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Recruiting The Right PlayersMonday, January 11th, 2016

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

As I have researched the Miracle on Ice and the fascinating coach Herb Brooks I have often wondered what if he had come back to the University of Minnesota as head hockey coach? He was 42 when he led our boys to the Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid in 1980.

After a year, he became head coach of the New York Rangers of the NHL. In a recent interview, actor Kurt Russell – who portrayed Brooks in the movie Miracle – said what intrigued him was that if the USA hockey team fallen on its face and been crushed by the Soviets, Brooks’ NHL coaching dreams could have gone up in flames. Instead, he became a coveted commodity as well as a highly sought after speaker.

He felt he had met his challenges at the University of Minnesota. He took over a Golden Gopher hockey program that was 8-24 before the 1972-73 season and in two years had them NCAA D1 National Champions. That to me is stunning and why I feel every college program should study his methods in college and in Lake Placid. He won three National Championships in seven years, reaching four Final Fours. Had he come back at 42 it’s possible to say he could have formed a dynasty stronger than John Wooden (his favorite coach outside of hockey coaches) and possibly like Anson Dorrance of UNC women’s soccer. Well, I don’t know about that, but…

One thing about Brooks that I think college coaches should look at hard was his philosophy on recruiting at Minnesota. He recruited 99% Minnesota kids, because he knew they would care deeply about that M on the chest. When Bob Knight was at Indiana, he primarily recruited Indiana, Ohio and Illinois kids because he knew they would ‘get’ Indiana. He branched out some later, but had most of his national success with Indiana and Indiana area kids. In recent years Indiana has taken players from all over, and some come in not even understanding their rivalry with Purdue.

As you look back at Brooks’ greatest recruiting job, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, he built that team not with the best players, but the right players. And he did it in such a way that sometimes the best players bought into the fact that they may not play. I have shared this story here below, but if you have not heard of it, it is something to share with your players:


‘Like Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.’ Steve Janaszak turned 59 this past Thursday 7th, and in all my years of covering and speaking on sports I think he is the best example of true team spirit. Despite being 1st team All-American goalie in 1979 for Herb Brooks’ National Championship University of Minnesota team where he was MVP of the Final Four, he did not play 1 second in Lake Placid in Feb. 1980. Olympic coach Brooks decided to ride Jim Craig the whole way in goal.

Many other stars would have moped and possibly poisoned the team waters but not Steve. He got up early for a 6 a.m. extra practice with assistant coach Craig Patrick, helped time shifts in games, and humbly approached players to see if he could sharpen their skates in intermissions, in a way like Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Sure, it hurt his competitive nature to never play, but he continued to push Jim Craig, and when the gold medal was won captain Mike Eruzione said no was more important than Steve Janaszak. In the press conference after winning the gold with the world’s media looking on the first thing goalie Jim Craig said was to thank Steve for pushing him.

Good things happen to well meaning people like Steve. During the ’80 Winter Games, which were over Valentines, Steve met an Olympic interpreter named Jackie in the Olympic Village movie theater, and their first date was her sitting in the stands as USA upset the Soviets 4-3, the greatest upset ever. They would marry in 1981 and have been happily married ever since.
The picture was taken when Team USA beat the Soviets and as always Steve Janaszak was first across the boards to congratulate his beloved teammates.

The 1980 Miracle on Ice team was the greatest example of TEAM I have ever come across.

Charlie Adams speaks on Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. He believes what Herb Brooks did back in 1979-80 was the greatest coaching job in sports history with the U.S. Olympic hockey team. Adams’ also feels Brooks’ was a spectacular college coaching, taking an 8-24 University of Minnesota team and within two years winning a NCAA Division 1 National Championship. Adams inspires today’s coaches and athletes with the story of America’s greatest sports moment, the Miracle on Ice, as well as the fascinating stories of the champions of Lake Placid, a village of 2800 that has produced someone in every Winter Olympics since 1924. To contact him for information on his programs email charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Recruit Your Own “Miracle On Ice”Monday, January 4th, 2016

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Anatoli Tarasov is the man that built Soviet hockey into the world power that it was for decades. He started the process after WWII, and made them so dominant that under his direction, from 1963 to 1972, the Soviet hockey team won every major international tournament, including nine World Championships and three Olympic gold medals. He did this without studying Canadian or other forms of hockey, but by consulting champion chess players, ballet developers, circus creators and writers. As someone who was a sports anchor for 25 years, Soviet hockey was the most creative and lethal form of sports I have ever seen.

As Tarasov developed his players he wanted them to be able to do, or have, three things on the ice:
* The accuracy of a sniper
* The wisdom of a chess player
* The rhythm of a musician

As you recruit players, those are three attributes to look for in your prospects.

