College Athlete: Do you need a REFEREE?

As a college athlete it is to your advantage to recognize all the authority figures in your environment.  This includes those in the sport in which you play.  Once you have determined who these authority figures are, identify their areas of expertise and give them what they require of you.

She hit me again.   “Hey Ref, you didn’t see that?”

“Cool it, number 23!”


She bumped me on the arm.  Missed again. 

I can’t get open.  She’s holding my jersey. 

“Ah, come on Ref!  Man, she holding me!”

Whistle blows.

It was about time he called her for a foul.


“Number 23, I call the game not you!”

“Technical foul on number 23.”

This is an all too familiar scene while I was playing basketball.  You think that those officiating the game are not doing a good job or they are giving your opponent too many breaks.  Whatever the case maybe, as you can see above the officials are still in control.  You abide by their decisions or be penalized.

As an athlete there are times when you forget you are playing a game and your actions become dictated by personal feelings and not by what is allowed by the game.  You forget the rules and that everyone is watching.  You are in your own world.

The referees are there to keep you in the game mentally and physically.  They are there as a way of reminding you that it is a game and a particular game.

Every sport have rules that everyone is expected to follow.  These rules serve to maintain order and to keep the game fair for all who are competing.  The officials are present to enforce these rules, to level the playing field.  They are the experts of the rules of the game.  They know what is allowed from every aspect of the game and for each person participating in the game.

These authority figures know the whole purpose for the game for everyone involved.  They know what it takes to get the parts to work together to create the desired experiences.

They are trained to keep the game organized and to make sure that the game flows smoothly and in a manner that is enjoyable and safe to watch and play.  The integrity of your sport is dependent on how successful they are.

To sustain the integrity of your sport and the game, I encourage you to honor and respect the officials by allowing them to do their job.  Comply with their decisions without resistance.  Allow any disagreements about any call to be settled between the officials and your coaches – the authority figures.

One last flashback.

Remember on the playground when you were playing and there was always this one player that called a foul whenever he, or she, didn’t hit a shot, but call the foul back if the shot was made?  Or, when you were playing and players started arguing whose ball it was and it took about an hour before the game started again? Image a different game with these same people, but with a referee present.

Do you think the game would have been different?

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To the College Athlete on a Team: How are you going to be in your next year?

The next year of your career is coming.  It represents a new level of your life and will have new things for you to master.  In order to position yourself to be among the best in your sport and professional career, you have to work to master important things at the level you are currently on, and prepare for advancement to your next level, as well.   Learning everything that you need to know at each respective level helps in preparing you for the next.

It was my freshman year at UAB and I was playing in the point guard position in a game.

As I dribbled down the court, all I could think of was to get the ball down the court and get rid of it.  The ball was like a hot potato in my hands. 

It seemed that whenever I played point, our opponents always applied more pressure or full court pressed us.

 I was not ready.  I was inexperienced and it showed.  My teammates had no confidence in me and neither did I.

My sophomore year was a little better.

My junior and senior years were totally different.  We were rarely full court pressed.  I had gained more experience and I was prepared. 


Because I had learned that each year of your career brings new challenges to conquer.   You will have to master key things at one level, in order for the transition to the next to be smoother and prepare you for those challenges that await you at the next.

Therefore, accomplishing or fulfilling what your team requires of you in a specific year, makes it less difficult for you to step into your new role as an upper classman in the next year.

Your coach and teammates will expect you to lead and be able to take on a more responsible role on the team.

If not, you risk falling behind.

I encourage you to determine what skills, personal character etc. you need to have to be successful at the current stage of your career and try to develop them.  Do this by talking with your coach and also by paying attention to other teams, especially those athletes and teams that are winning.  Notice how your counterparts perform.  Observe how they are treated by their coaches and other members of their team.  See what is required of them.  Also, do the same to determine what it would take for you to be successful in your next year.  Include studying your teammates who are upper classmen.

Never reach a state where you are not growing.

You should always be seeking knowledge and learning everything that will prepare you for your next level.

Remember all knowledge that you acquire from the previous levels of your career should be applied to the subsequent levels of your career.  This includes knowledge obtained from both competitive and academic experiences.

If executed correctly, you should see improvement in your athletic skills, and personal character, and should be getting closer to obtaining your degree.

Are you getting ready for the next year in your career?

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Is your name what I say it is?

Effective communication with others starts with the name.

Honoring and respecting others plays a major role in getting along with people.  The first step in getting along with others is finding something in common with them.  That can only be accomplished if you get to know them.

Each of us has a name that we prefer to be addressed by, whether it was given to us or we chose it.  Each of our respective names is special and we each have the right to say “This is my name.”

When anyone calls your name it means they are trying to start a conversation or communicate with you.

I’m going to call you what I want!

Even though these words were never told to me verbally, they often echoed in my mind when someone, who I had no real connection to, gave me a nickname.

Geral, Gerl, Gerald, G, Ger, Gerri, Geraldine, Gerline, Geraline, and Lenora.

