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During The Coronavirus Crisis, Ways to Act Resilient

March 20, 2020

With the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis, we are facing challenging and difficult situations that mount daily, if not hourly. We face a time when resilience, or the ability to recover quickly from a difficult or challenging situation. plays an important part in our lives. 

As part of the Born Ready Project, I developed a program that offers ways to act resilient. and have spoken to youth in large and small settings about the importance of resilience when facing a challenge. Such situations may include an injury, missing a soccer penalty kick in a shootout, a serious illness, the loss of a loved one, or a natural tragedy that drastically disrupts your life. I also pass along these tips to youth as a high school teacher and a professional soccer coach. 

In my latest Born Ready blog, I suggest five ways to stay resilient through a crisis. This can help everyone effectively endure this challenging time.

Stay Positive – It’s difficult to see the light at the end of tunnel that gets clogged every day with more unsettling information about the virus and how it is affecting our lives. The key here is to find and embrace positive moments and situations, and not lose sight of a future that will improve.

As a teacher, I am fortunate to still receive my pay while we sort out the best ways to adjust our teaching methods to suit every student remotely. With schools closed and my wife able to work full time from home, I’ve assumed the role of caretaker for our nine-year-old son, Cayden.

Already I’ve seen the positive benefits of spending more relaxed time with Cayden. Each day we’ve either gone outside for a few hours to play soccer and/or basketball, or riding a bike. Sure, we annoy each other at times, but we also engage in moments of healthy laughter and light conversation. All the activity and quality interaction helps us justify allowing more time for him to watch television or play games on his mobile device. 

Find ways to enjoy each day, and relish the positive moments. Perhaps a young soccer player will spend more time fine-tuning skills, such as juggling or kicking swerved balls against a wall, that will help him when organized play resumes. 

Take some time to imagine what life will be like once this Corona crisis is over, focusing on the lessons you may have learned and ways you can improve your life. At that point, you will likely have to…

Accept Change – anytime we fight change, we embrace feelings that make us more anxious and increase our stress levels. Accepting and embracing change will place you in a more positive frame of mind. 

A competitive athlete knows that resisting and fighting a challenge makes it harder to conquer that challenge. For example, during a conditioning exercise, it helps to welcome every set of sprints, not dread them. Accept that they will cause discomfort, but you will get through them, and be better off once they are completed. 

When a challenge confronts you, take a deep breath, accept the situation and then…

Set Realistic Goals – When you face a drastic change, assess the situation and set realistic goals that will help you work through the challenge. If you are an injured athlete, set time frames to return to comfortable physical activity, then training and ultimately to competition. If you are laid off from a job, quickly research your work options. Do you need a job in a week, or a month? Assess your financial situation and plan a budget 3 or 6 months out. Setting realistic goals will help you understand that there is an endpoint, and see the future in a more positive way. It also helps to…

Take Care of Yourself – to help recover from a challenge, it helps to maintain a strong sense of yourself, and focus on healthy activities that make you feel better and bring joy to your day. They can include meditation, exercise, maintaining clean personal habits, enjoying fun family activities and talking with someone who may provide emotional support. That’s a great way to…

Connect with Others – There’s a good reason why team sports focus on teamwork. One athlete alone can not provide the best result. Teams can not perform to their full potential without practicing together, getting to know each other’s tendencies, and becoming comfortable as a group despite disparate personalities. As part of a team, you connect with each other to overcome challenges. 

To overcome any challenge, connect with others who are facing similar challenges. You will learn things others are doing to help them conquer the challenge. And you will likely find that you can offer advice to help others as well. Working as a team, you will improve your chances, and those of others, to overcome any challenge. 

Inspirational Video – To end on a fun note, here’s a video that shows the resilience of Cayden, then 22-months old, trying to shoot a basketball through a hoop. Try to figure out which of the tips he most displayed while staying resilient. 

Decades Ago Morgan Wootten Taught Me an Unexpected Lesson

January 26, 2020

With the passing earlier this week of Morgan Wootten, I was compelled to think of my most memorable interaction with the famed coach. 

I had heard so much about Wootten in the 1970s and 1980s while I was a track and soccer athlete at the University of Maryland and later practiced my journalism career in the Washington, D.C. area. He was a coach and mentor to some of the best high school basketball talent in the country and coached some of the best teams at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville. He was old-school honorable, respectful, competitive, and inspirational.

