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Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, December 22nd, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Confidence is one of the greatest assets in a recruit. Cockiness can be another matter. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two, and it has to be studied in recruiting.

Jim Craig, who would be the goalie of the historic Miracle on Ice team, had been stellar in high school but his lack of size scared D1 programs away. After a growth spurt and a year at Massasoit Junior College near Boston, his skills could not be ignored. Boston University coach Jack Parker recruited Craig but told him up front he already had a guy marked
as his starter and an offer to a standout recruit. Craig plainly said he understood, had seen them both, and it would be him that would be his goalie.

At that point a coach has to make a decision. Is this kid going to rock the boat of the culture of the program, or is that just plain confidence embedded in his very being. Craig had a massive belief in himself. Yes, he could agitate teammates at times by telling them where to go on ice and what to do while he was behind them on ice, but they put up with it by joking that he was a goalie and goalies were different. When he would start his pre game chatter, the Olympians would fire a few shots at his head to let him know to tone it down. This team had such chemistry that they all could make fun of each others quirky ways. At their Christmas gag gift party, they gave him ear plugs to hand out to everyone when he decided it was time to jabber on and on and on about his philosophy of goal tending.

He would become the main starter at Boston University and lead them to a stock pile of wins (55-10-3). As a junior he went 16-0-0 and led Boston University to the D1 national title. Behind him they dominated their rivalry with B.C.

Though some experts had several college goalies rated ahead of him as pro prospect, coach Herb Brooks saw the fire within him and rode him the whole way in Lake Placid.

Craig’s NHL career was just 30 games. Maybe he wasn’t the right player for the NHL, but Herb knew he was the right player for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Herb knew how to push the buttons of each player and with Craig he tweaked him just before Lake Placid, saying he was going to sit him after the 61 game exhibition slate where Craig had started almost all games.

“Your curve ball is hanging,” Herb told him. “I rode you too long.” This set off Craig, but Herb knew that was the last thing he needed to do to him to have him primed for the 7 games at the Games. Craig would allow less than 3 goals per game, including his stunning performance against the Soviet dynasty team.

After the game Craig went up to Herb and put his finger in his chest and told him that he had showed him. “Yes you did, Jim,” Herb responded. “Yes you did.”

Jim Craig’s confidence came because he had put in massive hours through childhood to develop the skills to stop the puck. As a little boy growing up in North Easton, Massachusetts they didn’t have enough money at first for a hockey chest protector, so he used a baseball one. They had to borrow skates and he shoved card board paper in their to fill the space. His Mom would take him to nearby Boston where he would sit in goal for hours against bigger kids, and then come home and take more shots. After awhile, he got to the point where he was stunned when a puck would get past him. It wasn’t cockiness, but an extreme inner belief that no one could or should score against him.

Besides being extremely confident Craig also did something you may want to suggest to your athletes. He broke each 20 minute period down to 5 minute slots, focusing on just the 5 minutes, and in between each period he would take off his uniform in the locker room and put it back on, signifying that whether he had played well or not last period, it was over and time to move forward.

One of the most irritating things in sports is the cocky athlete that really can’t back it up, but there is nothing wrong with the extremely confident player like Jim Craig.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceSunday, December 14th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheiFireWithin.com

You need to sign talent in recruiting and then develop it. Yes, there are many other factors, but talent is a biggie. The movie Miracle ends with captions of what happened to the players from the gold medal-winning 1980 US Olympic hockey team. What Disney showed was what they did as far as ‘real jobs in the real world’ and did not show that over half of the 1980 team would play in the NHL, some for many years. It was like in a subtle way the director wanted the audience to think these guys weren’t good enough to have been pros, when in fact just over half were NHL caliber.

There is a perception out there that Herb Brooks drove around with a bus and got some hockey guys and went to Lake Placid and beat the mighty Soviets 4-3. The reality is he had a lot of really talented players with physical gifts.