Shockingly, Tarasov was not the USSR coach in Lake Placid in 1980 as earlier in the decade the Soviet leaders had wanted him to throw a game vs the Czechs to improve relations. He didn’t have to lose, as a tie would do. Tarasov would not, and was fired at 54, leading to Viktor Tikhonov becoming coach. He would make possibly the worst decision in coaching history when at the end of the 1st period in the USA USSR game, he benched legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak. Tikhonov’s blood was boiling that Tretiak had given up two goals, so he took him out. That would be like Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr (Luke Walton!) taking out Steph Curry for good early in the 2nd quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals because Curry went 0-7.

Mike Eruzione would take advantage of Tretiak being out, as he scored the winning goal with 10:00 to go in the game, off the Soviets backup goalie, and the USA won 4-3.

Eruzione had four things coaches look for in recruiting.
* Drive
* Resiliency
* Team loyalty
* Instinct for the big play (besides the winning goal vs the Soviets, he also scored 3 goals in his state high school championship game, and had other pivotal goals in Lake Placid, even though his skating and shooting skills were not as gifted as many teammates)

Eruzione in Italian means volcano. You want recruits that can erupt in all of the positive ways. He also played with nuclear passion, and he was Pete Rose on skates. Those are the kids you win with.

While the Miracle on Ice has received the most attention from the 1980 Winter Olympics in mystical Lake Placid, New York, Eric Heiden’s five gold medals in speed skating were just as historic. Heiden won five of the six total gold medals the United States earned that winter with the hockey team getting the other.

Heiden had 29″ thighs and a 32″ waist. His body was Adonis-like. He also had a steely determination. Columnist Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post sized him up this way:
“Many athletes have muscles. Few have Heiden’s strength of mind, his mulish will inside a thoroughbred’s physique.”

As you recruit, that is a powerful combination to look for, and a great quote to share with your physically blessed athletes, so that they always remember to keep driving even if they are more blessed athletically than others.

Charlie Adams

Charlie Adams speaks on Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. He believes what Herb Brooks did back in 1979-80 was the greatest coaching job in sports history with the U.S. Olympic hockey team. Adams’ also feels Brooks’ was a spectacular college coaching, taking an 8-24 University of Minnesota team and within two years winning a NCAA Division 1 National Championship. Adams inspires today’s coaches and athletes with the story of America’s greatest sports moment, the Miracle on Ice, as well as the fascinating stories of the champions of Lake Placid, a village of 2800 that has produced someone in every Winter Olympics since 1924. To contact him for information on his programs email charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Miracle On Ice Team: Where Are They Now?Monday, May 18th, 2015

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

As college coaches, you are not only recruiting talent but also helping to develop these young people to have success in life. Of the twenty players on Herb Brooks Miracle on Ice team, all of them have gone on to be successful. While over half played professionally, including several with long NHL careers, what is most important is that because of their upbringing, their inner fire, and the drive from Herb, they have done well in all walks of life. Here is an update on this special group  that galvanized America. Their average age today would be 57.

Steve Janaszak: Steve is an investment manager in New York. Even though he was 1st team All America at the University of Minnesota, Herb told him he was going to ride Jim Craig all the way as goalie in Lake Placid. Steve never played, but never was a disruptive force. He was such a team player that he even sharpened skates of teammates in intermissions. After retiring from mainly minor league hockey, he went on to work as a bond salesman for an investment banking firm on the 89th floor of the South Tower in the World Trade Center until March 2001, leaving the company six months before 9/11. He says the company lost 67 people when the towers collapsed, including most of the people on the trading desk where he had worked.

Ken Morrow: Ken is director of scouting for the New York Islanders. The 6’4″ defenseman was so talented that the Islanders signed him right after Lake Placid and he was a part of four straight Stanley Cup title teams.

Mike Ramsey: Mike is retired and lives in Minnesota. He was a four-time NHL All-Star in a 14-year career with the Sabres. Also played for the Penguins and Red Wings. Was an assistant coach with the Sabres and North Stars.

Bill Baker: Bill is an oral surgeon in Minnesota with multiple offices. He excelled academically at prestigious Washington University’s dental program in St. Louis in the years after the Miracle on Ice. He played for four NHL teams. At Lake Placid, Bill scored the tying goal vs Sweden in the opening game, salvaging a critical 2-2 tie. It would be his only goal. Herb built his team on players that would step up when needed most.

Dave Silk: Dave is an investment manager in Boston. He played for several NHL teams and was an assistant coach at Boston University. Herb knew how to trust verified resources when researching potential players for his 1980 team. Initially skeptical of Silk, one of Silk’s coaches told him that Dave would be the guy out their in crunch time for him. To realize that turned out to be true, all you have to do is hear what Al Michaels said: “Eleven seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow up to Silk. Do you believe in miracles? YES!” Yep, he was out

Neal Broten: Neal is a horse farm operator in River Falls, Wisconsin. He played 17 NHL seasons for four teams. A believer in identifying talent early, Herb targeted him as an 8th grader and made sure someone on his University of Minnesota staff saw him in person regularly through his high school career.