I had observed Wootten admirably from a distance until the early 1990s. At that time one of my journalism jobs involved work as a sports anchor and reporter for CTV News on Prince George’s County Community Television. We relied heavily on the schools’ sports teams to provide video they recorded of their games for highlight packages. Over a few years, I recall receiving video from coach Wootten only one time. It was one experience I will never forget.

When I picked up the video from his office at the school, coach Wootten emphatically asked me to ensure I return it. I promised that I would do so. 

A few days later I searched for the video to return to coach Wootten, but I could not find it. I looked throughout the newsroom, in the video storage area, and in the control room. I asked colleagues if they had seen it. Soon I realized it was gone. I felt badly about breaking my promise, but I thought, perhaps disrespectfully, that it was no big deal. It’s one tape about one game. He’ll probably forget about it, anyway. 

No such chance. A few days later coach Wootten called to ask about the tape. I told him that I had lost it and apologized for my mistake. I attended 12 years of Catholic school growing up in New Jersey and understood both the schools’ harsh approaches to discipline and the value of forgiveness. I expected coach Wootten, a staunch Catholic, to favor the latter principle, especially since I was not one of his students or players. I had hoped he would find a way to accept the transgression as a minor inconvenience. 

He did not. I don’t recall the exact words he used to express his disappointment, but they were not kind, and lacked any trace of forgiveness. Further, I was surprised by his calm, but pointed and extended expression of disappointment. I felt as if he was talking to one of his students who had cheated on a history test, or a player who ignored one of his directions at practice. I felt he as if he wanted me to feel guilt and remorse for my mistake, and I did. I also felt a bit of, are you kidding me? People make mistakes. It was an honest error. Can’t you see that?

Upon reflection, I understood the reasons for his admonishments. He was a coach and a teacher, and this was a teachable moment. And, although I was an adult in my early 30s, I realized he felt the need to teach me a lesson about respecting another person’s property and the importance of keeping a promise. 

The incident carries more significance to me now that I am a public school teacher, a youth travel soccer coach and a teacher of leadership skills through my Born Ready Project. In all capacities, I stress the values of respect and forgiveness. 

Years after the video tape incident, coach Wootten took part in a video project I produced about youth sports leadership. And most recently, he took my calls when I asked him questions for my book about Len Bias. He was very accommodating, gracious and accessible. 

And, it turns out, he forgave me after all.

Free Minds Book Club member calls the BRP “some real-life stuff”

May 8, 2015

Below is a testimonial letter that I am proud to share because it shows the Born Ready Project’s potential to help change lives in a positive way.

Dave

Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, a non-profit in Washington DC that uses books and creative written expression to empower incarcerated youth at the DC jail, was privileged to have Dave Ungrady, author of the book “Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias” give a presentation on the importance of productive decision making to our April apprentices!

Free Minds apprentices are young men who have gone through all three phases of our program, Book Club, Continuing Support and Re-entry Support.  As part of our book club, they were youth between the ages of 15-17, charged as adults at the DC jail where we visited them twice a week to hold our book club sessions.  While in Continuing Support, we sent the guys books that they requested, our monthly newsletter the “Connect,” letters and birthday cards, and Re-entry Support that helps our released members attain job readiness, community support and educational resources.

Dave visited us and conducted an engaging and informative session incorporating facets of his real life experiences, a video presentation about the life of Len Bias as well as a well prepared power point presentation that kept our apprentices engaged and inquisitive!  One of our apprentices’, 17 year old Leon Epps, said “I really appreciated some of the things that he was teaching us, it was some real life stuff.” 

FreeMinds_with the boys

Dave and apprentices of the Free Minds Book Club after his presentation.

Dave introduced our apprentices to concepts such as the varying degrees of decision making, tools to making good decisions and how the decisions they make impact them and the people in their lives.  One of the main goals of our apprenticeship program is to help our apprentices change their lives by changing their thought process so Dave presentation was a perfect fit! 

Our apprentices greatly benefited from Dave’s presentation, and when we conducted our post apprenticeship evaluation, we asked the apprentices to list the sessions that they enjoyed the most, and more than half of them selected Mr. Ungrady’s session as one of their top choices.  We are very grateful for Dave’s participation and have invited him back for another session during our next apprenticeship starting in June.

Keela Hailes, Program Manager

Free MInds Book Club and Writing Workshop

Kirkus Reviews Lauds Born Ready Book

December 10, 2014

I’m very proud to announce that Kirkus Reviews, the gold standard for reviews of books by independent publishers, has released a positive review of Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias.