Buzz Schneider could run a 4.2 in the 40. Bill Baker looked like he had stepped off a Viking ship. Mark Pavelich was quicker than a butterfly with hiccups. Ken Morrow was a 6’4 sentry of a defenseman who would win four straight Stanley Cups with the Islanders right after the Olympic run.

When I work with college programs, my point is that it was NOT a miracle back in 1980. It was EARNED. There is no reason that every college program cannot reach their dreams because that team showed it was possible. After really hearing their backstory, your players and coaches will feel there is NOTHING they cannot accomplish and NOTHING they cannot overcome.

The players Herb basically recruited to the Olympic team were not as skilled as the Soviets. Herb knew he couldn’t match their skills in seven months so he focused on maximum conditionging. “We may not be the best team in Lake Placid,” Herb would say, “but we WILL be the best conditioned.”

Herb would tell them that they did not have enough talent to win on talent alone. He didn’t mean they had to get more talented to beat the Soviets and Czechs, but they had to become a total and complete team, have the ability to take advantage of opportunities, and be in Sparta-like condition.

“You don’t put greatness in people. You pull it out.” Herb always said that and he pulled it out of them over 7 months from July 1979 to February of 1980. He would say, “Men, I appreciate your talents and therefore I am going to maximize them.”

When Herb brought the 60-plus players to Colorado Springs in July of 1979 that would be whittled to 20 just before Lake Placid, he brought a lot of talent in. But as I have said before, he was looking for the right players and not the best players. Here is an example from my background. I was a TV News sports director at local stations for 25 years, including South Bend, Bakersfield and New Orleans. When I was in South Bend many top line sports reporters wanted to work at the CBS station I was at because Notre Dame football was on a tear from 1988 to 1993. I would get job applications from guys in big markets and pro sports backgrounds. I would listen to them, but would always hire a guy from a smaller college with a more humble background. That was the right guy. The best guys, the ones with the big names from having played pro ball, would be happy in Notre Dame football season, but I knew once I asked them to grab a TV news camera and drive to Bremen High to shoot girls basketball in the dead of winter, they would recoil in horror. Instead, I hired guys like Dean Huppert who had played tennis at D2 Univ of Indianapolis, and Greg
Carroll, who had played soccer at Xavier, and Greg Kerr who had played baseball at VCU. In over 25 years, I had people call in sick less than ten
days. That’s because they cared. And, they were very talented. People like Dan Tudor, who was a sports reporter for me at KBAK TV in Bakersfield and would go on and develop his Selling for Coaches program.

So, like Herb, in recruiting go for talent, but the right kind of talent. Don’t buy into the myth that the Miracle on Ice team was a lucky thing that happened. They earned it. Sure, the Soviets probably ‘won’ that 4-3 game in that they out shot the U.S. boys 39-16, but Herb had put together enough talent that was opportunistic enough to outscore them.

And in the end, in the big game that is all that matters.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Some Must Reads About The “Miracle On Ice”Monday, December 8th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

College coaches often like to read books on coaching legends before them. In my research on how the Miracle on Ice happened, besides trips to Lake Placid and interviewing those connected to it, I have read and re-read every book out there on it. What’s ironic is that because it became such a huge event back in 1980, the nation’s top media was there. As a result, many remarkably talented writers have documented their story.

As I have said here before, Herb Brooks was a top D1 coach for 7 years at Minnesota before taking over the Olympic team. In several books his recruiting strategies are shared. There is a wealth of insights that can help college coaches today in recruiting and beyond.

One book I suggest is ‘Herb Brooks : The Inside Story of a Hockey Mastermind.’ It is by John Gilbert, the sports writer that covered Herb, his recruiting and much more.

‘America’s Coach: Life Lessons and Wisdom for Gold Medal Success: A Biographical Journey of the Late Hockey Icon Herb Brooks’ is another book I highly suggest you have as Ross Bernstein also gets into Herb’s philosophies of recruiting and building a program. Bernstein also includes texts of many of Herb’s motivational talks, and they are priceless. Bernstein has also written ‘Remembering Herbie’ which really gets into the remarkable impact Herb had on people through relationships. Recruiting is all about building relationships.