Mark Johnson: Mark, who scored two of the four goals in the 4-3 win over the Soviets, is head coach of the University of Wisconsin women”s hockey team, and has been head coach of Team USA women in the Olympics. He had an
illustrious NHL career, and says he became a Christian when playing, ironically, for the New Jersey Devils.

Steve Christoff: Steve is a pilot for Endeavor Air, based in Minneapolis. He played for three NHL teams from 1979-84.

Mark Wells: After playing some minor league hockey and moving into the restaurant management industry, Mark was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal disease that has led to over ten operations and left him bed ridden for an extended time. Always a fighter, he is still battling and is working on a book named ‘Last Man In.’ Mark was the final player chosen by Herb for his roster.

Mark Pavelich: Mark is a land developer. The Minnesota-Duluth alum made the assist to Mike Eruzine’s historic winning goal vs the Soviets. Passed over by the NHL because they felt he was too short, Mark played overseas for a year. When Herb became head coach of the NY Rangers, he signed Mark, who promptly proved the so-called NHL talent experts wrong, and even became the first American to score five goals in a NHL game. When Herb left, Mark lost interest in playing for coaches without Herb’s creativity, and retired from tne NHL in his prime.

Jack O’Callahan: Jack is a high ranking part of Beanpot Financial in Chicago. He played in the NHL from 1982 to 1989, primarilly for the Blackhawks. A top academic student at Latin High in Boston, he turned down Harvard to play for Boston University where he would lose ten teeth and have around one hundred facial stitches during his days there. Herb loved that tenacity and kept him on the Lake Placid roster even though he hurt his knee pretty bad in the final exhibition before the Games. Mike Eruzione would later say that was a huge move, as it inspired the team.

Eric Strobel: Eric had part ownership of a golf club in Fifty Lakes, Minnesota, before retiring. His pro career ended early when he suffered a broken ankle while playing for Rochester. He then became a telephone sales executive in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Herb motivated him by telling the media that Eric had a million dollar pair of legs but a fifty cent fart for a brain.

Bob Suter: ‘Bam Bam’ became the first of the twenty players to die, when he had a heart attack last September at age 57. He was at the rink where he had inspired countless young people over the years in hockey and life. Bob never played pro after Lake Placid, focusing on returning to Madison, Wisconsin and teaching youth hockey. His life motto was “It’s all about the kids.” There was no church big enough to handle mourners, so his service was moved to a local arena. Bob’s son Ryan is a NHL All Star with Minnesota.

Mike Eruzione: Mike is director of special outreach at Boston University and is still in demand as a motivational speaker. Overlooked by D1’s in high school, he was going to go D2 until the new Boston University coach saw him the summer before his freshman year, and signed him. New Hampshire was one of the D1’s that felt he didn’t have what it took. Eruzione torched them for four years, leading their staff to develop a new recruiting world. They said they never could be “Eruzioned” again in recruiting, meaning they could not overlook a recruit that maybe did not have their measureables. Even though he could have played pro, Mike never did after Lake Placid, saying nothing could top that experience. He received thousands of letters after the Games, including eight from people that said they were going to kill themselves, but did not after watching Team USA.

Dave Christian: Dave works for a residential glass manufacturer in Minnesota. Dave played 16 years with five teams in the NHL. Experts say the best coaching move Herb made was asking Dave to move from center ice to defenseman, as injuries had taken their toll on defensemen. Ever the team player, Dave totally bought into the move. This was a young man who gave up the more glamorous offensive position to help  get the puck out of the zone on defense. He was so talented on offense that he later set an NHL record by scoring seven seconds into his career with the Winnipeg Jets.

Rob McClanahan: Rob is managing director and head of institutional trading at ThinkEquity Partners in Minnesota. Rob played for the Rangers coached by Herb in 1984. Rob and Herb had the famous heated exchange in the locker
room after the first period of the Sweden game, leading them to be separated out in the hall. Rob would later score in the winning goal in the gold medal game vs Finland, and today is on the board of directors for the Herb Brooks Foundation. He says no other coach could have taken that team to the gold except Herb.

Buzz Schneider: Buzz is a successful real estate agen in Minnesota. He played professionally overseas and in the minor leagues. He was the only player on the 1980 team that had played on the 1976 team, and he scored the first goal vs the Soviets in the 4-3 win. Emphasizing speed, Herb loved how fast Buzz was, as he had run the 40 in just under 4.3 seconds.

Phil Verchota: Phil is senior vice president of First American Bank in Willmar, Minnesota. He played in Finland after the Olympics but returned to the U.S. team in 1984.