These are all names that people call me.  I answer to all of them, however, my response is not all the same.

I naturally respond differently to each name, depending on who is addressing me and how they came to call me by the name.


I’ve also been guilty of addressing or giving people nicknames and have been corrected a few times.  I really didn’t understand why they got upset with me.  After all, I thought we were good friends.

But I was wrong.

I failed to get to know them enough to really know how they wanted to be addressed.  I just assumed it was okay for me to call them what I wanted, based on how I felt about them.

It showed a lack of consideration and respect on my part.

When you do not call someone by the name they prefer, you are saying, “I don’t care what your name is. Your name is not special.  It has no value to me.”

It’s equivalent to your name being a piece of paper and someone wadded it up and threw it in the trash can.

As a result of this action, the person may not be receptive to what you have to talk about or listen to you as you would hope or expect them to.

Think about walking down the street and someone yells “Jane!” trying to get your attention, but your name is Jean.  Unless you really know the person, you’re probably going to keep walking.

Same principle.

Take for an example your teammate.  If you call her by a name other than what she prefers, a barrier of communication will start to build up.  She does not want to be called that name so every time she is called it, a feeling of uneasiness is going to come over her.  Sometimes to a point where when you talk, she may tune you out.  So, communication between you and her becomes hindered.

With that being said, I encourage you to get to know others in order to understand how each person wants to be addressed by you.  Don’t assume because everyone calls someone a nickname that they like to be addressed by that.

So, ask and get to know them to see what they prefer.

It shows and gives respect to them.  You are also honoring them by awarding them with something they deserve.

Do people call you by a name you do not prefer?  What do you do when that happens?

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Letters to a College Athlete on a Team: Are you LONELY?

Connections to people are necessary for every area of your life.  As a college athlete one of your main objectives is to attract people to you who will be beneficial to your athletic career.  Making unselfishness a part of your identity helps with this.

She shoots with 4 people covering her……

She dribbles down the court for a lay-up.  However, there are already 2 other people down court ready to receive a pass from her for a lay-up.

She’s upset that she was not the highest scorer even though her team was victorious.

She yells at the point guard for not passing her the ball even though she is unable to make shots.  One of her teammates is scoring and therefore, is receiving the ball from the point guard.

These are all examples of a teammate displaying selfishness.  All instances show an athlete seeking public recognition for her performance.  In each case the athlete is seeking to put her stats above the team’s, especially points per game.  The desire for recognition outweighs the desire for the team to win, or whatever is best for the rest of the team.

Unfortunately, while playing for UAB, I was probably involved in some capacity in all of the above situations.

Like a lot of athletes, I felt that if you score a lot of points, you are helping your team win.  However, this is not always the case.

There is nothing wrong with being proud of your athletic performance.  The problem comes when you make self-efforts to elevate your recognition at the expense of your team’s plans of action.  These types of activities destroy the team’s morale and confidence in order to promote yourself.  It would appear to others that you do not care if the team wins or loses as long as you look good.

As part of a team, you want to do things that would elevate the need for you on the team or increase your team’s chances of winning.  You want to be in a position where your team or organization believes they are better with you as a part of it.

The presence of unselfishness can do that.  While practicing unselfishness, everything you do should be moving toward the goals and desires of the team as a whole.

Unselfishness promotes unity.  Many will feel comfortable and want to be around you because they will be confident and trust that you will not do anything that would harm them.  That is, you consider them before you act.

I encourage you to make unselfishness a part of your identity.  Begin by practicing unselfish activities with your teammates.  Instead of focusing on what you can do to get the highest score, focus on how you can execute your part of the offense perfectly and how you can get your teammates to do the same.  If you are having an off night, concentrate on other areas where your team needs improvement and try to contribute within those areas.

You will still get recognition and also gain more respect and trust from your teammates.  You will become a valuable member because you are helping to boost their morale and confidence by helping them get recognized for their contributions to the team.

What do you think?

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Letters to the College Athlete on a Team: Never give up on YOURSELF!

As an athlete and part of a team, giving up on yourself is not an option!

You’re sitting on the bench thinking . . . .

My family’s here.  When am I going to play?

 I practice hard.  Why ain’t I playing?

 Why is she playing and I am not?  I know that I am better than she is.

 What is wrong with me?  Does the coach not like me?

 What should I do?

The statements above reveal an athlete who is losing her confidence.  She is beginning to question her abilities and negatively compare herself to her teammate.  Look closer and you will also see selfishness beginning to creep in like a hidden snake ready to take over.

These are thoughts that you may have sometime or other while you are playing.

When these thoughts come or when you began to feel this way, remember that you are on a team. Which means you have talent and abilities that your coach saw that convinced him that you would be a great asset to the program.

Use your ability to find a way to help your team.  That is, watch each game to see what your coach needs out of you for that game.  For example, some games he made need a scorer.  Can you produce points?  Some games he needs someone to pass to someone who is on fire scoring.  Can you make a way for your team to get more ball possession – more rebounds, more steals.  Can you help keep others from scoring?