The brilliantly talented writer Wayne Coffey wrote a New York Times bestseller called ‘The Boys of Winter’ which gets into the back story of the players and their families and their remarkable dedication to the craft of skating and hockey. I have read that book 6 times and find it fascinating. It would be a great read for you over Christmas.

The book ‘One Goal’ by John Powers and Art Kaminsky really goes behind the scenes on the sculpting of that Miracle team. What I have found is that all these books offer different perspectives and each has gems in them that can be valuable to college coaches and athletes.

‘Going for the Gold’ by Tim Wendel was written not long after 1980 and has timeless tools in it on how Herb recruited not the best players out there, but the right players.

When I ordered some of these older books, I was saddened to see that some of the used copies I got used to be in libraries, and had been discontinued in those libraries. It has been 35 years since Lake Placid and if we are not careful we are going to start to lose their story. I was a sports anchor for a quarter of a century and have followed sports closely for 40 years, and never have I covered or found a story as fascinating as their story. When I speak, I often ask groups if they remember it. Many over 50 do remember where they were. Younger people have seen the movie Miracle, but so many either don’t know of their story or have no idea how powerful it is.

I find college athletes that hear my research on them become enthralled with how their team came together to record the greatest moment in United States sports history. They come away feeling there is no team that they cannot defeat and nothing they cannot overcome.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Herb Brooks: The “ULTIMATE” Recruiting JobMonday, December 1st, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Herb Brooks did the ultimate recruiting when he brought together the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. All of the players were either college players, or had played college fairly recently.

As I have written about here before, Mike Eruzione was a pivotal part of the team. Years ago John Powers and Art Kominsky wrote a book entitled One Goal about how that team was brought together. Regarding Eruzione, they wrote “he had everything coaches say they want in an athlete” –

* Drive
* Resiliency
* Team loyalty
* Instinct for the big play

Those are four key factors in recruiting, especially instinct for the big play.

Leadership is critical and there are conflicting reports about how Eruzione was made captain of that team. Herb let the team vote, and Buzz Schneider was a very popular player. He would have made an excellent captain as well, and the players thought he would be voted in, but it came out as Eruzione. Some of the players thought Herb had pulled an Idi Amin. He denied it. Who knows, but Eruzione as captain was brilliant.

This week I also wanted to write about the importance of motivation in recruiting and in winning in college athletics. Herb Brooks said this: “Motivation is the energy that makes everything work. It is clearly the single most critical part of performance.”

Herb had all kinds of motivational stories and tools he used in recruiting and in the development of his teams at the University of Minnesota (3 NCAA titles in 7 seasons) and the Olympic hockey team. As a longtime motivational speaker who has done hundreds of talks in high school settings, I can tell you that young people respond to powerful motivational stories.

When Herb told the team just before the historic game vs the Soviets that they were born to be hockey players and meant to be there, he delivered one of the greatest messages in sports history. Mark Johnson scored with :01 to go at the end of the 1st period to tie it at 1 because of that speech. He never let up because his coach had basically told him that it had been written in some book centuries ago that they were destined to be there.

Mike Lightfoot is a hall of fame NAIA basketball coach at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN. Go in his office and you will find shelves of motivational materials he has used for decades. His teams have won multiple national championships and he has developed many fine young men. Having brought in my workshop on lessons we can learn from the Miracle on Ice boys, one of the things he has told his team over and over is that “legs feed the wolf.”

Herb used to always say that in getting his teams to optimum conditioning.

Next week I will write about the best books out there on how the Miracle on Ice came to be — books that every college coach should have on their shelves.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brook’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 24th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

As Coach Herb Brooks scouted, recruited and molded the Miracle on Ice team he was faced with one challenge after another. While some coaches may feel they can win despite not having certain players, Herb knew there were some he had to have, especially to beat a team like the Soviets.