Here’s the subjective portion of the review:
“His dogged research, including his conducting new interviews and mining previously produced materials, has yielded a well-rounded portrait of Bias and those who are trying to make sense of his death. A cautionary sports tale that shows how one life unexpectedly ended can affect so many others.”

Here’s the full review.

Kirkuc_review_Ungrady_ Born Ready_ The Mixed Legacy Of Len Bias

RELEASE – Author to Speak about Legacy of Len Bias at T.C. Williams H.S. Fall Sports Banquet

November 26, 2014

BornReadyLogo_redyellow

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Local Author to Speak about Life Skills as part of Born Ready Project

The T.C. Williams High School athletic department will offer a unique presentation at its Fall sports banquet next week. Local author and journalist Dave Ungrady will speak to the school’s athletes about lessons from the rich legacy of Len Bias and will teach them decision making skills.

The presentation, sponsored by T.C. Williams High School athletics and the Born Ready Project, will take place Monday, December 2 at T.C. Williams High School’s auditorium. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

William Campbell, a board member for Alexandria City Public Schools, helped facilitate the event. The event is funded by the Born Ready Project’s GoFundMe Campaign, which pays for speeches to students in underserved communities. T.C. Williams High School will not have to contribute any funds to pay for presentation.

Ungrady developed the Born Ready Project from his fourth book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias. Ungrady was a soccer player and scholarship track and field athlete at the University of Maryland in the late 1970s. A journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, among others, he is the author of four books on sports. For more information, go to daveungrady.com.

The book, published in 2011, has been approved by Prince George’s County School’s for use in its libraries, due in part to its messages of resilience and the importance of decision making. Those two topics are the focus of the Born Ready Project, which teaches life skills primarily to teenagers and young adults.

Born Ready books will be available for purchase at the event. All proceeds benefit the Born Ready Project.

For more information, contact:
STEVE COLANTUONI
T.C. Williams High School
Executive Associate Principal, Athletics and Student Activities
703-824-6860
scolantu@acps.k12.va.us

Dave Ungrady
GoGrady Media/Born Ready Project
703-282-5259
djungrady27@gmail.com

Nats Manager Williams Owns a Big Decision

October 6, 2014

Sports competitions provide an environment for some of the toughest decision-making situations. And baseball managers, more than coaches or managers in other sports, face more tough decisions on a daily basis. This is due in large part to the game’s heavily unscripted format . Players and coaches are forced to react to many twists and turns that unsettle the best laid plans.

A case in point–the Nationals vs. the Giants in game 2 of the National League Division Series Saturday night. After Nats starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman walked a batter with two outs and a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, Nats manager Matt Williams chose to replace Zimmerman with closer Drew Storen, who quickly gave up a hit that scored the tying run. The Nats lost in 18 innings and fell two games down in the best of five series.

Williams explains the decision in this column by Mike Wise in the Washington Post. You may disagree with Williams’ reasoning–I’m sure thousands of Nats fans do not approve–but you must give Williams credit for one thing, and that is owning the decision.

Owning a decision is one of the six tools of sound decision making. It’s important to embrace a decision that went awry because there will be lessons from that decision that will help in the future. And by owning a decision, even one Williams made that led to such high levels of disappointment for so many, you earn the respect of your peers and enhance your credibility.

In the professional world, few things are more important to securing a sound legacy and an admired reputation.

 

 

BRP presents USA World Cup Watch Series in NoVA with U.S. Legend Eddie Pope

June 16, 2014

Finnegan’s Irish Pub in Ashburn and Herndon to Host Events

U.S. international Eddie Pope, a three-time participant in the FIFA World Cup, will make special appearance in Northern Virginia during the final two U.S. FIFA World Cup games group games:  the U.S.-Portugal game on Sunday, June 22 at Finnegan’s Irish Pub in Ashburn and the U.S.-Germany game on Thursday, June 26 at Finnegan’s Irish Pub in Herndon. Pope will discuss his World Cup experiences and his thoughts about the current World Cup in Brazil. 

The event in Ashburn will begin at 5 p.m. (the U.S. game starts at 6 p.m.) and the event in Herndon will begin at 11 a.m. (the U.S. game starts at noon). 

Pope is one of the most accomplished U.S. players in history. He was a defender on the U.S. National team from 1996 to 2006, starting five games at the World Cup in 1998 and 2002. He also was a member of the 2006 World Cup team. Pope played 11 seasons in Major League Soccer, including six seasons at D.C. United, where he won three MLS Cup titles. Eddie was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.

