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Steve Matthies

Strong roots make an elm grow, and that was a simple message a couple hundred Klamath Union student-athletes were confronted with concepts about themselves, their sports, their school, and given answers to help become fierce competitors, during an hour-long session Thursday conducted by Joe Schaumburg of the Positive Coaching Alliance.

“Who is the current or former teammate you most admire, and why?”

“When you hear the word competitor, what do you think of?”

“Is winning or losing in or out of our control?”

“How do you view setbacks?”

Through a series of questions and answers with various individuals, Schaumburg presented ideas which can be used to become not only better athletes, but better people.

“We’re about you becoming the fiercest athlete you can become,” Schaumburg, a former college basketball coach, said, “and becoming better people.”

He used three specific concepts to make his points.

■ The ELM tree of mastery.

■ Filling the emotional tank.

■ Roots, and honoring the game.”

Scoreboard results were defined as result-oriented, comparison with others and where making mistakes is not OK, and the fact result-oriented goals set individuals and teams up for failure because there are too many variables which cannot be controlled.

Effort results were defined as learning and improving, that mistakes are OK.

“The reality is,” Schaumburg said, “that the best athletes make the most mistakes. You have to let go of the fear of failure.”

How an individual defines setbacks and failures can be defined as grit.

“Grit is the ability to stay focused on long-term goals in the face of short-term disappointments,” Schaumburg said, and he made it clear to the individuals listening to him speak, as well as their coaches later, that goals need to be specific and clearly defined.

Scoring 20 points a game is a poorly defined goal.

Improving the ability to make a left-handed layup is a goal which can be attained. Knowing and improving individual strengths and weaknesses is a guide to becoming better.

One thing which can be controlled by athletes, and their coaches, is an individual’s energy level, which can be good or bad.

An empty emotional tank is relayed through pessimism, sarcasm, criticism, hazing, cliques, non-verbal signs and ignoring teammates. Those, Schaumburg said, made an individual an energy vampire.

Filling an empty emotional tank should be related to optimism, truthful specific praise, appreciation for effort, listening, belonging and creating a sense of belonging and positive initiation.

It is important, however, to balance positive and negative vibes with athletes.

Schaumburg emphasized several times that when an individual wears a specific hat, jersey, uniform, he or she represents more than himself or herself. The individual represents everybody who wears the same uniform, regardless of sport.

He noted that elements of the game which are out of an athletes or coaches control take on the focus of a distraction, and requires each individual to clearly refocus on goals and elements which are in their control.

Helping to make the experience better is understanding what he called the ROOTS of honoring the game.

“To respect the game, we must honor the rules of the game, opponents, officials, teammates and selves,” Schaumburg said.

“One of the greatest thing in sports is having a rival,” he said. “We need each other to be fierce. We need our opponents. The handshake line should be genuine. At the end of the day, it’s about respect for each other.”

He shared with both student-athletes and their coaches that officials, when games are broken down, make far fewer mistakes than do athletes and coaches.

Schaumburg also shared a couple of quotes for the student-athletes to think about, and worth considering by anyone.

■ “Failure is not a person. It is a result you do not like,” by George Mumford, who wrote the book: “The Mindful Athlete.”

■ “I am who I am because of who we all are,” an African proverb.

■ “The game is sacred … the game is forever, players and coaches are not … you must remember who you are representing,” by former National Football League head coach Herm Edwards.

Steve Matthies is Herald and News sports editor. He can be reached at 541-885-4411, or at