The player that would turn out to be one of the best, if not the best on the team, was Mark Johnson. He had just finished a brilliant 4 years at the University of Wisconsin, tormenting Herb’s Minnesota team many times. The challenge was that Mark’s college coach was Badger Bob Johnson, Mark’s dad and Herb’s arch nemesis. The University of Minnesota and Wisconsin were 300 miles apart, so they were regional rivals. Both were national title contenders each year. They were fierce rivals. Herb and Badger Bob were polar opposites. Badger Bob was peppy like Richard Simmons, always optimistic and sunshine filled. Herb was….Herb.

So, as the team is flying to Europe for a stretch of exhibition games Herb lined up for September of 1979, Herb has a ‘situation.’ Badger Bob is back home thinking that the rivalry is so intense that Herb is liable to cut his son Mark to spite Badger Bob. Herb is thinking Badger Bob might have Mark quit so he could spite Herb. Poor Mark Johnson doesn’t know what to think! During the flight, Herb sat down next to Mark and said that he was a virtual lock to make the team, and that they would go as far as he could take them.

Mark was stunned. In an instant Herb had clarified the Badger Bob/Herb drama AND infused a massive jolt of confidence in Mark. Against the Soviets Mark would score 2 of the 4 goals. With :02 to go in the first period and Team USA down 2-1, Mark scored right before the buzzer to tie the game at 2-2, leading the Soviets to bench legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak. He did it because he was fueled by Herb’s pre game speech, telling the team they were born to be hockey players and they were meant to be there that night. Mark believed what he said, like it had been written in a book centuries ago they were meant to be there that night. He would become their best player. Teammates would nickname him Mark ‘Magic’ Johnson as a certain Laker was having a remarkable 1979-80 stretch as well.

While Herb could play mind games with players with the best of them, he also knew when to clearly communicate where players stood, like he did with Mark. He also did this with Steve Janaszak, the back up goalie. Steve had been 1st team NCAA All American the previous year playing goalie for Herb’s University of Minnesota team. Steve led them to the NCAA championship and was named MVP. Despite his accolades and the fact that experts had at least 5 other college goalies rated above Jim Craig, Herb went with Jim every second of all 7 games at Lake Placid. Before, though, he went to Steve and told him there was a strong chance he was going to ride Jim the whole way. Steve appreciated that, and as I will write in a future story here, was the ultimate team supporter there.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 17th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

You win college championships when you recruit players like Jack O’Callahan.

The greatest moment in United States sports history was when the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the dynasty Soviet team in Lake Placid, NY, and then won Gold two days later. They did it because Coach Herb Brooks had molded teams with players such as O’Callahan.

O’Callahan grew up in Charlestown, Massachusetts by Boston. His house was close to Bunker Hill. O’Callahan’s approach to sports was Bunker Hill. In 1775 greatly outnumbered Patriot soldiers twice held back the Redcoats. Not until the third wave did they have to retreat. In the process they took out half the British forces.

O’Callahan graduated fifth from Latin High School in Boston, the oldest public school in America. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams went there. Smart as a whip, O’Callahan also had a burning passion for hockey and to win a national championship. Harvard offered him. He turned them down for Boston University because he felt they offered a better chance for a great education and a national title.

O’Callahan lost about ten teeth and had around 100 stitches during his BU days. He left it all out there, and was an incredible inspiration to his teammates. He truly took the Bunker Hill approach.

Olympic coach Herb Brooks had done extensive research of college players while he was coach at the University of Minnesota. He had made countless calls to college coaches to learn things like the fire within of O’Callahan. During the seven month stretch of training for the February 1980 Games, Brooks went to him and said that when he yelled at him while calling him O’Cee (his nickname) he was speaking to the whole team, but when he yelled at him saying Jack he was getting on him.