Local best-selling author and journalist Dave Ungrady will host the event and interview Pope. Ungrady is the author of four books, including Unlucky: A Season of Struggle In Minor League Professional Soccer and Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias. Along with Pope, he is a travel coach at Loudoun Soccer, and is a former radio play-by-play voice of D.C. United. The event is presented in part by the Born Ready Project, which promotes good decision making and resilience to teenagers and young adults.

Giveaways include D.C. United tickets and soccer books.

 Stay tuned for updates. 

50 for 50 – Len Bias’ Golden Moments #22…Cocaine Introduction

October 21, 2013

Through Nov. 18, Len Bias’ 50th birthday, the Born Ready Blog will provide each day a new item that helped define Len’s legacy, 50 in total.

Len Bias introduces Chris Washburn to cocaine

In early April, 1986, Bias started talking with his mentor Johnnie Walker about being part of the ACC Barnstorming Tour, an annual series of games that pit the top conference players who are planning to enter the upcoming NBA draft against teams of top high-school players or other local all-stars. The games, which were played in North Carolina, were not meant to be as competitive as an ACC contest. Other players who took part in the tour included Dawkins and Alarie of Duke and Brad Daugherty of North Carolina. All were later selected in the first round of the 1986 NBA draft.

Bias, according to Chris Washburn,  found time on the trip to use cocaine. Washburn, then a sophomore at N.C. State, met Bias during the Wolfpack’s trip to play Maryland in College Park in late January. He says they became good friends. Some three months later, Washburn claims, Bias introduced him to cocaine. Washburn says he was back at school after N.C. State’s loss to Kansas in the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight and was planning to go to class the next day when he was awakened by a knock on his door at 3 a.m. It was Bias, who was in the area while on the Barnstorming Tour, and Charles Logan, a former basketball coach at St. Augustine College in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Usually I didn’t wake up at 3 a.m. but it was Len Bias coming into my room,” he says. “I didn’t use cocaine until that time. But I didn’t want to be the only one not trying it. It was a big part of it that Len asked me to try it.”

After he became addicted to cocaine during his rookie season with Golden State, he played only two seasons, with three different teams, and received a lifetime suspension from the league in 1989 after failing a drug test three times. From 1991 to 1994, Washburn spent time in prison for drug-related offenses. He later played professional basketball in Europe and Puerto Rico as well as the Continental Basketball Association and the United States Basketball League, while still addicted to cocaine. Washburn stopped using cocaine in 2000 and now speaks to youth about the perils of drugs.

Bias_cover_pngExcerpted from the book, Born Ready: the Mixed Legacy of Len Bias

Learn about the Born Ready Project that teaches life skills, using Len’s legacy as a teaching tool.

BornReadyLogo_Finalv2b (1)Find out about the Born Ready Hoops Festival  Nov. 22-24, that will honor Len’s legacy as a basketball player.

Born Ready Hoops Festival to Honor Len Bias’ Legacy

September 28, 2013

I am proud and pleased to announce that the first Born Ready Hoops Festival will be held Nov. 22-24 at the University of Maryland in College Park and Northwestern High School in Adelphi, MD. The selection of those venues is significant. Len Bias attended both schools, and the event recognizes Len’s rich legacy.

My company, GoGrady Media, will be working with Urban Youth Incorporated and the Potomac Valley AAU to organize a unique youth basketball event. The Born Ready Project will be featured prominently at the event. I will be making a Born Ready Project presentation on decision making, free for all players, coaches and parents. I will also be signing my book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias.

BornReadyLogo_Finalv2b (1)Team competitions include 5 v 5 and 3 v 3 tournaments. Also, to replicate the way Len played the game, we are planning to stage a slam dunk contest, vertical jump contest and a skills contest.

Most importantly, we will be establishing a scholarship in Len’s honor from tournament proceeds. (more details to come).

Find out more about the event from the Born Ready Hoops Festival Flyer.

Register for the 5 v 5 event.  Registration information for other events is forthcoming.

A Chance Meeting and a Rewarding Assignment

September 6, 2013
The front page of the Washington Post Magazine story on E.B. Henderson, pictured holding the ball.

The front page of the Washington Post Magazine story on E.B. Henderson, pictured holding the ball.