Remember there is always a need for you.  Even when you are not playing.  For example, as a player there were many times I had bad games as a guard – too many turnovers and not scoring.  Some of my former teammates at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) were very encouraging and motivational.

They would say things like ‘It’s okay G!  Shake it off!  Great shot- you’ll get it next time!”  These words were sweet to my ears.

Hearing those types of words keeps you going, even when the fire in you is dying out.  Be a motivator!  There will never be enough motivators on a team.

Another way is to push your teammates in practice so that they can become better.  Challenge them to play better defense by upping your offense.  Challenge them to find more scoring opportunities in their offense by upping your defense.

See the point?!

When you are not playing, I encourage you to focus on what your team needs.  This would help you know and remember that you are still an IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR TEAM!  Provide some of the spark to the flame that keeps your team’s passion to win burning!

What do you think?

Letters to the College Athlete: Are you a PUPPET?

As you are discovering your identity, make note of character traits in others that are not in agreement with what you are trying to establish as your identity.  Be aware that if you do not know who you want to be, then others can make you into who they want you to be.  You will be vulnerable to the manipulation of others – a puppet.

“You shouldn’t wear your hair like that!” 

“This is the big city, Country Girl.  Everybody don’t speak to each other like that.  You ain’t in the country anymore.”

“You weren’t here, but I knew it would be okay to come in your room and play your radio.”

“Let me have that, you don’t need it.  You got a lot of them.”

These are not things that a person who honors and respects you would do or say to you.

If you do not know who you are, you will be subjected to being psychologically pulled in different directions away from your personal and career goals by people.  These people do not have your best interests at heart.  Some will want to control you, not for your benefit but for theirs.

This will affect your happiness and self-worth, because you will begin to feel like what matters to you is not important, or you will lose sight of what matters to you and what you want.  You will become overwhelmed with what others want and their happiness.  This is a hindrance to you discovering your identity.

You do not want to establish this type of pattern for yourself through your college career and beyond.

Respect means that you value someone, consider them, which includes their space and property.  It does not mean that you place them above your own worth.  It does not mean that you should accept harsh treatment from others, which includes violation of personal space and name calling.

By knowing exactly what honoring and respecting people is, you will also know the boundaries associated with it and recognize when you are not being honored and respected.  So begin by knowing what it means to honor and respect people the right way and discover the boundaries associated with this concept to protect your well-being.

Being a college athlete, you already have many things that demand your attention.  It is important for you to discover your identity so that you will not be a puppet for others.

I encourage you to find your identity by learning the boundaries and what exactly it means to honor and respect people.  Apply that meaning to gauge how people are treating you, and monitor those who try to distort the true meaning of honoring and respecting people.

How do you know when people are not honoring and respecting you?  Let me know how you gauge.  Like me at

Letters to the College Athlete on a Team: Do you have SELF-CONTROL?

Part of being responsible means exercising self-control.  This includes your actions and your speech in response to your emotions.  An example would be controlling yelling in response to anger and frustration as a result of being unable to do something, or because something is more difficult to accomplish than you expect.

To be successful you have to be mindful of your actions and speech and how each affects the people around you.  What you say can uplift or motivate, or it can tear down, or ruin someone, an organization, or even you.


 “Come on, you got to catch the ball!”  I yelled at my teammate. She had missed the ball 3 times already. 

We were down 10 points, and no one on the team could seem to score. 

We weren’t getting rebounds.  So, we weren’t getting second chances at shots.

“D***n!” I screamed.  I missed a layup. 

Nothing got better.  I kept missing easy shots and my teammate still couldn’t catch the ball. 

We lost.


This was a familiar scene similar to basketball games that I played in at UAB.

This is the perfect example where anger and frustration ruled my actions and speech.  It is an example of lack of self-control.  As a result of lack of control of my actions and speech in response to my emotions, my team’s position in the game did not improve.  Nor did it make my teammates any more comfortable or confident.

Exercising self-control in your actions and speech when emotional influences are present, helps you concentrate on finding solutions instead of focusing on problems.  It supports an environment of order and calmness.

On a team, self-control allows you to make sound decisions with everyone at attention and listening because there are no distracting emotional actions to interfere with effective communication between members.  It allows you to consider consequences which will enable you to produce the desired outcome – to win.

Self-control reveals confidence, an attitude that can spread throughout your team.

Being responsible means making sound decisions.  To help make those decisions, I encourage you to begin exercising self-control of your actions and speech during competition.  Recognize when you begin to feel frustrated or angry.  Start to exercise thinking quickly on what words to say to uplift and what not to say.  Think about what actions to take, or not to take, to calm your teammates.

What you say and how you act have consequences.  Make sure those consequences are positive and for the benefit of your team.

What do you do when you get upset during competition?  How do your teammates react?  Comment below.