After 61 exhibition games, their last was in Madison Square Garden vs the powerful Soviets three days before the Olympics. Team USA got whalloped 10-3 and O’Callahan suffered a knee injury. It looked pretty bad. Herb had to submit the 20 player Olympic roster in 48 hours, a roster that could not be changed. The Team USA committee pressured him to bring in someone else. After a few diagnos’ on the knee, one Doctor said there was a chance he could play after a couple of games if therapy went right.

Herb went to O’Callahan and told him there were 19 other guys looking for him to do what was best for the team. O’Cee nodded, sadly. Herb then said that was why he was going to keep him on the roster. If he couldn’t play then his fire and passion would be important. O’Callahan was beyond jubilant.

Mike Eruzione said later that move was huge in them winning gold. It sent such a jolt of positivity through them, as they had become such a family.

O’Callahan did miss a couple of games, but played the rest of the way. He was not 100% but he was out there. He paid the price. He had to give up his first season of NHL hockey because of playing on the wounded knee. He could have risked his entire pro future had he had it hurt again, but he wanted to be there for his team.

Recruiting players like Jack O’Callahan are pivotal in building championship college programs.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 10th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Jim Craig’s family didn’t have enough money to get him a hockey chest protector when he was little, so he made do with a baseball catcher’s protector for awhile. He borrowed skates and put cardboard in them to fill the space.

Growing up in a home of 8 brothers and sisters and 1 bathroom near Boston, Jim had a dream of being in the Olympics one day. In 7th grade his teacher asked him what he was writing over and over. He said he was practicing his autograph for when he got to the Olympics.

His mother, Margaret, drove him to practice against older boys in nearby Boston when he was a 5’1″ middle schooler. She sharpened his skates and told him even small people make the Olympics.

As a 5’5″ 10th grader he kept working, practicing blocking hundreds of shots after practice. No major colleges wanted him so he played a year at a Massachusetts Community College. Boston University saw him and was interested but told him they had a veteran goalie and a star freshman coming in. He told them he had seen them both and they were good but that he was better.

He grew to 6’1″ and as a junior led Boston University to the National Championship. His mother became sick, though, and died of cancer. She made him promise to get his degree and if he had the chance to play in the Olympics. She said she would leave him her strength for when he needed it most.

Herb Brooks built the 1980 Miracle on Ice team not with the best players in the country but with the right ones. Experts had 5 goalies rated above Craig, but Herb saw the fire within and went with him every second of the Olympics. On Feb. 22, 1980 – George Washington’s birthday and the 30 year anniversary of the Disney movie ‘Cinderella’ – against a Soviet team many feel was the greatest hockey team ever assembled, Jim and his mother’s strength stopped 36 of 39 shots in the 4-3 win. Author Wayne Coffey said it was arguably the greatest performance under pressure in the annals of Olympic history and that it forever redefined the parameters of athletic possibility.

One of the biggest points I try to get across in this new Talk is that the Miracle on Ice was not a miracle, but earned, and that every company, school and church organization out there is capable of amazing things if they follow their fascinating template. In his book Gold Medal Strategies goalie Jim Craig opens with this:

“Miracles are inspiring; they give us hope, support the notion that all is possible, and are the stuff of high level drama. What we accomplished on that sheet of ice in that village in the Adirondacks in upstate New York was all of that. But it was not a miracle – even if I believe in them. Highly improbable? Yep. Astounding? Maybe. Shocking? You could say that.

But not a miracle.

What we accomplished at Lake Placid was the result of a lot of hard work – and a lot of smart work. It was the result of exceptional and brilliant mentorship. It was the result of sublime execution and poise in competition. It was the result of one of the best demonstrations of team chemistry in history.” – Jim Craig, goalie, Team USA 1980

He then shares insights on their make up:

“If you look at the makeup of the team, and go into the formative years of each player and each coach, you will discover a history rich with caring parents and supportive mentors. You will find virtues and strong community. What you won’t find is a lot of money, luxury, indulgence, or downtime.

