Greg Smith Keynote Speaker

Leadership Expert on Resiliency and Inner Strength – Greg helps leaders and teams “Go Full-Strength!” for maximum productivity.

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Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.

Category Archives: Sports

“Racializing” Richard Sherman

Is it ok to be black and root for Denver?

Richard Sherman

By Greg Smith

I’ve never liked Richard Sherman.  I didn’t like him when he caught six passes for 105 yards as a Stanford wide receiver against my Arizona State Sun Devils his junior year.  I didn’t like him when he had three catches for 54 yards against ASU his senior year.   I didn’t like the fact that he kept Brandon Marshall scoreless in the 2012 game against the Chicago Bears.  That Seahawks win cost my team a trip to the playoffs and resulted in the firing of Lovie Smith, my favorite NFL coach.

So when Sherman shot off to the world after the NFC Championship game through Erin Andrews microphone, I did what a lot of Americans did at that moment.  I went to Facebook and posted:  “Alright, I’m just gonna speak my mind. Dear Peyton: Please shut Richard Sherman the hell up!”

That was me, as a fan, reacting to a villainous sports nemesis who had foiled me once again.  We all have our sports villains.  Some of my other NFL villains are Aaron Rogers, Ndamukong Suh, Clay Matthews, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, “Megatron,” and anybody who beats up on the Bears with regularity.  Football is entertainment.  Games are like movies.  As fans, we choose our good guys and villains.  The good guys are the guys on your team.  The bad guys are the good players on the other team.

But I reacted too quickly and with naivety.  I didn’t stop to think about the facts.  I’m black!  Richard Sherman is black!  Erin Andrews is white!  Thousands of racist idiots concurrently Tweeted and “Facebooked” about Sherman, some using words like “thug” and others holding back nothing with blatantly offensive phrases.  Suddenly, I found myself regretting my post.  But the worst feeling came from sadness about my need to regret my post.

What started out as a nation buzzing in response in the aftermath of its favorite pastime, swiftly shifted into a racial firestorm.  I was naive to think that football couldn’t be just about football.

“When you’re a public figure, there are rules,” wrote Greg Howard in his Deadspin column, The Plight of the Conquering Negro.  “Here’s one: A public personality can be black, talented, or arrogant, but he can’t be any more than two of these traits at a time.”  Howard goes on to make this point: “Black males must know their place, and more tellingly, that their place is somewhere different than that of whites. It’s been etched into our cultural fabric that to act as anything but a loud, yet harmless buffoon or an immensely powerful, yet humble servant is overstepping. It’s uppity.”

I completely understand Howard’s opinion.  My response:  So what?  I happen to be black, talented and some might say, arrogant.  I also completely ignore those who dislike my self-confidence.  Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders, Randy Moss, Serena Williams, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Floyd Mayweather, and Tiger Woods are all black, talented and arrogant.  None of them fell victim to any “plight” or even acknowledged its existence.  I love all those people.  I just don’t like Richard Sherman.

I have a son who plays college football and has dreads sprouting under his helmet.  If my son made Richard Sherman his role model, I would be happy with his choice.  As a scholar, an athlete and a citizen, Sherman is an upstanding example for young people.  His academic accomplishments and his rapid rise to the very top of his profession are undeniable.

But as a football fan, I don’t like Richard Sherman.  I hope Peyton Manning shuts him up.  The people who posted racist comments in response to his interview are like terrorists and we can’t let the terrorists win.  Guess what?  Racism exists.  When it rears its ugly head, we don’t have to dignify it with a response.  And we definitely don’t need to shine a spotlight on it brighter than the lights at the stadium.  Let’s look at this like football fans and not react like gasoline exploding at the slightest spark of hate from the weak-minded.

The “conquering negro” doesn’t care what racists think.  There is no plight.  Responding to racists is not a cross I choose to bear because it serves us not.

Do your thing, Richard Sherman and pay no mind to the hate.  If the Bears made a deal and brought you to Chicago for Alshon Jeffery, an second-year Pro Bowl wide receiver, I would buy the #25 Bears jersey and be excited about what you would do to revitalize the Chicago defense.  But the reality is, until then, you are a nemesis.  I hope you lose this Super Bowl Sunday.

