A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to hear Coach Hugh McCutcheon speak.  It was at the California State Athletic Director’s Association Annual Dinner down in San Diego.  He had just led the United States Men’s Volleyball team to Olympic Gold!  I’m not sure if you remember his tragic story, but his father in law was stabbed to death while in China for the 2008 Olympics.

Coach Hugh McCutcheon, 2008 USA Men's Volleyball Head Coach.

He shared some really great stories that night in San Diego, and had some great quotes.  I’m one of those guys who sits in meetings and dinners like that with a pen and piece of paper, taking notes right there next to the fine China!  Usually, people think I’m a little weird, but I’m okay with that!  Today, I’m retelling his stories and quotes, and they probably don’t have any reminders of those great 45 minutes!

Before I share about this powerful story regarding practice, here were a few of his great quotes:

“Our ability to deal with adversity was our trademark, not our Achilles heel.  It was this way for four years, it didn’t just happen.”

“Great teams are defined by being able to just take care of their side of the net, and not worry about what is going on on the other side of the net.”

“If you don’t have any dreams, none of them will come true.”

“To be great at the Olympic level, you can’t do it right 99 times out of 100.  You MUST do it right 999 times out of 1000.”

2008 Gold Medal Winners, USA Men's Volleyball

“If you only got 60% on a certain day, you gotta give 100% of that 60%. If one of your athletes is only at 70% on a certain day, you have to do your job as a coach to get all 100%, not just his 70%.”

“Our ability to deal with adversity was our trademark, not our Achilles heel.  It was this way for four years, it didn’t just happen.”

“Great teams are defined by being able to just take care of their side of the net, and not worry about what is going on on the other side of the net.”

“We had enough in the team’s emotional bank account, so they trusted us as a coaching staff when we asked them to do something different.”

He told a great story about a player who got better at a certain block the day before their gold medal match.

Who would have thought that as an Olympic athlete, the day before a gold medal match that there was really any room for improvement??  There was a player that could never, ever, in four years of trying, do a “certain type” of block at the net.

Well, he “finally got it” at the practice the day before the gold medal match.

Coach McCutcheon cares for his players. It's easy to hear that in his voice when he speaks about them.

When it came down to the 5th game (out of 5) during that gold medal match, who do you think made an amazing block to tie the score??  This block tied the score and the Americans never trailed again.

He asked a few questions that we as coaches should take to heart.

“What if this athlete just checked out of practice that day mentally because we were in the gold medal match?” 

“What if as a team we decided to go through the motions?” 

“What if, I as a coach, had written this guy off with this certain block?”

The answer, we might not have won a gold medal!  If you really think about this story, it is a tremendous one. 

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