When Edwin Henderson told me about the accomplishments of his grandfather E.B. Henderson during a dinner conversation in April  2012, the story intrigued me. Edwin explained how E.B. was considered the “grandfather of black basketball” for his efforts to introduce basketball to blacks and to educate them about the sport in the early 1900s.

Edwin joined about a dozen of us for a meal in the lounge of the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.  We had gathered to discuss final preparations for the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony later that evening. I was to introduce Len Bias, one of several former D.C. hoops greats honored that evening.

I had never heard of E.B. Henderson before that night. Speaking with pride, Edwin calmly and patiently tried to educate me about him. He mentioned that he was trying to get his grandfather inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  By coincidence we sat next to each other, and I wonder if that had not happened, would Edwin have engaged me so passionately about E.B.?

Truth be told, I was focused on other matters and at the time and I failed to fully embrace the breadth of E.B.’s story. Still, I asked Edwin to let me know if he made progress with his effort to honor his grandfather, and perhaps we could collaborate on a story.  Within days he sent me an illustrated history of E.B., which I filed in my “possibles” section, and then i thought little of it.

Almost a year expired before I heard from Edwin again. In mid-February he called me, excitedly, to say the Hall of Fame had just announced the 2013 inductees, and Edwin was among them. Pitches to the Washington Post Magazine and Washingtonian Magazine soon followed and the Post by early April had agreed to publish the piece.

I was excited to secure my first piece in the Post Magazine. The Post provided my first job out of college, as a news aide, and one of my goals then was to someday write a story for the section. And I was eager to find out more about E.B. Henderson. It turned out E.B. was a complex and greatly accomplished man, not just in basketball, but for his tireless battles for racial equality and his success as an author, writer and journalist.

I soon discovered the challenges that engulfed the story. The only person alive and accessible who could offer great personal insight about E.B. was Edwin. He and his wife Nikki had accumulated lots of archived materials on E.B., and Edwin added his personal experiences with E.B. But at times, the two guarded some materials, including E.B.’s diary, that could have provided invaluable insight into the man. Edwin and Nikki hope to write a book about E.B. and were protecting some of the content. Still, their assistance was invaluable.

I was forced to rely mostly on the archived materials, which limited the amount of personality I could add to the piece. So I tried to add a strong human interest component focusing on the efforts of Edwin and Nikki, who live in Falls Church, VA in the same house E.B. built. To secure an induction,  they started compiling materials for a proposal in 2004 and submitted the first bid in 2005. Along the way, their friendship turned into a romance, and they are now married. The two were called to represent E.B. at a press conference announcing the Hall of Fame’s selections in April, and they will represent E.B. at his induction ceremony on September 8.

Initially I wrote heavily about Edwin and Nikki’s efforts to secure the Hall bid for E.B., but the Post decided to focus on E.B., since they had never published a feature about him. So a lot of Edwin and Nikki’s story will have to be told in other platforms.

While doing research I found that hardly anyone could talk with authority about E.B. Even Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in the NBA and member of the Hall of Fame who grew up in Alexandria, VA in the mid-1900s, could not recall E.B.’s impact on the game. I could find no contemporary basketball figure from the D.C. area who knew enough about E.B. to comment credibly for the story.

I did find Ben Jobe, who talked with passion about E.B. Jobe won more than 500 games as a college basketball head coach, mostly at black colleges, and is a scout for the New York Knicks. Jobe found out about E.B. from  John McLendon, a Naismith Hall of Fame inductee for his contributions as a coach of black college basketball teams. McLendon has been called the father of black basketball. He also was a mentor to Jobe. The two often talked about basketball history when they shared long drives on recruiting trips while coaching at different colleges. Henderson was a recurring topic.

“[McLendon] said, ‘if I’m the father of black basketball, E.B. Henderson is the grandfather of black basketball,” says Jobe. “He saw him as a pioneer and an honorable man who was trying to elevate African Americans through basketball. He referred to him as a saintly man who wreaked of reverence. He talked about him like he was Moses.”

I applaud Edwin for his persistence, parting the political seas that for a time muddled E.B.’s path to a Hall of Fame induction. And I thank Edwin for introducing E.B.’s story to me at that dinner at the Capital Hilton. Writing about E.B. was a challenging and enlightening experience. I hope my work adequately reflects the rich legacy of such a great man.

Go to Dave’s website

Find out more about the Born Ready Project and Dave’s speaking.

Read this great book about the history of Black Basketball, Hot Potato, by Bob Kuska.