I had a medical procedure recently and was told I had to stay home, rest, and not do anything. It is rare for me to be in that state since I’m always on the go, but I tried to embrace it. While on the couch, I thought I would watch one or two of the Shaquille O’Neal documentaries on HBO. They were recommended to me by a friend, so I thought I’d check them out. I wound up watching all of them as I recovered. They were incredible. I loved it.
There were multiple parts that really resonated with me and this was one of them. Belief in Shaquille O’Neal. He references three men who believed in him when no one else did.
The first was his father. While he was very hard on Shaquille, Shaquille eventually grew to love him. It was he who first believed in him. Shaquille’s mom eventually shared with him that his “father” was not actually his biological father. Shaq however accepted him as his father, because of his strong belief and the strong guidance he gave him.
Next to believe in Shaq was one of his basketball coaches. Dale Brown was the coach of the LSU Tigers from 1972-1997. When Shaquille was a 13-year-old young man, he was living on an army base in Germany. Dale Brown was visiting when Shaq approached him to say hello. Coach Brown asked him how many more years of service he had left. Shaquille said he was not in the service but was there as a student while his father was working on the base. Coach Brown was dumbfounded and couldn’t believe it because of how tall Shaquille was.
The story goes that Shaquille shared that he wanted to play college basketball and asked if Coach Brown could help him with some training. Coach Brown agreed to mail Shaq the training program from LSU. He did, and Shaq followed it to the letter. He worked hard and practiced, but he was so clumsy and uncoordinated as a 13-year-old that he wound up getting cut from the team.
Shaquille was devastated. He wrote to Coach Brown saying that he had failed but thanked him for believing in him and sending the workout tapes. Coach Brown wrote back to Shaquille in Germany and said the only failure is if you stop trying. He advised him to keep working and keep practicing. Coach Brown ended his letter by saying that it’s giving up that causes you to fail, so don’t give up. I believe in you!
Shaq read that letter and was completely inspired. He continued to work out, he continued to grow, and he continued to practice. His sophomore season rolled around, and the JV coach told him he wanted him to try out for the team. He believed in Shaquille, which energized him even further. Shaquille made the team as a sophomore, and the rest is history.
Hearing the story of how it felt to be believed in was inspiring. I look at my career as a school leader, and it makes me want to continue to inspire others and believe in them. There are so many opportunities to believe and empower staff, students, and parents. The act of belief is a powerful act. When it came time for Shaq to select a college, there was no doubt in his mind he was going to LSU to play for Dale Brown. He could’ve picked any college he wanted at that point, but Coach Brown believed in him when no one else did. Coach Brown wrote back when no one else did.
Let’s continue to believe in one another, and do great things. Obviously, Shaq went on to greatness from these moments of belief!
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