The Power of Quotes

March 17, 2010, 3:02 p.m. (ET)

I have been collecting quotes for all my life. Come into my USAV office or library, and you will see them scattered throughout my walls and shelves, mixed in with the eclectic history of volleyball and life gifts I have received. When new sentences or paragraphs, generated by great thinkers, teachers or writers in sport or life, are discovered, I add them to my collection. Back in 1996, we published the collection, and in early Internet days, began to swap new quotes with friends from around the world. The books went out of print, but I still keep getting requests for that collection.


So with the help of my intern Tom Terrific (aka Therkildsen, just hired this week by USA Triathlon to be their National Events Coordinator, yeah Tom!), we have sorted through the old and new and posted them all in the Grassroots section of the USAV website, under the subpage Sports Quotes. Five different collections - one of proverbs, two parts which are my 1996 collection put in to boxes for easy posting which take up 77 pages, and two of quotes, either long or short ones, gathered from 1997 until now.  There are millions of quote pages online now, but since people kept asking for this collection, seemed like we should honor their request, given the power of quotes.


One of the important ways to “use” quotes is to simply have teammates bring a favorite quote to start off each practice, and explain to the team why that particular quote was chosen. One player per practice, and each month you and the team gain better insights into each other. Post them on the team wall spot or web site, and the other family members gain more of that same insight. Easy to do and makes a difference.


I would like to share a few of of my favorites, as they guide me through my coaching and parenting life. First, is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that every coach should know by heart.


"Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. "


There is no magic, you have to work to win, and you must focus on principles in coaching, in order to have methods that will stand a chance. I am amazed at how many things coaches do which are not founded on principles, and yet they continue to do those unprincipled habits, because of either tradition, or belief, while ignoring the science of sport. This Emerson quote is found in page 24 of the 1996 quote collection.


Second is one by Dr. Richard Schmidt – which has been found in the IMPACT Manual for decades, but seems to not be understood by those who continue to follow old habits rather than evidence based coaching.  In his easy to understand book Motor Learning and Performance, Principles to Practice, (Now in about the 5th edition and one of the best “drill books” you can ever buy) he wrote -- ”Drills and lead-up activities take considerable practice time and do not produce much transfer, so use them sparingly in later practice stages…..It is fruitless to try and train fundamental abilities (e.g.  quickness and balance), so concentrate on the fundamental skills instead…” This science has been shared with US coaches for over 20 years, yet we still see coaching not understanding specificity in training, and doing things which are time wasters with little, no, or even negative transfer.


My third quote to share is  “Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This quote you can find attributed to many people, or said of people, or players and other groups. The key thing is that it really is not how much you know, but how much you care and KNOW about the athletes you are working with, that matters. I have put my limited artistic skills to work with the help of Jay Doty, teammate from long ago,  and put some core 30 things you should know about each of your athletes, in to a handy-dandy handout.  The kids fill out the “player,” printed front back on a single page, and you then gather and read…and learn about each individual you are working to blend as a team. The information is very important to know, and the athletes will better see how you care about each of them. You can download the front page HERE, and the back page HERE.


Finally a Chinese proverb (found in the new proverb section), which I first heard when spoken by Lang Ping, our Beijing silver medal women’s head coach. She shared this proverb at the 1997 Opening Ceremonies of the US Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when we were both coaching at the University of New Mexico – “Winning and losing are temporary, friendships last forever.” Not many may know that less than a year after helping win the 1984 Olympic Gold medal over the USA women, Lang Ping returned to the US and moved into my home and began to learn English, do summer camps and help train the UNM volleyball team.  Almost 25 years later, she returned to Beijing, and coached our USA women’s team in a victory over her home nation, and to another silver medal. Take time to get to befriend your tourney opponents, for they share the same passion for our sport – they just come from a different part of town, the state, or the nation. There are some pretty amazing people on the other side of the net, worth getting to know if you just make the effort to reach out.


So share your favorite quote and why in the comments below if you want, and as always, thanks for your help in growing the game and developing amazing leaders.