This upbringing was just the right clay and raw material from which could be molded and constructed a team that would work and sacrifice enough, would be tough enough, would have enough confidence, would not collapse under setback and defeat, which would have just enough respect for authority, and be just open and receptive enough to coaching and mentoring (while never sacrificing our edge and spirit), to take on the world and set a standard for overachievement.” – Jim Craig, goalie, 1980 Miracle on Ice team

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 3rd, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Having studied college sports for many years, I feel strongly that multi sport athletes make up the most competitive college athletes. However, we are in the day of ‘specialization’ and although most college coaches want multi sport players, they are becoming fewer and farther between.

The greatest moment in United Sports history was made up by a bunch of multi sport kids. You would think to beat the incredible Soviet hockey team of 1980 it would take a U.S. roster of kids that had done nothing but play hockey from the time they were little. Hardly the case. Team USA beat a Soviet team that had won the last 4 Olympics by outscoring opponents 175-44 AND that had destroyed the NHL All Stars 6-0 in 1979. They did so with all kinds of multi sport kids.

Steve Janaszak was the backup goalie to Jim Craig. Before being 1st team All America goalie at the University of Minnnesota, Janaszak lettered in hockey, football, golf and soccer at Hill-Murray High School in St. Paul. That’s right, a 4 sport athlete.

Mike Eruzione made the biggest goal, run, hit, basketball or touchdown in United States sports history when he scored the winning goal in Team USA’s historic 4-3 over the Soviets on February 22, 1980. He was also a standout in baseball and football in high school in Winthrop, Massachusetts. He had more interest from D1 schools as a football player than a hockey player. Eruzione made plays, no matter what sport he played. He scored 3 goals in less than 2 minutes in the state hockey title game. In Tim Wendel’s book ‘Going for the Gold’ the author reveals that Eruzione built Three Cousins Field by their modest home while growing up. They competed fiercely in stick ball, basketball, football and street hockey with certain branches meaning home runs and trees for field goal posts.

Buzz Schneider scored the first goal in Team USA’s 4-3 win over the Soviets. Buzz was considered a better baseball player than hockey player at Babbitt High in Minnesota. He played quarterback, defensive back and was kicker on their football team. Schneider got a college baseball scholarship offer but signed with Minnesota where he played hockey and baseball his freshman year.

Eric Strobel led Minnesota high school hockey in scoring before going to the University of Minnesota and then making the Olympic team. Strobel, who coach Herb Brooks called the best pure skater he ever had, was also a standout baseball and football player at his Rochester, MN high school.

Bill Baker scored with :28 left in the opening Olympic game vs Sweden to salvage a 2-2 tie. Had Team USA lost that game it’s doubtful they would have ever made it to the medal round and the Soviet game. Besides playing hockey growing up, Baker was a tight end and defensive end on his high school football team and was a standout in baseball.

John Harrington liked playing high school football better than hockey.

Rob McLanahan was another 3 sport high school athlete, playing soccer and tennis as well as hockey. He got multiple D1 offers for tennis as well as hockey.

Jim Craig’s experience as a catcher in baseball helped him stop 36 of 39 Soviet shots the night of the 4-3 win. Growing up in North Easton, Massachusetts money was tight for the Craig family. He had to use a baseball catcher’s chest pad for awhile as a young hockey player until the family could save enough to but him hockey gear.

With 10 long minutes to go and the US up 4-3 over the Soviets, Mark Wells was assigned to shadow Valeri Kharlamov, who had it not been for injuries in a car accident later in his career could have been as good as Wayne Gretzkey. Wells was a ferocious competitor. While growing up near Detroit, part of his fire came from also playing baseball. Even though he was just 5’8″ he made it to the final round of the national Pitch, Hit and Run competition at Yankee Stadium. He came in second to a kid by the name of Orel Hershiser.

Coach Herb Brooks was an exceptional first baseman while also leading Johnson High in St. Paul to the 1955 state championship.