To black Broncos fans in Denver and around the world, and to those like me who just don’t like Richard Sherman, the athlete, the entertainer, the performer, but do respect the man:  You are not alone.  You should feel no dissonance.  You are free to root for Denver without feeling like a race traitor.

I am an NFL fan and I will not allow racists to take away my complete enjoyment of the experience of rooting for and against whom I choose.  Having said that, I still wonder if my “black card” will now be revoked.  What do you think?

 

As a man thinketh… a lesson in self determination.

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“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

By Greg Smith

My father hammered that quote into my skull my entire life.  It stuck.  I didn’t use the same terminology as a parent to my kids, but the main idea made the generational transition.  I told my kids to be the authors of their own self-definition.  “Don’t let anyone’s opinion of you change the way you feel about yourself and your abilities.”

My son Donovan thinketh he is a pretty darn good football player.  He has thought that since the day he putteth a helmet on as a child.

In middle school, he was the starting quarterback and led his team to the championship game.  In ninth grade, he was all district.  In tenth grade, he was the starting junior varsity quarterback and in the spring of that year, he started at quarterback on the varsity team.  He believeth he should have started his junior year but instead, was forced to stand on the sidelines, his talents not utilized at all until late in the season when he was put in at wide receiver.  Of course he shineth at that position.

As a senior in high school, he accounteth for over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing.  He was named to the Sun Herald All-Coast team and had a “highlight” touchdown reception in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic.  But the college scholarship offers didn’t flow as he had expected.  Out of high school, instead of accepting a Division II offer, he chose instead to play at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, improve his game and move on from there to a 4-year Division I school.

At Gulf Coast, his role on the team never really reached the level that he aspired.  He played sparingly as a freshman.  As a sophomore, he started and played in every game, but didn’t get the ball thrown to him much.  He finished the season with 12 catches for 105 yards.

After games, I would have to calm him down and remind him to keep believing in himself.  “What do I have to do?” he would ask me.

“Keep working hard in practice.  Keep a positive attitude and put ‘team’ first.  Keep blocking hard.  Don’t take plays ‘off.’  Stay enthusiastic.  You know who you are, and the truth will one day be revealed.”  It was my weekly, post-game on-the-field sermon.

After the season, only two Division II offers came in.  Should he have accepted one of them?  Perhaps, but Donovan believeth in himself.  In his mind, he is, without a doubt, a Division I talent.  So he called the coaches at the University of Southern Mississippi who told him to enroll in school and come on the team as a “preferred walk-on.”

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He’s not celebrating.  Donovan hasn’t played one down for the Golden Eagles.  He will probably “redshirt” this year and won’t see the field until the fall of 2015.  But for now, his name is on a locker at Southern Miss.  He is a Division I college football player!  And I admire his courage, determination and his belief in himself.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”   I thinketh I’m a pretty proud poppa.

 

 

Kicking Off a Busy Speaking Schedule!

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Five keynotes and two workshops in three weeks!

By Greg Smith

The next 30 days will be the busiest I’ve ever had as a speaker… 5 keynote presentations in 3 weeks!  I’m very excited to debut my new keynote address, “Silencing the Negative Voice Within!” This speech really examines the greatest limitation in my life.  It reveals how I identified it, planned for it’s demise, implemented the plan and succeeded.  “The Negative Voice Within” is something that we all hear and need to deal with.

    • My marathon begins October 22, when I will deliver the speech for the first time at the Knight Non-Profit Center, 11975 Seaway Rd., Gulfport Mississippi.  That event is free and open to the general public.  Arrive at 12:45 and enjoy Subway Half-subs, courtesy of Subway Edgewater Village.
    • On Friday, November 1, I will be presenting two workshops and my keynote at the Diversity Leadership Alliance annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona.  My keynote is at noon.  You can register for this free event on the conference web site.
    • On Saturday, November 2, I will be teaming up with my National Speakers Association buddy Deborah Gardner for “Finding Strength to Compete,” a motivational event free to the general public.  That event starts at 10:00 am.  It will be held at the Disability Empowerment Center, 5025 East Washington, Phoenix, AZ 85034.
    • On Monday, November 5, I will be returning to my alma-mater to speak to students!  You’ll find me in the oldest building on the campus of Arizona State University, “Old Main” at 4:00 pm.  That event is sponsored by ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government.
    • On November 14, I travel all the way across the country, after stopping back home to change my suitcase.  I will be in Williamsburg Virginia for the The Division on Career Development & Transition’s International Conference.

