The 10-Minute Speech That Put ‘Heart’ In The “Madness” of March
This has been an ongoing tribute since 2016, when I first published my short-take below on what the NCAA college basketball tournament means to me. The sentiment will never change, only the players and the match-ups.
I’m writing this and admitting, upfront, to getting a tad emotional!
But in a way that inspires a sense of passion in myself, even if it is derived from sentimental thoughts and a joy for knowing that, YES, anybody (regardless of current circumstances) can create a fulfilling future for themselves.
You see, it’s Sunday evening (3–24–19) and I’m reflecting on how the #9 seed, UCF, came within a roll-around-the-rim, almost-in layup to knock-off #1 seed Duke.
In one of the most riveting finishes of this year’s tournament so far, Johnny Dawkins’ team was only inches from pulling off one of the greatest upsets of all time.
But in the end, Duke’s Zion Williamson took on 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall, fouled him out of the game, and they held on to advance to the Sweet 16.
If you missed the game, check out this clip of the last few minutes (it’s worth it):
During the post-game conference, Coach K gives tribute’s to “the will to win” that resides within his two stars: RJ Barrett & Zion Williamson
And to me… that is precisely what sums up winning in this game: each team’s leaders making a vow, implied and explicitly to their entire team, to give it their all.
March Madness (a.k.a. “The Big Dance”) is one of the most exciting and inspirational sporting events in the world.
This tournament is a curse and a blessing on the emotions of everyone involved (die-hard basketball fans and participants alike).
Back to that in a second…
First, Let me tell you a quick story:
When Jimmy V. was 17 years old he took out a simple white index card and wrote down all of his professional aspirations.
He would play basketball in high school and college, become an assistant basketball coach, then a head coach, achieve a victory in Madison Square Garden, and finally cut down the nets after winning a National Championship.
Coach V’s ability to see his place in the world with such clarity was truly a gift.
This simple card, coupled with a strong belief that he could control his fate, would guide the next ten years of his life.
At the age of 36, Jimmy V. could take out his tattered index card and cross out every single dream.
He was indeed the master of his destiny.
Along the way, he adopted a personal philosophy for living that enabled an ordinary man to accomplish the extraordinary.
Coach V. believed that enthusiasm for life, dreaming big, and working hard were the elements that allowed him to be successful. There is no doubt that Coach V.’s tenacity, passion, and vision played key roles in his rise to the top.
However, if listen to any individual recount of a personal memory about him, nothing from the above list of accomplishments would be mentioned.
Instead, you would hear of the qualities that made Coach V. unforgettable.
This video of Coach V. (who is none other than Jimmy Valvano, the legendary coach who, against extreme odds, helped his North Carolina State Wolfpack win the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament) is, some say, one of the most famous in sports-awards history.
The above “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” speech certainly sets the tone and precedent for March Madness.
This yearly college basketball tournament brings something across the TV screen that is rare these days.
It’s called: Heart!
Nowhere do you see more energy, more enthusiasm, more gut-level determination, and more passion than you do throughout this 3-week event.
And, while I’ll admit March Madness might grip my inner psyche a little tighter than yours (basketball played a major role in my development — if that’s the case for you, too, I want to hear about it), you still can’t help but wonder:
> “Wow, what drives these kids to give it their all?”
> “How do these underdog teams prepare, emotionally and mentally, for a physical challenge ahead?”
> “What does the coach say to push his players beyond their beliefs about what’s possible?”
I’ve had the pleasure of hearing many a great speech, during my high school and military days, and like all great speeches, they come when the coach can see something in his players that they can’t see in themselves.
The best speeches are always inspired by the purpose for experiencing greatness… if even just for one bright, shining moment.
Yes, basketball is a fantastic team sport, and when young players are fortunate enough to have a coach who not only teaches the game, but about life itself, it’s the best darned education ever.
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