Growing up as a young athlete, I felt lucky and privileged to know one of the greatest motivators in sports. One could argue John Wooden, others would argue Lou Holtz. There’s no shortage of great motivators. The one that motivated me was a little less known. He was a man who grew up in Indiana, and was a standout basketball player at LSU. He became a regional rep for the then-small company Converse shoes. He was instrumental in making it what it is today. He signed the likes of Magic Johnson. He also became the athletic director at LSU. At the time, the program was in the red. He got it squarely in the black. The work he did has a lot to do with why LSU has risen to national prominence in sports, including football championships. The man I’m talking about is Joe Dean Sr. I have to put Sr. there because his son Joe Dean Jr. has also done well for himself in life. The elder Dean became a great mentor and motivator to me as both a young athlete, as well as being successful for the past 30 years in the fitness business. Joe Dean ran a small basketball camp in Summit, Mississippi. At the ripe old age of 12 I sold enough fruit and vegetables along Hwy. 308 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana to get the $150 it took to go to his camp. Little did I know at the time that the motivating words of Mr. Dean would carry over to me still today, some 36 years later. I found a way to make it to that camp every summer until I graduated high school. I got to know the Dean family so well, that my parents would eventually bring me to Baton Rouge, then I would hitch a ride with the family the rest of the way to the camp. I still talk to Joe from time to time, though it isn’t very often. The last time we spoke I was hooked to a chemo pump. My phone rang one day and it was Joe. How he found out, I’ll never know. In my eyes, he’s like God…and God knows everything, right? I told you that to tell you this. Mr. Dean had a famous saying. He would say, “Vinnie, did you take the garbage out?” My reply was always, “Yes sir, Mr. Dean, I took the garbage out.” Let me explain. Years earlier, he asked me if my family had a garbage can in our house. I said it was under the sink in the kitchen. He then asked if I had ever found it overflowing with garbage. “Have you ever tried to teeter a can on the heaping pile of garbage?” he asked. I began to laugh. He could sense my shame. He said, “Don’t worry, I’ve done it too.” He then asked why I didn’t take the garbage out when I saw the can was full. I replied, “My parents didn’t tell me to take it out.” I was playing right into the master’s hands. He said, “You know, the difference in an also-ran and a champion is the guy who takes initiative.” It’s the guy who takes the garbage out before he’s asked. He never needs to be told what needs to be done. I see this all the time with young kids in sports. Some kids will do exactly what the coach says and nothing more. Other kids will do everything the coach says and repeat it after practice. Those always become great ones. So think about it. The next time you want to do anything, like ride 100 miles on a bike, compete in a triathlon, etc., you may want to ask yourself after you brush your teeth and turn the lights off…”Did I take the garbage out?”
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