New Castle News

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March 20, 2014

Tim Kolodziej: Three lessons we can learn from ’Canes’ magical run

NEW CASTLE — You can’t do it.

You just can’t.

There’s no way you can get to a state final basketball game ...

•With a team that lost three starters from last season.

•With four football players in your lineup.

•With a squad that has no “big” taller than 6-4.

•With a bench that goes only two deep.

•With all the pressure that comes from entering the state tournament with an unbeaten record.

But wait. I think I just read somewhere that New Castle will take on La Salle College on Saturday night in the PIAA championship game.

Hmm. Maybe you CAN overcome those perceived obstacles.

Maybe you CAN soar to great heights despite intense challenges, despite dire circumstances, despite uncertainty, despite (fill in your own personal blank).

Maybe I can, too.

We’ve got no excuses anymore. Instead, we’ve got a blueprint for how it’s done.

Just keep your eyes on those ’Canes. Each time they set foot on the court, coach Ralph Blundo and this team continue to teach us about sustained excellence. There are probably dozens of ways we can dissect their success this season, but here are three key lessons I’m learning from this unique squad.

And the best thing about it? We’ve still got another class to attend on Saturday.

In Hershey.

Pretty sweet.

“They’ve enjoyed the work. That’s what makes it so special. Now that the outcome is what we hoped it would be, I get to coach these guys for four more days. It’s really something special.”

1) Do it together ...

Together. That word surrounds the New Castle High basketball team like a wall of protection.

There is strength in numbers.

And “One” is the most powerful.

All in.

A single heartbeat.

A common goal.

A group purpose greater than individual desires.

That’s how a unit operates best.

Some might call the ’Canes a team of destiny.

I prefer to call them a team of “trust.”

It’s trust, not destiny, that lets Anthony Richards gamble on defense. He knows Malik Hooker has his back and is ready to turn a potential layup into a souvenir for the guy in the third row.

It’s trust, not destiny, that leads Stew Allen to bust his butt to the block on a fast break. He knows his guards are looking for the open man underneath.

It’s trust, not destiny, that Blundo feels comfortable giving Robert Natale big minutes in the quarterfinal win over Hampton. Blundo has seen Natale not only take hundreds of free throws in practice. He’s seen Natale MAKE them.

It’s trust, not destiny, that keeps this team confident even though they’ve fallen behind in the last minute of play. They know their coaches have prepared them to face the giant and ATTACK, not retreat.

You’ve got a team, too. So do I.

Whether it’s your family, your youth group, your school board, your book club, your office, your committee — whatever it might be — you are part of a team. And leadership never requires a title.

It simply requires trust.

Without trust, there can be no together.

And without together, there can be no excellence.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has said, “Your character is your accumulation of your thoughts, habits and priorities on a day-to-day basis.”

Can we trust you with those three things? Good. Then we’ve got a space for you in the locker room.

If you want your team to be great, you’ve got to ... do it TOGETHER.

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