by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com
I had the opportunity this past week to sit in one of the most famous locker rooms in the history of United States sports. It was here in Lake Placid that on the night of February 22, 1980 coach Herb Brooks gave the historic pre game speech to his players. From this room they would walk out to the ice and take on the dynasty known as the Soviet Union hockey team.
Herb, who had been head coach at the University of Minnesota before getting the Olympic coaching job, took out a yellow card with notes he had made on it. Twenty young men looked to him for direction as 11,000 people chanted USA USA just above them in an arena that held about 7700.
He said, “You were born to be hockey players, each and every one of you. You were meant to be here tonight. This moment is yours….”
Having final say-so on the roster, Herb had basically recruited those 20 young men because he knew he had to have just the right mix to upset the Soviets and win gold. Herb had looked for players with a fire within and that destiny had appointed for them to be there that night. NHL experts had at least five college goalies ranked above Jim Craig, but Herb went with him because he was the right guy. Craig would stop 36 of 39 Soviet shots that night and shut them out in the 3rd and final period.
As you recruit, if you want to build a team that comes close to the greatness of that 1980 Olympic hockey team, look deep for those players that were born to play their sport. You want players that were meant to be at your college and that were meant to be coached and led by you. You want to recruit players that you can put in position to have their moment.
As I sat in that locker room in what is now Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY, I thought about the process Herb went through to build that team and get them in position to upset the Soviets. What they did that night and in those Games was later named by experts to be greater than anything Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, the New York Yankees of the 1920’s, Notre Dame football of the 1940’s, Magic Johnson or anyone of the 20th century.
It came to be because of how Herb put together that roster and how he was able to get the absolute best out of them. As you recruit players, one thing you may want to say is we don’t put greatness into people. We have to pull it out. That’s what Herb said and that is what he did.
When Herb gave his famous pre game speech here, he meant every word of it and his players believed him. He had been incredibly hard on them. Just outside this arena is a huge hill that Herb made them run up and down in full hockey gear during the Olympic games. I tried to walk up it once and about passed out.
During his pre game speech he told them great moments come from great opportunities and that’s what they had their tonight. That’s what they had EARNED there tonight.
As you recruit, you want the kind of kids that are going to pay the price and put in the effort to put themselves in position to earn a shot at a championships. They went out and found a way to beat the Soviets 4-3 and when they came back in this locker room about 3 hours later, they didn’t celebrate at first. They sat there and suddenly sang God Bless America over and over. Herb had put together a group of players that ‘got it’ that the name on the front of the jersey is a lot more important than the name on the back. Because they were a beautiful example of what a true team is all about, they made history that winter of 1980.
Charlie Adams reveals the secrets of HOW the 1980 US Olympic hockey team was able to stun the Soviets – who many considered the greatest hockey team of all time – and then win the gold medal in his seminar or keynote ‘More Than a Miracle!’ He works with college coaches and athletes as well as corporate clients to show them exactly how coach Herb Brooks was able to do it.
“‘More Than a Miracle’ is as spectacular of a sports motivational program as anything I have seen in 40 years.” Bobby Bayliss, Tennis College Hall of Fame/former Notre Dame coach
“Now I know how they did it. Thanks to Charlie, I have all kinds of ideas I can use this season. ‘More Than a Miracle’ is packed with tools.” Mike Lightfoot, NAIA Basketball Hall of Fame/Bethel College head coach