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Beating the Odds

Jackie Robinson’s Powerful Message

This weekend big-league baseball is marking the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut. All players are wearing Robinson’s No. 42 to honor the man who broke the color line on April 15, 1947, for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson helped change the world back then. But as a coach I wonder what he can change today. What aspect of his life and work can we use to help ourselves and our athletes grow? What life lessons live on?

Is it his mental toughness? His will to win? His grace under pressure? As important as those things are, nothing matches the title of his autobiography: “I Never Had It Made.”

Robinson’s struggle didn’t end when he made his first appearance in the big leagues. In a sense, it had only begun. He had to prove himself every day. “How you played in yesterday’s game is all that counts,” he said.

Robinson faced a world of challenge on and off the field, and his struggle continued even after his career, with the challenge of raising a family. This is Robinson’s message: the struggle never ends. The problems never end. And this isn’t bad news; it’s good news! Problems test us, challenge us, force us to be smarter, faster, more resourceful. More than anything else, we must become experts at problem-solving.

Peter Ueberroth, former commissioner of baseball, loved this quote: “In life, you are never standing still. You are either moving forward or sliding back.” Same way for Robinson and for the rest of us. He never had it made, and neither does anyone else.

No matter what sport you coach, if you can get through to your athletes that problems are an opportunity, then you will have done your job beautifully.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


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