Thanks in advance for helping me get the word out about these events!  Let’s keep it going. Let me know if you want me to come to your city and you’re willing to help make it happen!

 

Here is the flyer for the Gulfport event on Oct 22, 12:45 pm at the Knight Non Profit Center.

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Here is the flyer for the Phoenix event, Nov 2, 10:00 am at the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living:

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Guinness Wheelchair Basketball TV Spot OK with Me

Guinness Brand Manager Speaks about TV Spot

By Greg Smith

Getting it “right” when presenting disability in the mainstream media has always been a moving target:  A non-disabled actor is cast in a disabled role.  An “inspirational disabled person” who has done nothing exceptional other than being or becoming disabled is anointed and celebrated.  A screenplay in which the disabled person would rather be dead than accept his or her new life is turned into a film.  Or an evil villain whose hostility is sparked by anger after the onset of a disability hits the box office.

Moreover, motion pictures and television seem to only have tolerance for those with less visible disabilities.  You won’t find any skinny, bodily contracted rolling skeletons like me on the big screen or the flat screen. There has never been a place for a person like me in the mainstream mass media.  That’s why I created my own. Depicting a proper reflection of society in the mainstream media is a vision people with disabilities share. And experiencing more of the same media blunders is frustrating.

But every now and then, baby steps in the right direction reveal that hope emerges.  The recent Guinness television spot, featuring wheelchair basketball players on the court, popping 3 pointers, smashing into each other and falling out of chairs is the newest major media offering to be evaluated.  At the end of the spot, all but one of the players rises to their feet and walks out of the gym.  Cut to a popular pub.  The group of friends is sitting down at a low table in a popular bar, enjoying a Guinness.  “Hot girls” arrive on the scene.  It’s a wheelchair dude’s heaven!  The spot is about friendship.  I approve.  It is not perfect, but it is a major step in the right direction.

There are plenty of my colleagues who disagree.  They have a problem with it being more about celebrating the “character” of the non-disabled friends who are kind enough to go through the trouble of getting in wheelchairs to hoop, and taking their poor disabled friend out for a beer.

“Context is important b/c the “got’cha” is central to the ad itself,” says Lawrence Carter Long, media enthusiast and co-host of “The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film” which showcased 21 socially and culturally significant cinematic depictions of the disability experience to over 87 million households on Turner Classic Movies last October.  “If the spot was all about friendship there would be no need to trick audiences with the big surprise. But the twist is there and, if we’re serious about changing the perception of disabled people in society we would be foolish to ignore it.”

Lawrence Carter Long

I decided to go to the source and talk to Guinness Brand Director, Doug Campbell.  How did the spot develop?  How was the disability community involved in the concept?  What was the intended message?

What did you think of the spot?  Do you think it is about friendship?  Or is it about the character of the non-disabled friends who choose to involve their friend, the “victim” of unfortunate events?  I think it is a step in the right direction.  I think Guinness should be rewarded, rather than criticized.  If we continue to criticize every effort to include us, we will never be welcomed back and progress will never happen.

Please comment in the section below, rather than on my Facebook page.  Thank you!  Looking forward to your reaction.

“Ready, Break!”

Borrowing a football chant of unity and inspiration for the real world.

By Greg Smith

As we kick off the 2013 football season, I am throwing some appreciative love back in time over 100 years to men named Paul Hubbard and Amos Alonzo Stagg. Hubbard was a deaf quarterback at Gallaudet University. Stagg was a visionary player and coach who is credited for innovations such as the padded goalpost, hip pads, the position of linebacker, the forward pass, the lateral pass and many others. But in my opinion, players today can be most appreciative to Hubbard and Stagg for one of the most important developments in the game: The Huddle:

Some say Stagg invented the huddle. But don’t let that be read off your lips by anybody in the Gallaudet family or you will have a fight on your hands! They say Hubbard realized that sign language signals could be intercepted by the opposing team, so they gathered in a tight circle to block the signs from view.