John Harrington: John recently was named head coach of the University of Minnesota-Mankato women’s hockey team. He was the men’s coach at the University of Saint John’s in Minnesota for a long time, often calling Herb for coaching advice. He also was a scout for the Colorado Avalanche. After Lake Placid, he played minor-league hockey and on the 1984 Olympic team.

Jim Craig: Jim is an in demand speaker and team builder as owner of Gold Medal Strategies. The goalie stopped 36 of 39 Soviet shots in what has been called the greatest performance under pressure in the annals of the Olympics summer and winter Games. Even though experts had other college goalies rated ahead of him, Herb went with him as he wasn’t looking for the best players, but the right players. After a standout career at Boston University, he played briefly for the Flames, Bruins and North Stars.

All of these men were picked by Herb not only because of their skills and speed, but because of their intelligence, family backgrounds, and inner fire. All of them have been successful in life, thanks in part to Herb telling them things like this during their seven months together in 1970 and 1980, things that you could tell your athletes today:

“Set goals in life or forever work for those that do.”

“Form good habits and become slaves to them.”

“When we come together we can do the improbable and perhaps the impossible!”

“Work so hard and become so good that you make it impossible for me to cut you.”

“Give 99% and make my job easy to cut you.”

“We should be dreamers. We grew up as kids having dreams, but as adults become too sophisticated. We stop dreaming. We should always have dreams.”

“Motivation is the energy that makes everything work. It is clearly the single most critical part of performance.”

“Risk something, or forever sit with your dreams.”

“Don’t be common. The common person goes nowhere. Be uncommon.”

“The name on the front of the shirt is a lot more important than the one on the back.”

“You don’t put greatness into people. You pull it out of them.”

Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker with 35 years of experience. For more information on his workshops and how to book one for your program, please visit his website or email him at: Charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

The Legacy Of Herb BrooksMonday, May 11th, 2015

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

To understand the magnitude of Herb Brooks’ leadership, before Brooks coached the 1980 Miracle on Ice US Olympic hockey team, he took over a University of Minnesota program in 1972 that was 8-24 the year before him, including a 15-3 loss in one game.

University of Minnesota college hockey:

1971-72 (before Herb) 8-24 record, last place in their conference

1972-73 (with Brooks) 15-16-3
1973-74 NCAA D1 Champions (first in school history)
1974-75 NCAA D1 Runner ups
1975-76 NCAA D1 Champions
1978-79 NCAA D1 Champions

Then, see what happened to USA Hockey without the leadership and drive of Brooks, who moved into professional coaching after 1980 gold in Lake Placid:

1980 Olympics – 6-0-1 record 1st place including 4-3 win over dynasty Soviets

Then USA Hockey without Brooks:

1981 World Championship – 5th place
1982 World Championship – 8th place
1983 World Championship – 9th place – put in ‘B’ pool
1984 Olympics – 7th place (including opening losses to Canada and the Czechs and a 3-3 tie with lowly Norway)

Brooks left college coaching at age 42. He had won 3 NCAA D1 National Championships in 7 years. Think if he had come back to the University of Minnesota after the 1980 Miracle on Ice. He could have possibly set marks past John Wooden and Coach K.

“Herb was able to convince each player, whether he was a goal scoring sniper, a mucker-grinder defenseman, a 4th line special teamer, or even a junk yard brawler, that if he did not do his job, then collectively the team would fail.”
Ross Bernstein, author of ‘America’s Coach” – a book on Herb Brooks

When you think about what Brooks built regarding the Miracle on Ice, it is staggering:

* Greatest moment in United States sports history
* Arguably the greatest upset in sports history
* Led to the greatest call in sports history in “Do you believe in miracles? Yes” by ABC’s Al Michaels
* Far and away the most popular cover in Sports Illustrated history

I am looking forward to sharing my research on the back story of how the Miracle on Ice came to be, as well as the mystique of Lake Placid, which I think is the most inspirational sports site in the country. If you would like more information on the programs I deliver on site to college athletic staffs and teams go here:

If you would like information on taking your coaching staff to Lake Placid for staff building retreats contact Scott Gardner at:
Direct line:

College coaches are always looking for resources to grow them as coaches. Here are books and videos I suggest.

– America’s Coach by Ross Bernstein (includes transcripts of Herb’s speeches)

– Herb Brooks: The Inside Story of a Coaching Mastermind by John Gilbert
– The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey
– Gold Medal Strategies by Jim Craig
– The movie Miracle (Disney 2004) starring Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks. If you get the 2 DVD set it includes  an interview with Herb Brooks just before he died, where he shared coaching secrets with Kurt Russell.

