Wednesday, December 01, 2010When Lady Bisons middle blocker Alex Kelly first read the book as a freshman it was called The Walk-On: Life From the End of the Bench. As a senior she decided to read the book again the day the Lipscomb volleyball team left for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, but this time around the book was titled Teammates Matter.
Different title. Same messages.
One that stayed with Kelly was that once the ball stops bouncing that’s it. Kelly, who helped rally the Lady Bisons to a 3-2 win over ETSU in the A-Sun Championship, recalled that statement from the book as one of her motivational factors.
“I wasn’t ready to the ball to stop bouncing,” Kelly said. “I didn’t want to let my teammates down.”
Setter Stefine “Jake” Pease also had the book on her mind in that championship match.
“At the end of the day I don’t remember what our scores against Xavier were in the last match,” Pease said. “I think the book sums it up. Your career is more about what kind of person you are and what kind of teammate you are. It has really helped our team as a whole.”
Alan Williams, a Nashville resident, wrote the book. He decided to change the title after it was published to more accurately reflect the message he is trying to convey to athletes. Williams was a walk-on for the Wake Forest basketball team from 2000-2001 through 2003-2004. He was asked by a reporter with the Greensboro News and Record if it was worth it to put in all of the effort and play only 59 minutes in four years.
“I gave him an instant answer that may have made for some good quotes in the morning paper,” Williams said. “But it made me do a lot of thinking. I needed to know why I did it.”
So he went to a friend’s house in Austin, Texas and wrote 240 pages in an attempt to answer the reporter’s question.
“As it turned out it was my teammates and the relationships I had with them,” Williams said. “When I wrote the book I thought it might sit on my coffee table for my kids to read some day. I didn’t know that teams would use it, but now I understand why because every coach is trying to teach one thing and that is teammates matter.
“The book gets into the way my teammates made me feel that what I was doing mattered. What really endures about your sports experience is not necessarily numbers and statistics. In 10 years the memories will be about the best trip, the locker room and the time spent with your teammates.”
Williams was also glad to hear that Kelly remembered that at some point athletic careers end.
“My coach told us before every season to enjoy going to the gym and working hard and sweating,” Williams said. “He told us to enjoy all of the things about the game that we love because no matter how good a career you have one day the ball is going to stop bouncing.
“When it does, what is going to be said about you? Will you be remembered as a good teammate? I think there is a direct correlation between a high individual performance and being a good teammate. If you don’t want to let down your teammates you are going to do the small things. I was excited that their theme has been to not let the ball stop bouncing.”
Lady Bisons volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal also has a strong love for the sport of basketball. That was what prompted him to read the book.
“I loved the truthfulness of the book,” Rosenthal said. “So much is said about the glitz and glamour. What you don’t see is the hard work, the sweat and the dedication.
“This book is everything I want our players to be. I want them to be dedicated to something bigger than themselves. As a walk-on you have to know that going into it. It just rings true. I truly believe it.”
The book was on Rosenthal’s desk one day when Kyle Willis, a representative of Nashville Sporting Goods, walked into his office. He asked Rosenthal if he had ever met Williams. Rosenthal had no idea Williams was a Nashville resident. A few days later the two met for lunch.
For the past four years Rosenthal has required every player to read the book. The same copy of the book has been passed around with each player signing it when she finishes. Rosenthal admits he needs to buy a case of the books from Williams, but right now the single copy has endured and served the team well.
One thing that intrigued Rosenthal was that Williams was not known for being a top athlete or coach, yet he had a message for how to achieve athletic success.
“I’m not a pedigreed coach,” Rosenthal said. “I was never a pedigreed athlete. I have always thought of myself as someone who is not afraid to get his hands dirty and overcome the odds.
“I never saw the program here as just trying to be decent. I want to see how far we can take this.”
Williams talked with the players and staff before they left for the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. He also spoke with them Wednesday before they left for Dayton, Ohio where they will face Ohio State Friday afternoon at 5 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“One of the more flattering and meaningful things that has ever happened since I wrote the book is that all of these girls have read the book and that they meet with the coach and talk about the concepts and what they have learned,” Williams said. “It confirms why I wrote it.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.
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