jane Bellue, Laura Boudreaux, Cathy Sconzo (90, 92), Dorsey Steamer (90, 91,92); 1990 Michelle Mazac (91), Lisa Wood 1991 Kyla Hall (92,93,94), Heather Turnbow, Alyson Habetz (92,93,94), Trish Leidy , Kathy Morton (93,94,95); 1993 Lynn Britton (94,95,96), Heather Neville; 1994 Stephanie DeFeo(95,96,97), Lana Jimenez (95,96,97), 1995 Cheryl Longeway (96), Tiffany Whittall; 1996 Nikki Dooley; 1997 Tiffany Clark (99, 00), Lori Osterberg, Joni Podhorez, Jennifer Clendenin; 1998 Jana Mower (99,00); 1999 Michele Bailon, Melissa Coronado; 2000 Kim Dunlap.

Some of the big wins by the RAGIN’ CAJUNS during Girouard’s tenure:  1990 beat Texas A&M 1-0, 1991 beat Nebraska 3-1,1992 beat South Carolina 3 out 4, 1993 beat Arizona 1-0, 1994 beat Florida State 12-3, 1995 beat Washington 7-6, 3-1, 1996 beat Oklahoma 5-4, 1997 beat UCLA 4-1, 1998 beat Oklahoma State 4-2, 1999 beat Fresno State 3-2, 2000 beat LSU 4-1.

If the measure of excellence is “what you do with what you have” (Excellence blog two weeks ago), then the CAJUNS were excellent during that period of time.  Starting with the WCWS appearances in the 1990s, UL became a tough “gig”; the expectations were to win the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP yet the resources were limited.  [Stefni served two separate stints on Coach Girouard’s coaching staff (restricted earnings coach and a volunteer coach)].  In order to coach here, you had to be creative and a tireless worker; and solicit the support of this community.  In the 11 year span from 1990 through 2000, Girouard’s teams were 508-120.  In contrast, in the SEC you are afforded ALL the resources (salary, staff, facilities, budget, etc.).  When the SEC reinstated softball, they were able to surpass the 20-year building process at UL in one moment.  All of the sweat of putting this program together day by day, brick by brick, was duplicated by these SEC schools in a single year.  In 2001, it had to be a “tough attraction” for Girouard to leave UL to go to LSU; but in the end, a chance to have all those resources combined with her knowledge/experience gave her what she thought was the best opportunity to win it all; that proved too tempting.  In her 11 year span at LSU, Girouard’s teams are quite similar to her teams at UL through the 90s (reaching the 500 win mark last week at LSU).  There is no question that the landscape of college softball changed in the late-90s with the SEC and BIG 12 reinstating the sport and in the process pouring in the money and resources into softball.  The positive result is that the sport of softball as a whole has experienced more funding and resources across the board and the “exposure” (TV, WCWS) has been incredible; but in the process, there has been a shift in the balance of power too.  Many “despised” the BCS model in football and the disparity between the haves and the haves not, yet if you take a snapshot of college softball today, ironically, there appears to be a similar pattern emerging.  For instance, in this week’s top 25 poll:  7 teams are from the PAC 10, 6 teams are from the SEC, and 8 teams are from the BIG 12 (21 teams out of 25).  Stay tuned!

For our first 14 years (Stefni came here in 1987), we had the privilege of being on the “same team” together with Coach Girouard and it was a lot of fun and we will always cherish those memories; for the last 11 years, we got to compete directly against each other and sometimes that was fun and other times not so much; but throughout it all, we have always respected and admired her for the opportunities she afforded so many of us, and for fighting for the “cause” of greater opportunities for female athletes, and for her contributions to the sport we all love.  All of our best wishes to Coach Girouard!!!

Check out the RAGIN’ CAJUNS SOFTBALL FAN PAGE on facebook.  Also, for all of you out-of-state softball fans, tune into www.espn1420.com and you can listen live to Stevie P. broadcast some of the softball games and in the mornings (7:00-9:00) listen to his talk radio show, THINKING OUT LOUD, where he always gets around to giving his thoughts on RAGIN’ CAJUNS softball.  GEAUX CAJUNS!!!

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