Sports writer’s ‘The Right Call’ offers lifelong lessons

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Sports writer’s ‘The Right Call’ offers lifelong lessons

In the amazing Hulu series “The Bear,” one shot that reappears in the just-released second season is the cover of Mike Krzyzewski’s book, “Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business and Life.”

The book was given to one of the main characters in the series by her father. She reads it as she pursues her dream of working as an executive chef at a new Chicago restaurant while battling the challenges of life as a business partner with highly acclaimed culinary icon Carmi, “The Bear.”

One of the show’s appealing qualities is its depiction of the teamwork required to run a kitchen, a small, crowded playing field featuring an array of culinary talent who shout “Yes, Chef!” during each play. I love the Krzyzewski references and applaud the writers.

But I couldn’t help but think it would have been so much cooler if her dad had given her a book by an outstanding coach or athlete. Pat Summitt’s autobiography “Sum It Up” came to mind.

But what would fit the plot even better is the latest book by Summit’s memoir co-author, her longtime friend Sally Jenkins. Jenkins’ The Right Call: What Sports Teach Us About Work and Life offers a satisfying collection of sports nuggets that have helped top performers reach the pinnacle of their athletic journeys. And the lessons it offers would do quite well in the heat of the kitchen, too.

Jenkins explores the elements of sports principles that “give all of us, regardless of our profession, the ability to think and choose more clearly.” These elements are the titles of her chapters: preparation, practice, discipline, candor, culture, failure, and intention. Aspiring coaches, athletes, teachers and business executives would do well to absorb and practice these proven winning solutions.

Jenkins is a recognized journalist for the Washington Post and was previously a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. She has covered major men’s and women’s sports throughout her 40-year journalism career. If you want a taste of her superb journalism, check out her recent column for the Post, a deep dive into the personal relationships of tennis greats and rivals Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who recently found themselves “more intertwined than ever” as they both battled cancer .

The book is based largely on interviews she conducted with elite coaches and players, including Steve Kerr and Peyton Manning.

On the women’s side, she recalls the turmoil surrounding U.S. women’s soccer coach Jill Ellis and how she rebuilt the team after losing the Olympics into the 2019 Women’s World Cup champions.

In the chapter on discipline, she takes exception to the narrow description of Summitt as an iron fist.

“Like Krzyzewski, she usually handled behavioral problems with finesse. When freshman Nikki McCray was late to meetings, Summit didn’t punish her. She got her a wristwatch after learning that the child had never owned one.

(Sadly, McCray-Penson, an All-American point guard for Summitt’s University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA All-Star and NCAA Division I coach, died Friday at age 51. The women’s basketball community is in mourning.)

“I don’t treat them all the same,” Summitt, who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2016, liked to say. “I treat them all fairly.”

Fairness is a recurring theme in The Right Call. Difficult coaches often become great only when they learn how to control their emotions. Earning the respect of the players is paramount. “The Right Call” overflows with examples of positive team relationships, success stories you think you’ve heard but haven’t in this detail.

Her chapter on intentions includes a golf lesson and one that reflects life’s challenges. She interviews Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, who have coached four of the world’s No. 1 golfers, to get her take. This involves a “weekend” golfer trying to make a stressful shot over water and taking the wrong approach. Standing over the ball with uncertainty, after a quick, strong swing, the player’s shot most often goes into the water.

What is your intention, Nilsson and Marriott would ask? If your goal is to have fun. No problem. Do it. If your goal is to get a good result, then the choice you made in this situation is a problem.

“There are decision-making skills, but the foundation has to be your vision and your values,” Marriott said.

“Many of us bring this same confusion to the more important decisions of our lives; we lack a solid picture of what we do and why or how much we care about it,” Jenkins writes.

You can be sure that the visions and values ​​of Jenkins’ father also played a large role in the writing of “The Right Call.” Sally is the daughter of sportswriter Dan Jenkins, who also once wrote for Sports Illustrated and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame for golf journalism.

And just as journalists and athletes can be labeled as “gifted” in their professions due to physical makeup or upbringing, make no mistake, it takes hard work to excel. Read “The Right Call” and you will learn how this happens.

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