Sports Illustrated named the Miracle on Ice the greatest sports moment of the 20th century. It was won not with kids who played Travel Hockey almost all year. It was not won with kids who specialized in hockey at an early age. It was won with 3 sport kids who became spectacular competitors because they played multiple sports. Because they were always playing different sports, they knew how to make plays and they truly knew how to competite.

In today’s world, kids face pressure to pick a sport at an early age and specialize. Is that the route to being the best they can be in college and beyond. Absolutely NOT! The proof is in the team that stands above all others in United States sports – the 1980 U.S. hockey team.

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, October 27th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

I have always encouraged college coaches to not only get the movie Miracle on DVD but to make sure it has the extras on it. On the second disc is a war-room type conversation the producers of the movie and actor Kurt Russell had with coach Herb Brooks in 2002. It was less than a year before Brooks would be killed in a car accident.

They asked Herb to share behind the scenes information on how he built the 1980 US Olympic hockey team and led it to the greatest sports moment of the 20th century – the stunning 4-3 upset of the Soviets and the gold medal two days later in Lake Placid, NY.

Here is what Herb had to say on a variety of topics.

On his approach: “A lot of the players have said they have never been pushed as hard. I wasn’t trying to put greatness into them. I was trying to pull it out. I have never agreed with coaches that are trying to put greatness into players because the coaches think they have all the right answers. I believed in setting very high standards for them and pulling it out. I think my favorite coach John Wooden would concur with that approach.”

On how badly he wanted to coach the 1980 US Olympic hockey team: “How bad? Really bad. The main reason I coached seven seasons at the University of Minnesota was to hopefully coach in the Olympics. That was my passion.”

On how they were successful: “I had to steal from the style of play the Soviets, Czechs and Swedes were doing. Their style of hockey was better than ours. Out of the top ten NHL players today (this interview was done in 2002) nine are European. We also had to focus on conditioning. In the past US teams could play with them for two periods and then hit the wall. We were not going to hit the wall.”

On his mind games and keeping 26 players almost to the end knowing 20 would go to Lake Placid: “I kept them on the bubble up until the end. I played mind games with (goalie) Jim Craig up until the Olympics. We played the Soviets in an exhibition three days before the Games. I said, ‘Jimmy I have played you too long over the last few months. Your curve ball is hanging. Gotta play Janny (the backup). I see flaws with you. It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I played you too long.’ Well, Jim got right up next to me and said ‘I’ll show you.’ Halfway through the Soviet exhibition game I yanked him in front of 18,000 (at Madison Square Garden). He was livid. I didn’t sit him in the Olympics. I played him right through, the whole time. After we won gold he put his finger in my chest and said ‘I showed you.’ I told him that yes he did.”

On keeping defenseman Jack O’Callahan on the 20 man roster even though he hurt his knee three days before the Olympics and was questionable to play: “I kept him because he was very important to the chemistry of the team. His passion, even his spirit during the playing of the National Anthem. I even went to him during our training season and said ‘if I say OC (his nickname) when I yell at you during practice I am yelling at you because I want the team to get the point. If I call you Jack while yelling it is about you.’ He was just so good.” (Mike Eruzione has said since that Herb keeping O’Callahan on the roster rather than replacing him was huge)

On the exhibition game vs Norway in September where he put them through Herbies for an hour after an exhibition game: “They were individuals at that time (September of 1979). They were listening to their agents about turning pro. I had to draw the line. They didn’t take the Norway team serious and didn’t respect the opposition. I told them we would get our work done in the game or after the game. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I think it was the moment when they realized they had to come to work every day and there would be no nights off.” (goalie Jim Craig has said the team had flown to Europe that day and already had a two hour practice before playing the game and then an hour of Herbies)

At the Univ of Minnesota Herb had a strict no facial hair policy. During Olympic training he really wanted Ken Morrow out of Bowling Green (who would later play on four straight Stanley Cup winning NY Islander teams). Well, Morrow had a full beard: “Other guys started growing a beard because he had one. I posted a rule that said if you had a beard when you showed up, you could keep it. Otherwise, no! I never had curfews. You know why? Because the best player always gets caught!”