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You don’t have to be a football fan to recognize a huddle. It’s when players get together for communication about the next play, and to hear words of inspiration before the next snap of the football. The huddle started in football but has spread to every sport. At the end of the huddle, after instructions have been given, teams will “break the huddle” by shouting something useful in loud unison.

“Ready, team!” Or “Ready, teamwork!”

Or maybe it’s a simple team motto like like “Ready, All In!” And sometimes, teams take it all the way old-school and say what Stagg’s teams used to say: “Ready, break!”

Last Thursday, I was on the phone with my friend and associate Dr. JR Harding. We had scheduled this meeting to share resources and to support each other in the pursuit of our career goals. Dr. Harding is seeking to further his speaking and consulting career. And I wanted to tap into his vast contact database for possible speaking engagements.

The meeting was productive and inspirational. I gave him some great feedback and introduced him to some people that can help immediately. And he gave me introductions to contacts that are very likely to become new clients.

Not only did we share resources, but we also got each other fired up! Both of us filled our role to inspire the other and make each other visualize successful outcomes of what we had planned. We scheduled a follow-up meeting and then it was time to get off the phone.

“As soon as we hang up the phone, I’m going to do this…”

“Okay, man and I am going to do this…”

“Alright dude, let’s push each other. Let’s make sure we see this stuff happen for real!”

“I’m with you brother!”

Then the words jumped right out of my mouth without any planning: “Ready, Break!” And before I could finish saying the second word, JR spontaneously responded on cue: “Break!” And we just hung up the phone!

I was so fired up after that conversation that I went on to have one of the most productive days in recent memory. I kept all of my commitments to JR, and he kept all of his to me.

Dr. JR Harding – My Teammate!

I think Dr. Harding understood exactly where I was coming from because before he was quadriplegic, he was offensive lineman. His neck was broken when he turned to walk away from a fight and a young man attacked him from behind, throwing his head into the ground. 15 years later, he broke his neck again in a vehicle accident. But since then, he has enjoyed a successful career, earned his doctorate degree, and found the love of his life. His complete story is told in his autobiography, “Now What?” You will learn more about JR in his guest blog on this site coming soon. JR is one member of a tight network of people that I consider to be my teammates. They care about me. They push me. I care about them, I push them back. And we all have enjoyed success.

From now on, every time I get off the phone with a teammate, I’m going to end the conversation the same way I’m going to end this article. We’ll see if it catches on. If it becomes a national trend, just remember where you learned it.

“Now get out there and give it 110%!”

“Ready, Break!”

Makin’ it Rain a Quarter-Million

How I helped give 14 kids a quarter million dollars.

rain·mak·er  (rnmkr)   n. 

1. Informal  One who is known for achieving excellent results in a profession or field, such as business or politics.

 

If you’re reading this, you know me as a professional speaker or a radio host or an author. But there is another aspect of my identity that I’m especially proud of today: I make highlight videos for high school athletes that result in college scholarships. So far, 14 of my clients have received nearly a quarter million dollars in free education as a result of a their athletic abilities and proof of it on video.

I started doing videos out of necessity in 2011. My son was a high school football player and I wanted to find him a scholarship. I looked around online and found that the prices for highlight videos were incredibly high.  And if I used one of those services, I would not have as much control over the details of the video. Since I have pretty good chops on the computer, I decided to give it a try on my own.

My son’s video turned out so good that a teammate’s father called me and wanted one.  He was so satisfied that he referred me to three others.  And it just kind of blossomed from there.  Just this week, one of my clients, Emily Smith, received a full-ride basketball scholarship to the University of South Dakota. Here’s her highlight video 

The average cost of one of my videos is $250. The value of scholarships my clients received ranges from $7,000 to $43,000!

Each video is very time-consuming, but time I enjoy spending. I have to go through the entire game and mark the highlight possibilities.

I work out of my bedroom in my house.  I edit the plays together and then invite the kids and their parents to review it. Together we decide which plays to include or discard, and determine the order of the plays.  Absolutely nothing beats the thrill of looking into the eyes of one of my young athletes and watching their facial expression as they realize, “Wow, I’m pretty good.”