To watch the recent ESPN 30 for 30 “Of Miracles and Men” on how the Soviets became such a dynasty and how they lost to Team USA  copy and paste this to your browser:


This shows how coach Anatoli Tarasov took Soviet hockey from nothing to world domination. His coaching tactics were one of a kind.

Are You Recruiting The Right Ingredients For Your Stew?Saturday, March 21st, 2015

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

As you recruit and build your team and program, it is like making a good stew.

When the 1980 US Olympic hockey team was upsetting the Soviets 4-3 in Lake Placid, Steve Janaszak and Bob Suter did not play in the game. Janaszak did not play in any games, as coach Herb Brooks made the decision to ride Jim Craig the whole way. Suter was not back full speed from an ankle injury and Brooks felt did not have the speed to keep up with the Soviets.

As I have written here before, that Miracle on Ice team was a team with egos, but no ego problems. Sure, it irritated the heck out of Suter not to play against the Soviets, and he was burning inside, but he never showed it. Any snit he had was very private. Janaszak sharpened teammates skates between periods, and was the first on ice to celebrate goals. This was a guy that was 1st team All America goalie at the University of Minnesota and MVP of the previous NCAA Final Four.

When all was said and done and the gold medal was won, Suter leaned over to Janaszak and had this exchange:

“Jany, you know what we are?”
“No, Sutes, what are we?”
“We’re the peas in beef stew.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’re just here to make them look good.”

Suter said it in a very positive way. Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig and Mark Johnson were the big juicy pieces of beef during that run. Other players were the carrots. Some were potatoes. Some were the green peas.

You can’t have a stew without all of those things. In recruiting, think of it as making a stew that wins the prize at the competition. Each player is going to have a specific role. Communicate with them. One of the reasons Janaszak handled being back up was that Brooks had clearly told him there was a chance he would not play in Lake Placid. That helped.

How the Soviets ‘built their beef stew’ is a fascinating story in itself. Be sure to check movie listings in your area for the new documentary Red Army. You can go to redarmymovie.com. It is the brilliant doc on how they became arguably the most dominant dynasty in sports history, and how Anatoli Tarasov built them by studying ballet, chess, circus and
philosophy. Every college coach should see this doc, as it shares rare footage of their conditioning drills (that got heartbeats to 220). It shows how they recruited youth into their hockey system, with even a choir performance where the singers sang, “Those that do not play hockey are cowards!”

Slava Fetisov says there was such interest in becoming a part of their Red Army team that when he was nine, the line for tryouts for the youth team was 4 miles long.

In the doc you will see what they did after 1980 to come back as a behemoth. You will see what I feel is the best passing of any sport I have ever seen.

I look forward to speaking on Life Lessons from Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice at the upcoming 2015 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville.

If you need to contact me, I can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Why We Should All Care About the Little College That’s ClosingMonday, March 9th, 2015

Sweet Briar College is closing it’s doors.  And that makes me sad.

I know quite a few of the coaches there, and they are all good people who worked hard.  I was honored to be on their campus several years ago.  It’s a beautiful place, with 114 years of tradition under it’s belt.

And it’s closing.  Financially, and I’m over-simplifying the situation here, they aren’t making ends meet.  They are shutting their doors, and everyone suffers.  The community, the coaches, and the athletes (here’s an excellent article by my friend, and former SBC lacrosse coach, Hillary London wrote for ESPN on the topic).

In 2007, I began doing some simple research for an athletic director who was a client, and came to a rather abrupt, yet undeniable, conclusion:

There are too many colleges, and not enough incoming college students.  I’ve been sounding that alarm to anyone in college athletics who will listen ever since.  I’m pleased that Mark Cuban reaches the same conclusion; not because I am looking for more colleges to close, but because I want college coaches and athletic directors to view this as a very real “canary in the coal mine”.

There will be more colleges that won’t make it.  And before they close, their athletic departments will be cut back.  Severely cut back.

Since you, as a coach or athletic director, have only a small measure of control over what happens to the larger student loan and budget conversation beginning to happen inside your school’s President’s office on the other side of campus, here’s what I would want to see you doing.

If what I think is going to happen is actually going to happen, I don’t want it happen to you and your college:

Make recruiting your number one priority.  If you’re a small college, the quantity and quality of the athletes you bring to campus is vitally important.  Not only to your athletic department, but to your admissions department.  If you’re at a larger school, you should already be doing this.

Understand your school and department’s budget situation. You need to be a part of the solution.  To do that, you need to know what the challenges are.  Strengthening your college and athletic department should be a team effort.

Find ways to become self-sufficient. The Ivy League has seen their athletic departments become self-sufficient through a sustained, intelligent financial plan. More colleges will follow suit, primarily because of necessity. Will your athletic department be ready to take on the challenge?  Will your individual sports program be ready for the challenge?

