Sunday, February 8, 2015

In Celebration of a Miracle

by Don Yaeger

It’s hard to believe that 35 years ago today, our U.S. Olympic hockey team—comprised of college players—took on the heavily-favored Soviets in the gold medal match.  It was an event known as “the Miracle on Ice” and would become one of the Greatest sports upsets of all time.

It was an uncertain time.  A nationwide recession gripped the country.  Oil prices and interest rates were high.  U.S. hostages were being held in Iran.  Our country was in need of positivity, and with the defeat of the Soviets, the U.S. team became a much needed symbol of hope and perseverance both at the time and a generation or more later!

I had a chance to get inside how that special team pulled that upset when I worked with goalkeeper Jim Craig, the heart and soul of that team, on our book Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team.  I’ll never forget the leadership and teamwork lessons he shared with me…and I’d like to present those to you.

I’m going to give you a quick excerpt of our book.  Take a moment to examine Craig’s lesson on personal sacrifice, and apply it to your own life.  I hope you find it inspirational!


From page 56 of Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team…

When I preach and teach the notion of personal sacrifice, I am not talking merely about putting in long hours on the practice field and in the office.  It is not just about a willingness to hurt more out on the ice or to get into the classroom early or to study late at the library.  I am talking about a far bigger concept.  I am talking about a constellation of giving, deprivation, and even suffering.  And this sacrifice isn’t just about you; it never can be.  It is also about all the people around you- your family, your friends, and your mentors.  They are all drawn in and sacrifice is demanded from all of them on your path to greatness.

To a man, every player on the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will tell you that their own individual path to Lake Placid and the podium was one supported along the way by many people- and many people had to give their time, love, and commitment to make a dream happen.

And it starts early.  I remember my youth hockey days.  I launched my career when I was eight years old and in third grade.  Easton had a vibrant youth hockey league, with three levels, maybe 20 teams, and hundreds of kids playing.  Of course, the league didn’t run on its own; it wasn’t on autopilot.  It was supported by scores of parents and other adults who contributed hundreds of hours every season to organize practices and games- and to shuttle my friends and I to and from rinks.  And with so many local towns and cities having their own youth hockey programs- and since there were not  many rinks in the area- ice time was at a premium and you took it when you could get it.  That meant practice happened before school, at five or six in the morning.  So you got up at 4:30 or 5:00 and your parents took shifts driving the kids to one of the rinks, which could be 10 or 15 miles away.  They always stuck around for practice- and then they drove us home.  And then we went to school and they went to work.

Did the uniforms and equipment magically appear? Nope.  Someone had to spring for all that- and the funds were drummed up through parents digging deep, us players canning at local supermarkets, local merchants cutting a check, and adults and kids working together to plan and run fundraisers.

Again, it is a constellation of sacrifice.

When you notch it up and dare to try and work for greatness- and this applies no matter in what field you are going for the gold- then the magnitude of sacrifice demands and requires one to hurt physically and emotionally.  It will also make emotional demands on those who love and care about you.

Remember that.

  The unorthodox pairing of our country's best collegiate hockey players resulted in a true "miracle!"


If you would like to read more about the compelling story and leadership lessons behind the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, you can order Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team from my website!

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