the most important thing to you?
Thatís easy Ė family. There is nothing I wouldnít do for my family,
and I donít just mean my parents and my brother and sisters. Iím
talking about extended family, friends and anyone who plays such
a significant role in oneís life that they are family in every way,
save genetics. Everyone feels very strongly about their immediate
family, and perhaps to a lesser extent, their extended family. I
am no exception. I have no closer friend than my twin sister, and
my other siblings are close as well. But what Iíve found is that
I have a much richer life, having also cultivated relationships
with people I care about like family.
The most relevant example of this consists of the community at Embry-Riddle
University. While I was there, I was involved in the basketball
program, and on many occasions, we were taken in and treated like
sons. The Head Coach, who has been and always will be a valued mentor
to me, has built an incredible program, and the community in Daytona
Beach both recognizes that and contributes to it. One of our early
mottoes is prominently displayed in our locker room Ė it is the
phrase "This Is Family", and it is the cornerstone upon which the
basketball program is built. It doesnít just speak of the coaches
and the players, but of the fans.
They donít just come to the games and watch, their cheering rivals
the loudest, most enthusiastic fans of any of our nationís basketball
powerhouses, and approach this with little regard for their own
health. Just ask Dianne Thompson, who, in her zest and vigor during
a huge game in the Conference Tournament one year, broke her wrist
while banging on a wall I-beam. Or Nancy Trillow, who, after a knee
replacement surgery, wouldnít think of staying home and watched
an early regular-season game through painkillers and loved every
minute of it. This Is Family.
They donít need to prod their sons and daughters to ask the players
for autographs, they let their kids spend time with the players
and coaches of their own volition. Take Hardy Smith, whose son David
not only insists on attending every Embry-Riddle basketball camp
available, but helps out with the younger kids because he sees the
Embry-Riddle players doing so. Or countless other parents who, while
their sons are practicing in the gym as part of the Junior Eagles
program, bring their other children to watch the practice, just
to spend more time with the coaches and players; time that other
fans just donít get. This Is Family.
They donít just buy season tickets and come to most of the games,
they attend pre- and post-season barbecues to meet the new players
and talk about a great season while looking forward to the next
year. Few have the dedication of Chip Hough, who works in the Flight
Department at the Prescott, Arizona campus and flies in twice a
year to lend his skills at the grill Ė nobody can do ribs like Chip.
Or ladies like Sharon Amick, MaryEllen Wynn, and Edie Ashe, who
selflessly and tirelessly work at events like our barbecues, with
little thought of rewards other than a hug and a thank you. Mrs.
Ashe, incidentally, is the only fan in my memory who was invited
to cut down a piece of the net after a Conference Tournament Championship
Ė after Mr. Ashe, another longtime fan, passed away. This Is Family.
They donít just come to the home games that donít conflict with
their schedule, they go out of their way to make every game. Like
professor Dr. Helfrick, who rescheduled a final he was giving so
that he could direct our pieced-together student pep band at a home
game right before the Christmas break. Or Dr. and Mrs. Hazen, who
despite rigorous academic responsibilities, still find time to join
the team on just about every road trip, whether itís thirty minutes
down the road to conference rival Flagler College, or across the
continent to Anchorage, Alaska. This Is Family.
They donít just contribute by buying tickets and the odd t-shirt
here and there, they go all out in their support of Embry-Riddle
basketball, hosting pre-game meals for twenty or more people out
of the goodness of their hearts. A year in the life of the basketball
team just wouldnít be the same without experiencing Sheila Tammís
(soon to be) world-famous stuffed pasta shells, or Mr. and Mrs.
Caylorís traditional steak-and-potatoes feast (okay, we donít visit
the Caylors on game days anymore, but going to see them is always
a treat!). This Is Family.
The executives of the college didnít just sit up in wood-paneled
offices and look down upon athletes, they looked at the basketball
program as an ambassador of the college to the community and the
nation, and got right in the thick of things, cheering, traveling
with us and helping out. The President, Dr. Sliwa, Vice Presidents
like Dr. Jacobson and Deans like Dr. Cunningham know the players
on a first-name basis, and their doors are always open. Itís great
to know that even after a player graduates, he can contact any of
them to discuss career options, get advice, or just check in and
catch up. This Is Family.