Develop your recruiting skills.  If we are seeing the genesis of some kind of grand Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest world of college sports emerging, you’ll fall in one of two categories.  As my old football coach used to say, “You’re either the bug or the windshield.” More and more head coaches and athletic directors are going to be looking for individuals who can recruit.  Period.  The X’s and O’s knowledge?  Yes, that’s important.  Your recruiting knowledge? It’s going to be even more important asset in your coaching career toolbox.  Develop those skills. Become great at it.  It may just be the thing that saves your career.

There is a creative, passionate effort to save Sweet Briar College following the shocking announcement of their impending closure. I’m going to donate, and I would encourage you to do so, as well.

As a college coach interested in avoiding this storyline unfolding on your campus, hear my call: It’s time to become more than just a coach.  It’s time for you to be a better marketer, a more informed financial expert, and a more consistent recruiter.

Resourcefulness Of The 1980 OlympicsMonday, March 9th, 2015

lake placid for dan tudorby Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Greetings from Lake Placid, NY.

I am here this week doing more research on the area which I feel is as inspiring as any place in U.S. sports history, and working with The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB to develop staff building retreats here for college coaches to bond in their off season.

Lake Placid is the only U.S. city to host two Winter Olympics. As you build your staff, you may be challenged. Going into the 1980 Winter Games the Lake Placid Olympic committee president was Ron MacKenzie, their retired postmaster. He designed many of the ski cross country trails. When he tragically passed away in 1978, the new Lake Placid Olympic committee president was Rev. Bernie Fell, preacher at the local United Methodist church. He had been the town policeman, but got shot and changed work professions to the ministry after that. The town dentist had come up with many of the marketing materials back when they pitched for the 1980 Games.

They shut down schools for five weeks in the winter of 1980 so that town folks could volunteer. Lake Placid High School was made the media center. With the world’s elite media liking their wine and such, Lake Placid High remains the only high school ever in America to have a liquor license (a copy hangs in the current superintendent’s office today!). You can see it below just to the left of the famous track where Eric Heiden became the first to win 5 Olympic Golds in one Games.

Like you have to be resourceful with budget, so did they. They got government funding for the Olympic Village by saying it could be turned into a penitentiary right after the Games. This annoyed the Soviet athletes to no end, being in rooms 7 1’2 feet by 13 1/2 feet. Coach Herb Brooks brought in double wides for his team.

After their loss in the Miracle on Ice, clean up workers found numerous Soviet hockey silver medals in the trash in their rooms after the 1980 Games. John Gotti, years later, would spend time in this jail.

scott hamiltonWe know the Opening Ceremonies today as sometimes over the top productions with unlimited budgets. In February of 1980, the Opening Ceremonies were at Lake Placid horse grounds with portable bleachers brought in. However, it was a beautiful ceremony with little Scott Hamilton leading the U.S. athletes onto the grounds. Just 5 feet and 100 pounds, the US athletes were inspired how he had been adopted, had stopped growing with the initial diagnosis of cystic fibrosis and certain death, yet with his adopted parents relentless search had found a solution.

Lake Placid would produce one of the most memorable Olympics ever – with the Miracle on Ice and Heiden’s 5 golds in speed skating leading the way.

There is a spirit in Lake Placid unlike any other sports location I have experienced in my 52 years on earth. This little village has produced someone in the Winter Olympics every year since 1924.

Billy Fiske, the lead driver of the 1932 gold medal US olympic bobsled team in Lake Placid, would become the first American to die in WWII, joining the Royal Air Force in 1940 and dying in action. Billy had been just 16 when he won gold in 1932, the youngest ever to win gold.

Cecilia Colledge of Great Britian was just 11 when she competed in figure skating in the 1932 Games.

Though not connected to the Olympics there, golfer Craig Wood was born in Lake Placid. Talk about perseverance. He lost the 1935 Masters when Gene Sarazen hit the double eagle on 15, the shot heard round the world. Craig would become the first golfer to lose all four majors in extra holes. He kept plugging away. In the 1941 US Open, he opened with a triple bogey 7, but came back to win. He had won the Masters earlier that year, becoming the first golfer to ever open the season with wins in the Masters and US Open, something Jack, Tiger and others would do years later.

As coaches, you are always looking for ways to inspire your athletes to peak performance. During the 50-km cross country ski in 1932, a Japanese assistant coach set up a portable wind-up record player at the most difficult part of the course, a steep ravine. Every time a Japanese skier came by, the coach wound up his machine and blasted out the Japanese national anthem, which so galvanized each Japanese competitor that he scaled the ravine’s uphill side at a roaring clip.

Lake Placid has hosted some of the most inspiring moments in sports history, and the greatest moment in US sports history – the Miracle on Ice. There is a spirit in Lake Placid that is unlike any other sports place I have ever been.

As coaches, you can experience it through staff building retreats in your off season (what off season you have!).