These kids earned the following scholarships based on their tremendous athletic abilities. The only thing I did was collect video proof and show it to the world online.  But the feeling that I get from having played that role is quite thrilling!

  1. Dillon Batia – Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  2. Lynsie Byrd, Birmingham Southern – $43,130
  3. Romario Cobb, Southwest Mississippi Community College – $10,040
  4. Tripp Clearman, Malone University – $34,352
  5. Matthew Hicks, East Central Community College – $7,270
  6. Alex Horn, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  7. David Howell, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  8. Ishmel Morrow, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  9. Kenneth Paxton, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  10. James Richards, University of South Alabama – $25,992
  11. Tyrin Spencer, Southwest Mississippi Community College 10,040
  12. Donovan Smith, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – $9,852
  13. Emily Smith, University of South Dakota – $15,129
  14. Antwon Wells, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College $9,852

The name of my business is Rainmaker Highlight Videos. You can view my entire body of work on my YouTube page.  If you need a video done for your athlete, please contact me.  Let’s make it rain!

How Football Forged my Future

Tuesday afternoon, I had the privilege of speaking to D’Iberville High School’s football team, and sharing with them the story of how I became aware that I had muscular dystrophy… and exactly what that meant.  It is a football story.  I hope you enjoy.

Realizing that I had muscular dystrophy and would never be an athlete made me modify my goals from athlete to announcer. And that led to my career in radio and eventually speaker and author.

“The Strength Coach” reminds you that sometimes you need to shift your goals in order to move forward and reach your destiny. The key is to have a dream and a goal and move forward towards a positive direction.

Reputation

Talking Inner Strength with Dwight Howard

Talking Inner Strength with Dwight Howard

LIfe’s instruction manual says your reputation follows you everywhere. That may be true, but there is no listing that says you have to follow your reputation.

I’m gambling that a case in point is Dwight Howard. For “Strength Coach” fans who don’t know basketball, Howard is one of the greatest physical talents in the NBA. For 8 years, he was one of the league’s brightest stars with the Orlando Magic. He was “Superman.” A dominating force in the middle.

But Howard grew frustrated about the probability that he could never win a championship in Orlando and around that time, his boat sprung a leak:

Drama surrounding rumors that he wanted his coach fired and didn’t want to be in Orlando… Then back surgery to repair a herniated disc… Then the trade to the Lakers… Then slow, painful recovery and starting a season without the normal off-season conditioning… And then a shoulder injury that he is ‘playing through!’

Interviews showed him being honest. Fans took it as complaining and excuse making. And they have been unforgiving. This is no “Superman!” His new reputation around the league? Crybaby. Whiner. Soft.

I got a chance to visit with Howard last week and I was surprised by his calm focus.

“My goal my whole life is to be great,” he stated. “People don’t understand how it is to hurt your back. I really had to learn from scratch just to walk. People don’t understand just how hard that was to force myself back to where I am today and even though I’m not 100% right now, I’m better than I would have been if I had not been focused mentally.”

Despite his new reputation, over the last 10 games, Dwight Howard has averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds and the Lakers have won eight of those games. Yes, Kobe Bryant has played MVP level ball during that spurt, but would the Lakers have won all those games without steady play from Howard?

“The Strength Coach” sees Howard as an example that it is important to ignore other people’s perceptions of you and create your own self-definition. For example, I don’t see myself as a helpless, dependent, lonely cripple. I’m a powerful 65 pound giant! I travel, speak, author, broadcast, parent, drive, inspire. I’m the wheelchair dude with the winning attitude!

Dwight Howard doesn’t see himself as a defeated, excuse making, overpaid, spoiled big baby the way fans have pegged him. He does not follow that reputation. He sees himself as the greatest center in the NBA today.

“I really don’t see obstacles in front of me,” said Howard. “All I see are my goals and all that I want to accomplish in my career.”

His immediate goal is a playoff run. Let’s revisit this article in June to see what Howard and the Lakers end up doing.

In the meantime, take a few minutes to think about your own self-definition and how that definition differs from the reputation that follows you. If your reputation is solid, congratulations. If not, be the difference.