The trainers donít just tape players up before games and ice them
down afterward, they truly go the extra mile for all of us. It would
be way too easy to just do barely what is needed, but Reid and Shari
were the ones who were always there for you, any time of the day
or night, to patch you up or get you to the hospital and put in
their own time to nurse you back to health, no matter how much teasing
they took. What they were doing wasnít a job, it was a commitment
to an ideal and a common goal. This Is Family.
Then there are the players. We didnít just get through four years
of school and basketball, tolerating each other until we could go
our separate ways, never to see each other again. We helped each
other with class work, laughed at each other, lifted each other
up, and cried at Graduation when it was time to leave and clung
to each other like brothers. We are lifelong friends, flying from
all over the country to attend Commencements, be Best Men and Groomsmen
in weddings, and share in the births of children. This Is Family.
Letís not forget the coaches Ė they were more than instructors and
disciplinarians, they were father figures, role models, and mentors.
If a player had lost his father, Coach Ridder stood ready to fill
that void, and did so admirably, as was evidenced by one of our
best players and post-basketball success stories calling him "Dad"
in his senior speech. Coach Cambron is a great example of doing
the little things, of paying attention to the details and reaping
the rewards of all of his hard work Ė he has recently left to take
the Head Coachís position at another school and is sure to be successful.
One of our graduated players is now a graduate assistant under him
and working on his MBA. Some might say that Coach Gawriluk filled
more of a big brother role, as he was a little closer to the playersí
level than the Head Coach, and he would sometimes play crazy games
like horse or lightning with the players after practice. I never
had the opportunity to play under Coach Graham, but the closeness
we have at Embry-Riddle allowed him to come right in and be like
another Coach to me. It even extended beyond the basketball program,
as the Head Baseball Coach, Coach Guilliams, is a role model and
mentor to me in too many ways to list here. This Is Family.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my involvement with
the Junior Eagle program and the parents and siblings of the players.
As a player who didnít get much playing time, I was honored to be
asked to help implement a program designed to teach basketball fundamentals
to junior high school-age kids on a level they hadnít experienced
before. Through this great program, I got to meet people like J.B.
Caldwell, an NCAA Div. I basketball official, and his wife Michelle.
It was like a stamp of approval when he commented that I was teaching
some good things to his son Chad and the other players. Another
couple who stand out is Mr. and Mrs. Vasquez. At least one (but
more often both) would be at every practice to watch their son Mike
and contribute any way they could. I could always count on Mr. Vasquez
for a pair of hands to run the scoreboard when we hosted a game.
Being involved with the Junior Eagle program introduced me to fans
and family I would have never met as just a player, and I wouldnít
give up that experience for anything.
At the end of my college career, the parents of the Junior Eagle
players got together and hosted a going-away celebration for me,
and it was tough to say goodbye. I was filled with so much pride
for the boys when they each got up in front of friends, parents,
and coaches and said a few things about their experience on the
team and with me as their coach. Their comments went way beyond
basketball, into such realms as study habits, future goals, and
dealing with siblings. Then the parents started commenting on the
changes they saw their boys go through, positive changes that they
could only associate with their sonsí involvement with Embry-Riddle
basketball. That was a great event, surrounded by adopted aunts
and uncles, nieces and nephews. I miss that experience and look
forward to the next chance I might have to be a part of something
like that. This Is Family.
As Iím re-reading what Iíve written, I realize that it seems like
Iíve gotten away from the question somewhat. But I really havenít.
Family is most important to me, and itís obvious why. These are
the people with whom I make my dearest memories. These are the people
to whom I can go with anything, barring nothing, and know exactly
where I stand and that they will do their best to help me, console
me, exhort me, celebrate with me, and understand me like no one
else can. These are the people who have shaped my life into what
it has become. While it seems as though I have digressed from the
question at hand to haphazard reminiscing, Iím trying to show that
what matters most to me are the ties I formed that will never be
broken Ė the ties that made my favorite memories, and will continue
to make them in the future. I will never lose contact with them,
as it would be comparable to losing a brother, sister, father, or
Written as an
essay answer in my application for admission to the MBA program
at Stanford University Graduate School of Business