Water Polo and Baseball?
Last night I had the privilege and honor to address the U.S. Water Polo team. I don’t know what’s harder, hitting a baseball or doing egg-beaters under water, but I do know that if I had players who looked like the water polo players I spoke to, we would have won more than two World Series. I just can’t picture guys like Billy Buckner or Reggie Smith wearing Speedo’s.
We met in Agoura Hills after their practice, and Coach Schroeder was kind enough to have his players assembled, and attentive. They had just finished practice, and if these guys are like any of my players, I’m surprised none of them were napping.
Before I spoke to the players, Coach Schroeder, who is a three-time Olympian himself, let me know that they needed help with their patriotism. I love telling my Olympic story because there’s nothing better than the feeling you get when you do something great for your country.
When we won the Gold Medal in the 2000 Olympics, I told everyone that this was bigger than the World Series, and everyone thought I was crazy. I said that when the Dodgers win the World Series the Dodger fans are happy, but the Giants fans and the Yankees fans aren’t. But when you win the Gold Medal, all of America is happy.
When we won the Gold and defeated the Cubans, who had never lost an international tournament, I hollered in Spanish as they left the field, “Go back to Cuba! Castro will have you all cutting sugar cane by the end of the week!”
So I started by telling them about how proud I was to manage the Olympic team, and what a privilege it was to represent the greatest country in the world.
I also told them that in order for them to win they have to believe in themselves. Self confidence is the first step towards success, and if they think they are the number one team, they’ll practice like the number one team. And if they practice like the number one team, they’ll play like the number one team. And if they play like the number one team, that’s exactly where they’ll finish.
I think I was yelling so loud that people in Santa Barbara heard me.
And I finished by telling them that over the course of the year I’ll probably talk to about one million people, and if they don’t win I’m going to tell those million people how lousy they are!
All kidding aside, I am going to be tracking their progress and pulling for them to win. Countries from Eastern Europe are the best in the world in water polo, but as I’ve said many, many times, it’s not always the fastest man who wins the race, or the strongest man who wins the fight, but it’s the one who wants it more than the other guy.
How bad do they want it?
And they are the only ones who can answer that question.