Coach George Raveling is Director of Nike International basketball and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a basketball and civil rights thought leader. You may not have time to listen to the full podcast.
Coach Raveling stood next to Martin Luther King (August 28, 1963) during his “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
The podcast emphasizes the role of mentorship, human potential, and personal growth.
“Reading with Rav” has been his program to encourage reading which is a core value for him.
“The two most important commodities in the world are information and money.”
“I can continue to educate myself (at 79)…and take myself from where I am to where I should be.”
Information availability marginalizes excuses about poor schools or poor teachers. He believes that launching reading skills depends on giving people books reflecting their interest…
“Back in the days of slavery plantation owners hid their money in books…” because they didn’t think slaves would read.
Reading stimulates ‘critical analytical thinking’…
“If it is to be, it is up to me…”
“Create a community (within the universal community)…to control my destiny.” This involves your associates, what you listen to and what you watch. This includes your diet, travel, and activity.
“I’m more interested in being contented than in being happy.”
“There is no finish line…” (Nike)
“The minute you think you’ve won, you’re starting to lose.” – Phil Knight
“I’m perfectly capable of validating myself…” don’t allow someone else to try to remake you into what you are not.
He lost his father at age 9 (death) and mother at age 13 (institutionalized for mental illness) and lived with his grandmother.
He had a variety of jobs at a Catholic boarding school, ranging from cleaning out chicken coops, baling hay, worked in the bakery, and more. He did basic training at Fort Knox, KY for which he felt prepared by his school experience. He has always focused on absorbing life lessons.
“Athletics were the vehicle that transported me along in life.” He was the second leading scorer in high school in Pennsylvania. He was recruited and offered by Jack Ramsay (St. Joe’s) and he explained that he didn’t even know what a scholarship was. He said his grandmother couldn’t understand why anyone would educate him to play basketball.
He practiced every day not without a specific goal other than improvement. As a student, he had no idea about college or scholarships. But athletics took him off campus to see the world. “Somewhere…the Hand of God was pushing me along.”
The nuns kept him after school (senior year) for extra teaching (Latin, word derivatives) so that he would be prepared for college (Villanova). He said that during his senior year, Sister Emmanuel never said anything positive to him. Ultimately she said, “do you think there was a method to my madness?”
He was making more money in management training (Sunoco) than he was offered ($7500) to play basketball for the Warriors. He reentered basketball as an assistant coach at Villanova (first African-American assistant).
He discusses how he was asked to volunteer for security work during the March on Washington. All speeches were supposed to be limited to five minutes. He was on the podium the whole day. He noted that Dr. King (final speaker) abandoned his prepared text along the way leading into “the Dream”. He was the only speaked allowed to continue more than five minutes. Raveling receives the written speech from Dr. King at this time…the ‘value’ of the copy is estimated at up to 25 million dollars…it is in a safety deposit box. He has refused to sell it.
At the reception after the speech, President Kennedy told Dr. King that he loved the “I have a dream” speech which was how the speech is remembered.
As he aged, he understood his life in a broader context. He realized that it would be difficult to gain respect as a black man but could earn respect for his intellect. “We have to figure out what our role is and we have to play it.”
“It is a moral responsibility to speak out against injustice and inequality.” Discrimination is more complex now and far broader than pigment-based.
“I see myself as a Servant Leader…it is no longer about me; it is about them.” At the same time, he sees the reality and the need to evolve with technology and information. “I transfer from old thinking to new thinking.”
“I hang around with young people…the young people are my mentors.” Young people define the future…he wants to stay relevant.
“What is it that I don’t know that I need to know to become relevant and competitive?”
At 1:15 he gets more into coaching.
What makes a great coach is consistently getting the athlete to operate at peak efficiency and to motivate them. The trust of parents translates to a huge responsibility. A parent told him, “I don’t want no foolishness from you,” meaning she wanted continuation and expansion of values.
“The most important game to win is the game of life.”
Athletics teaches life lessons – winning and losing, listening, decision-making, inclusiveness, leadership.
“One and done” emphasizes materialism not education, character, and values.
“Voices that you listen to determine the choices you make.” Which voices do you hear?
“There’s far too much emphasis on the physical and too little on the mental…and it starts on the basketball court.”
There is not enough emphasis on the mental part of the game.
In analyzing an athlete he looks for potential – are they coachable, teachable, passionate, and what is their position relative to their ceiling?
“At the end of the day, the game…comes down to putting the ball in the basket…and stopping it.”