Have you ever thought about how a split second could change everything? Life cannot be taken for granted. No one is promised tomorrow, and no one can predict the future. So, I challenge you and myself, to try to live in the present and enjoy each moment as it comes. This is not an easy task; a lot of the time it’s hard to not look behind us because the past is responsible for who we are today. People come in and out of our lives for a reason. They not only influence us, but they change us. We are constantly changing, and because at times we are caught up in the past or future, we are oblivious to see how many important people are around us right now. Herb Brooks is a unique example of someone who may not be with us physically, but his presence is still felt everyday. I truly believe that if Herb had not come into my life, I would not be the person I am today. Each day his legacy inspires me, challenges me, and motivates me to become better than I was yesterday.
Herb Brooks believed in what he called, the “intangibles”. Bill Weller, one of Herb’s closest friends, claimed that Herb lived in every moment and whole-heartedly believed that human beings were made up of three parts – the mind, the body, and the spirit. He believed that if you create the right environment, with the right energy, combined with the right people, you could create greatness. That is exactly what he did when we did the “impossible” in Lake Placid 36 years ago. Most people are not aware of this, but Herb studied players for months before there was even a try out for the Olympics. His close friends say that he had the team picked before anyone showed up to the rink. He knew that in order to succeed, we would not only have to change the way we trained, but also the way we thought. Herb selected players that he knew he could get out of their comfort zone and handle his pressure. He didn’t necessarily go for all the “all stars”, he choose players that he believed could be great and do something special on a world stage at Lake Placid.
Our 1980 team will forever remain etched in the memories of sports fans as one of the greatest sporting events of all time. In fact, Sports Illustrated selected our team’s victory over the Soviets en route to winning the gold medal as the No. 1 sports moment of the 20th century. This iconic sporting event will forever go down in sports history, and it all started with one man who had a vision and inspired others to believe in it. Herb believed in our team and knew what we were capable of, even before we did. It should not be a shock when I tell you that Herb has been one of the most influential mentors of my life. He started a renaissance of USA hockey at a time when people needed to feel American pride. Our journey took place amidst the backdrop of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis. He created a culture that made us feel like we were fighting for our country the second we put on that USA jersey.
Herb was someone that led by example. He never expected anything in return – just a good attitude and hard work. Nothing he did was for recognition, and he always did the small things that he thought went unnoticed. However, to me, nothing went unnoticed. Most of the success I have had athletically and professionally is because of his influence and attention to detail. During my athletic career, Herb taught me to not be intimidated by the impossibility but motivated by the possibility. He made our team realize that representing our country wasn’t enough; only winning the gold medal would be an acceptable result to be proud of. Our team was made up of dreamers with one shared goal, led by a man who was destined for greatness. The lessons I learned throughout that exciting time period in my life I use as the core foundation for everything I do. A lot of the time I find myself in a situation wondering, “What would Herb do?”. Herb would always choose the harder right over the easier wrong. I have held myself accountable on certain occasions when I could have taken the short cut to get somewhere, but I knew that I wouldn’t be winning with integrity.
Today, my life’s work is around inspiring and motivating teams and individuals. A lot of the strategies and subjects I teach are inspired by Coach Brooks. I pressure myself everyday to make him proud and carry on his legacy with dignity. Some people refer to me as a “life coach”, which is interesting because how does someone coach life when you never know what life has in store for us? I love what I do because I have the opportunity to inspire people and show them their own potential, like Coach Brooks did for me. Sometimes it just takes someone that comes into your life to open your eyes and see things in a new light. So, again, I challenge you to make today count and in the words of Herb, “Take a risk or forever sit on your dreams!”