Friday, December 30, 2016


by Don Yaeger
In the final moments of the championship match, our head coach, and ESPN analyst, Jay Williams reveals to our team the final play of the game – DREAM! (Photo courtesy of Don Yaeger)
In a couple of days some of us will make New Year’s Resolutions and some of us will share them with others as a way to hold ourselves accountable.

But have you ever been challenged to share your dreams?  Earlier this year I spent a grueling week on the basketball court, learning about teamwork and dreams at “K Academy” which advertises itself as “America’s number one college basketball fantasy camp.”

Laugh all you want at the idea of a motley group of middle aged men of varying degrees of basketball experience grinding it out in full court games.  Playing on the famed court inside Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium under the watchful eye of the legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski with his former players as coaches is certainly above our athletic abilities.

But Coach K and his players offered valuable lessons... which extend well off the hardwood.
My team struggled at the start of the camp, winning only one of our five “regular season” games.  That meant that of the eight teams who would play in the final day’s tournament, we were seeded seventh.  The night before, we had a team dinner and, truth be told, many of us had low expectations for our prospects the next day.  Our coach was ESPN analyst Jay Williams who won a NCAA title with Duke in 2001 and was the national college player of the year in 2002.  During our dinner, Williams shared a powerful story.

At the start of William’s sophomore year, after a practice, Coach K brought the players into the locker room to talk about the power of dreams.

“What would this life be without dreams?” Coach K asked Williams and his teammates.  “Dreams don’t have to relate to basketball but one of the things I want to focus on is what are your dreams?  I want your teammates to get a chance to know who you are.”
Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Williams. (Photo courtesy of Craig Jones/Getty Images)
Coach K pushed his players to share what their dreams were as he drew the team together.  Williams and his teammates were suddenly in the uncomfortable position of having to share their dreams, but Coach K encouraged them by reminding the players it would allow them to better know each other.

“That was one thing that stuck with me,” Williams told my team.  “Let’s find out who all of us are individually so we can find out who we are as a team, taking the time to get to know your teammates”

Williams looked back at the dream he shared, a vision he had held onto since childhood.

“I stood up before all those guys,” Williams recalled.  “My dream was something I’ve thought about since I was a little boy, something I used to do in the backyard when I played.  I wanted to hold the ball in my hands and throw it as high as possible as time dwindled off the clock in the national championship game.  That’s what I wanted to do.  I know it sounded cheesy, I know it sounded corny, but that’s what I always dreamed of doing.”

By sharing that dream, Williams was in the rare position of helping make it come true.  Fast forward four-plus months, Duke was in the national championship game against Arizona.  The Blue Devils led Arizona 82-72 in the final moments of the game.  As the clock ticked down, point guard Chris Duhon, who was dribbling out the clock, looked over to Williams and tossed him the ball so his teammate could live his dream.

“If you watch the tape, Chris Duhon has the ball up top,” Williams said as he looked back at the final moments of the game.  “I’m starting to become frantic since we’re about to win the national championship. In that moment, Chris Duhon, who is like a brother to me, waves me over.  I was like, ‘What? Why?’ He waves me over again and I move towards him as time dwindles down.

“He hands me the ball and I was baffled.  ‘What do you want me to do with this?’ I asked,” Williams continued.  “He just put his thumb towards the ceiling and said; ‘Throw it up.’  It was such a beautiful, amazing moment in my life.  Here we are about to achieve this monumental thing we had been working all year for and Chris Duhon, my teammate, my brother, took that moment to make me realize what my dream was and to help me fulfill it.”

Williams got a little emotional as he told us that story.  Then he asked what our dreams were for the tournament the next day.  It was nearly as uncomfortable as his description of the Duke locker room conversation with Coach K, but one by one, my teammates stood to share a dream.  One teammate, probably our oldest player, said he “just wanted to do something, anything, to contribute to the team.”  One of my teammates had been going to the camp for 13 years and never won the championship.  He said his dream was to win it on Sunday despite our poor record.  Another teammate said his dream was to stand next to that 13-year veteran when the team cut down the nets.  My dream was to contribute to the team’s success by setting a hard pick.  (If you’ve ever played with me, no explanation needed!)

Our head coach at K Academy, and former Duke Blue Devil,  Jay Williams. (Mark VonHolden/ AP Images for Discovery Communications) 

We all had different dreams but that dinner proved to be the glue which made the next day special. The guy who wanted to “contribute” dove for a loose ball, leading to an easy basket.  The rest of us went nuts yelling for him. I set my hard pick (erroneously called a foul, but I’m not bitter) and my teammates shouted encouragement.  After sharing what we dreamt about, the next day we rallied together, winning games and advancing through the tournament.  With a comfortable lead in the final minutes of the championship game, Williams, who had been drawing up plays for us all day, called a timeout and wrote a single word on his clipboard: “Dream!”

Too often we don’t share our dreams with our teammates: what we hope to accomplish in our careers, what we want in our personal lives.  Of course there’s a risk in sharing dreams.  We open ourselves up and make ourselves vulnerable.  But, unless we share our dreams, we can’t help each other achieve them, the way Duhon handed the ball to Williams at the end of the national championship game.

“At Duke, we treated each other like we were all family and that spoke volumes about the culture of winning,” Williams told me.  “Whether it be in business or sports or your own family, those are the types of moments you hope to create.  That’s winning.”

Instead of sharing a New Year’s Resolution, share a dream.  What’s yours?  Who was your Chris Duhon who let you live it?  Who was your Jay Williams who told you how important it is to share your dreams?  I’d love to hear you story... and I’ll hold you accountable in 2017!

Don Yaeger is a motivational speaker and New York Times best-selling author.

No comments:

Post a Comment