Because many of the Olympic venues are still operational, it is also a great place to take your family during summer vacation.

For information contact Scott Gardner at:

Scott Gardner
Conferences and Meetings Coordinator
Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism/Lake Placid CVB
518-523-5200 ext 133

What Story Does Your Locker Room Tell?Monday, March 2nd, 2015

lockerroom emptyby Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

In almost 40 years of being around sports closely, as a broadcast journalist and now seminar leader, I have had the opportunity to visit many of our sports mecca’s in America.

Lake Placid ranks right up there. Actually, the only two times I have had actual goosebumps were my first time on the grounds of Augusta National during Masters week, and my first visit to Team USA’s locker room in Lake Placid.

Above is a picture I took of when I first visited the famous locker room where coach Herb Brooks told his team, “You were born to be hockey players, every one of you. You were meant to be here tonight. This moment is yours.”

Just above you can see a beam where the stands were literally just above them, and where 11,000 people had crammed into a 7,700 seat arena, chanting USA, USA, USA! Al Michaels, then 35, said the chant originated there during the Czech game earlier in the Games.

Many of you don’t have the best of facilities. When you go in that locker room, it is startling how small it is and how little room there was for the trainer to work. How 20 young men and a coaching staff did their work in there is inspiring. They have kept it just as it was, and it is no doubt a bucket list destination for those that love sports history.

When you recruit athletes, you want the kind of young people that can handle the variety of emotions that will happen in a locker room. After the 1st period of their first game vs Sweden, when they trailed 1-0, Herb Brooks knew he had to light a fire under his team. Had they lost to the Swedes, they had the 2nd seeded Czechs next. A loss to them too, and kiss the medal round and possible Soviet game goodbye. Brooks knew player Rob McLanahan had taken his uniform off from a deep thigh bruise and Doc had ruled him out. After finding out playing on it would not further injure it, Brooks challenged him to put his gear back on, and then took a verbal swipe at his affluent background. McLanahan came at Brooks, they had to be separated, and fell out into the hallway to the Sweden locker room area. McLanahan came back in, gimpy, and the US salvaged a 2-2 tie.

In that locker room, Brooks had a variety of talks. He was soothing before the Soviet game, his words carefully constructed to reaffirm to them that it was their destiny to be there. During the Norway game, when the team had struggled out of the gate, he simply told them they could do better and kept it short and sweet. Before the final period of the Finland game, trailing 2-1, he kept his talk to less than 15 seconds, saying, “You lose this game, you take it to your graves.” He went back out and back in and said, “To your graves.”

thirty five jerseys in lockerroom

Take a trip to your locker room sometime and reflect on the various talks you have given there over time and the emotions that have ranged from coaches to players. Think about the kind of young person that can take the highs and lows. Rob McLanahan, though infuriated, hobbled back to the ice three minutes into the next period and played the rest of the way basically on one leg. When out of the game, he stayed as far away from Brooks as possible. Ever the team guy, he missed the Opening Ceremonies the next day to get treatment on his leg to get as healthy as possibe as soon as possible for his team. Today, he is on the board of directors of the Herb Brooks Foundation.

Your facilities may not be the greatest. They may be pretty bad, but the greatest moment in United States sports history happened in a hole in the wall locker room in Lake Placid, New York, with a couple of bathroom stalls and a small table for the trainer. When all 19 surviving players returned to Lake Placid last week for the first time as a team since 1980,
they went in that locker room and smiled. They wouldn’t have had it any other way.

(note – the locker room in the movie Miracle was shot in Canada and is way nicer and bigger than the real thing)

The 35th Anniversary Of The Miracle On IceMonday, February 23rd, 2015

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

For coaches out there reading this today, Tuesday, this is the actual 35th anniversary date of the ending of the Miracle on Ice. On Febuary 24th, 1980 coach Herb Brook’s USA team rallied to beat Finland 4-2.

“The impossible dream comes true,” said ABC’s Al Michaels, two days after his famous “Do you believe in miracles?!” call.

The 19 surviving players returned to Lake Placid Saturday night. It was the first time the whole surviving team was back in Lake Placid since 1980. No doubt, one reason they made sure to return was the realization of mortality. Bob Suter became the first player to die back in September when he died of a heart attack at age 57. He was at his rink in Madison, WI where he helped so many kids.

Every coach dreams of assembling a team that reaches the pinnacle like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. I can’t emphasize enough how important the psychological part of it is. Shortly after Brooks died in a car crash in August of 2003, former Soviet star Slava Fetisov wrote a wonderful tribute to him that the New York Times read. Fetisov wrote, “he was one of the first to prove that a modern coach is first of all a wonderful pschologist.”

When Slava speaks, people listen. Wayne Gretzkey felt Slava was one of the two best defenders he ever faced, saying Slava could skate backwards and sideways faster than he could forward. Slava was so good an asteroid was named after him.