On what the gold medal meant to him: “That it was a TEAM accomplishment. That was voted the top sports accomplishment of the century and won all the sports awards. That was what I was trying to build the whole time, that a team could accomplish such a big thing. What was most gratifying was that the top sports moment of the century was a group, not an individual like Michael Jordan.”

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, October 13th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

There will be times when your programs will be young with many freshmen. The natural tendency is to downplay expectations when you are a young team, but Herb Brooks sure didn’t take that approach. As head coach of the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team, he specifically recruited very young players to try out and to make up his 20 man roster. These kids would stun the Soviets 4-3 in Lake Placid, New York, and then win the gold.

The average age was 21 and it was the youngest team in U.S. Olympic hockey history. He had only one player from the 1976 team and that was Buzz Schneider. Buzz and Mike Eruzione were 25 and everyone else was around 20. Herb wanted young players with a bucketful of working class gumption and flying skates.

He told them to ‘use their youth’. His strategy was to build through blistering speed. During their rigorous seven month training he constantly said ‘legs feed the wolf, boys. Legs feed the wolf!’ He told them that being the youngest team of the 12 in the Olympics was not a negative but a positive.

Sure enough, when they met the dynasty Soviet team on Feb. 22, 1980, their youthfulness was the reason they won the game. While the Soviets had three of the six greatest players of all time on that roster, several of their players were into their 30s. In the final minutes of the third period with Team USA up 4-3 the Soviet coach panicked and kept his veterans on the ice thinking they would surely do something! Herb had his team doctor time shifts the whole night, keeping his boys to forty seconds on ice and  then off. The Soviets were known for wearing down teams with their incredible conditioning drills, but in the third period it was them that wore down. One Soviet player looked over at Doc Nagobads and asked how the U.S. players could keep going and going. Doc, who knew Russian, simply said it was “the fountain of youth.”

If you find yourself in a recruiting cycle where you have to bring in a lot of freshmen, use it as a positive like Herb Brooks did in 1980. He also changed the Team USA style of play from a conservative approach to a more high flying and more creative style of play on the ice. The youngsters ate that up, and played with great spirit on the ice. One Soviet player said the US players had a spirit that you could almost touch.

When they had upset the Soviets the players sat in stunned silence in the locker room before breaking into God Bless America over and over. It took them awhile to realize the magnitude of what they had accomplished (Sports Illustrated would name it the greatest U.S. sports moment of the century). One of the positives about having really young kids on your roster is sometimes they don’t realize they shouldn’t be able to beat a team like the Soviets. Older players sometimes over analyze and ask why. Young kids sometimes say ‘why not?’

Herb Brooks was a genius in how he formed that team and led them through their journey to sports history. In my teambuilding sessions I share what he did and how you can apply it to your program.

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  • Tudor University

    LEVEL 1 - Recruiting Foundations
    Through Level 1, you will learn some of the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to become a successful college athletic recruiter. At the end of each module there will be a quiz that must be passed with 85% or higher. In addition to the quiz, you must complete the Module Competency outlined at the end of each module. Both the quiz and module must be completed in order to move on to the next module.
    Module 1 Recruiting Letter Format-
    Unit 1 Recruiting Letter Format
    Module 2 How To Find Out What Your Prospect Isn't Telling You-
    Unit 1 How To Find Out What Your Prospect Isn't Telling You
    Module 3 Utilizing Social Media-
    Unit 1 Utilizing Social Media
    Module 4 Involving A Prospect's Parents-
    Unit 1 Involving A Prospect's Parents
    Module 5 Setting Fair And Firm Deadlines-
    Unit 1 Setting Fair And Firm Deadlines
    Module 6 Revising Your On-Campus Visits-
    Unit 1 Revising Your On-Campus Visits
    Module 7 Your First Contact-
    Unit 1 Your First Contact