Brooks’ degree in psychology and his emphasis of that area enabled him to recruit players at the college and Olympic level that were incredible at coming through at opportune times. He also knew exactly how to push the different buttons.

Psychology and motivation are so important in building a team and championships. Here is Herb Brooks on it:

“Motivation is the energy that makes everything work. It is clearly the single most critical part of performance.”

Herb Brooks had different motivational talks for every game in Lake Placid. They ranged from confronting Rob McLanahan after the first period of the sluggish Sweden game to where they had a near fight, to his compassionate ‘you were born to be here’ talk before the Soviet game, when his boys were on edge. Then, trailing Finland 3-2 before the final period in the gold medal game, he merely walked in and said, “You lose this game, you take it to your $@*# grave”. He walked back out, and back in, and said, “To your !@$%! grave.” And left.

Team USA destroyed Finland in the final period of the gold medal game, rallying from 3-2 down to win 4-2. Scoring the winning goal was Rob McLanahan, who was so enraged at herb during that Sweden fiasco that he had to be separated. Today, McLanahan is on the board of directors of the Herb Brooks Foundation, has coached Herb’s grandkids, and will tell anyone no other coach could have done what Herb did back in 1980.

Being a wonderful psychologist and understanding nothing is more important than motivation. That comes from Slava Fetisov and Herb Brooks.

Today is the 35th anniversary of it all. If you would, please take a minute to Like the Herb Brooks Foundation on Facebook, as they do so much wonderful work to help young people.

It Pays To Go With Your GutMonday, February 16th, 2015

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

When legendary former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith died recently, one of my first thoughts was a connection he had to coach Herb Brooks of the Miracle on Ice in how they built a particular team.

In 1976, Dean Smith was head coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team. He raised eyebrows when he went with four of his current Carolina players as well as having seven ACC players out of the roster of twelve.

The Carolina and ACC players were:

Phil Ford        North Carolina
Mitch Kupchak    North Carolina
Tommy LaGarde    North Carolina
Walter Davis     North Carolina
Kenny Carr       North Carolina State
Steve Sheppard   Maryland
Tate Armstrong   Duke

They won gold, beating Yugoslavia 95-74 in the gold medal game.

In 1980, Herb Brooks was head coach of the soon-to-be famous U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. He left his job as head coach at the University of Minnesota to take over.

Herb raised eyebrows too when he went nine of his Univ of Minnesota boys and two others from Minnesota-Duluth. Eleven of the twenty were from Minnesota.

Mike Ramsey      Minnesota
Rob McLanahan    Minnesota
Bill Baker       Minnesota
Dave Christian   Minnesota
Neal Broten      Minnesota
Steve Christoff  Minnesota
Steve Janaszak   Minnesota
Buzz Schneider   Minnesota
Eric Strobel     Minnesota
John Harrington  Minnesota-Duluth
Mark Pavelich    Minnesota-Duluth

They won gold, beating the dynasty Soviet team 4-3 in the semi finals along the way. Sports Illustrated named what they did as the greatest U.S. sports moment of the 20th century.

I was living in Durham, North Carolina in 1976 when Dean Smith built that team and I remember the howls from around the basketball nation about how he was favoring his Tar Heels and the ACC.

When Herb Brooks put together the Olympic team, he caught heat for going with a whopping nine who were playing for him then or had at the University of Minnesota.

Both went with their heart, instincts, sport knowledge, and determination to build the best team possible.

What is interesting is that Dean Smith’s team had 7 of 12 from the ACC, but the two best players in the 1976 Games were Adrian Dantley of Notre Dame and Scott May of Indiana. Dean obviously built things to where those two were far and away the top two options on offense. Dantley averaged 19 points a game while May averaged 17.

With Herb, even though he had all those Minnesota guys, Mike Eruzione of Boston University was the captain and Jim Craig was the goalie. Those are the two most important positions/titles on a team. Herb also had a 1st team All American for him at Minnesota on that team in Steve Janaszak. He never played Janascak a second in the Games, going with Craig all the way. Also, his best offensive player was Mark Johnson of Wisconsin. One time on a plane Herb told Mark that the team goes about as far as he takes them. He scored two of the four goals in the historic 4-3 win over the Soviets.

It’s like Herb and Dean knew their North Carolina and Minnesota area guys may not rack up stats or dominate, but their core would be familiar to them as coaches and they knew what they could do.

What they did is somewhat like that college coach that leans heavily on a certain club system or certain high school or conference. That coach may take some heat, but in the end you have to go with your evaluations, heart, instinct and determination to build a team that is best fit to win a championship. You may not make everyone happy, and others may think you are showing favoritism, but as Dean Smith and Herb Brooks showed, they were doing what was best.

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