Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Music in the locker room

"I am used to players who are very focused, very concentrated, so when I came to England it was a big surprise to hear music in our locker room. In Italy, coaches are not happy if people talk, let alone have music. We had to stay focused. And it is not even good music. Bad music, s*** music, rap music."

-- Chelsea's Italian head coach Carlo Ancelotti, who decided to "have an open mind" and allow the pregame music to continue.

Monday, September 28, 2009

US U20s look to make adjustments

The US Under-20 national team look to rebound from their opening game loss to Germany in the FIFA Under-20 World Championships.

Soccernet's Brent Latham looks at some of the potential changes in tactics in personnel in store for tomorrow's match versus Cameroon.

In order for the U.S. to improve, and stand a chance of taking three points, against the Africans, the midfield will not only need to close those spaces, but will need to take advantage of possession and improve its passing. All of which makes Bryan Arguez a good bet to start. The Hertha Berlin reserve came on in the second half Saturday and stabilized the midfield to some degree, holding the ball and distributing well to the attack.

The Dutch coach may also opt for old standbys like Houston Dynamo midfielder Danny Cruz, a regular on the team throughout qualifying who didn't play on Saturday. FC Dallas forward Marosevic, who has led the team in scoring throughout the two-year U-20 cycle, may also see action given the team's meager output of just two shots on goal in the first match.

Rongen may be forced to make at least one change in the back line, as well. Davies, who captained the team on Saturday until being forced out in the 34th minute with a repeat of a head injury sustained in his last match with club team FC Dallas, was headed to see a specialist Sunday. The MLS regular is not expected to play against Cameroon, and after a second head injury in less than a month, may be out for the rest of the tournament.


Altidore adjust to life in the EPL

Jozy Altidore appears to be settling in at Hull City of the English Premier League, and was interviewed recently by LA Times' Chuck Culpepper. Altidore references his new life in the Premiership.

He marvels at the pace: "I just think the league has an intensity about it and has a way about it that there's no other way to play in the league. You have to play at a high intensity or you're going to be punished." He marvels at the environment: "I played my first game, and just the energy, it was electrifying. . . . I think the players kind of feed off it and find a kind of second or third wind."
He marvels at the players: "The smallest guy on the field will head-butt you. . . . It's just gritty and just different. . . . They're not naive players." And he marvels at the fans: "There'll be fans walking by you in the city when you're with a friend and you're not even thinking about it and, 'Hey, you better win on Saturday!' It just shows you, it's a different type of responsibility" for a player.


Friday, September 25, 2009

USA Hockey Looks to Conquer the World the Old-fashioned Way

Herb Brooks captured the imagination of sports fans everywhere with his US Olympic Hockey team's gold medal in 1980. Not only did his team of amateurs win gold, but they did so with buying into a team concept of quick movement and passing that was foreign to American hockey fans.

Brian Burke, the general manager of the US Olympic hockey program, also brings a different and new blueprint to win gold in Vancouver - this time, though, it is built around a rugged and physical style that is considered more 'old school'. MATTHEW FUTTERMAN of the Wall Street Journal analyses the change of philosophy within USA Hockey.

Brian Burke, the general manager of the U.S. Olympic hockey program, has a new plan to win gold in Vancouver. Forget the graceful, athletic style of play that dominates on Olympic ice. He's planning to conquer the world the old-fashioned way: by hitting people.

During his three decades in professional hockey, Mr. Burke has become the ultimate architect of teams that don't just win but are punishing to play, such as the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks, who led the league in fights and penalty minutes. Mr. Burke doesn't want his opponents simply to lose. He wants their postgame soreness to remind them just how unpleasant losing was. Anyone searching for grace and artistry should tune in to figure skating.

"I think every game I watch should be more physical," Mr. Burke said during a recent media summit in Chicago.


Preview - US Under-20s prep for World Cup

Paul Kennedy of Soccer America previews the United States Under-20 team as they head into the FIFA Under-20 World Championships.

Rongen's U-20s are surely the least fancied U.S. team to play in the world championships in a generation. A core of each U-20 team comes from the U-17 team two years earlier, but the 2007 U.S. U-17 team was the weakest since the residency program was established in Bradenton, Fla.

Five players -- Josh Lambo, Sheanon Williams, Jared Jeffrey, Shea and Cruz -- were part of the U.S. U-17 team that fell to Germany two years ago in the round of 16 in South Korea. Aaron Maund played for Trinidad & Tobago.

You probably have to go back to the 1993 tournament to find a similar U.S. team. Its performance in Australia should give Rongen's boys considerable hope. All Bobby Howe's team did was beat European champion Turkey by the score of 6-0 in its opening game -- with a hat trick from the never-to-heard-from-again Chris Faklaris -- and advance to the quarterfinals.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lack Of Reserve League Taking Toll on Developing Professionals

I have been very outspoken in the past in reference to Major League Soccer really dropping the ball in reference to player development by doing away with its Reserve Division.

Andrea Canales from Goal.com wrote an excellent article about not only how the absence of the Reserve Division is stunting the development of the young American professional player, but also negatively affecting our United States Under-20 National team.

Though some MLS coaches (notably former U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, who complained recently about the difficulty of bringing back recovering players like Edson Buddle to game speed without reserve league games to help the process) have waxed nostalgic for the reserve program for some time, it's important to realize that the whole venture was in many ways a complete disaster.

First instituted in 2005 and killed off at the end of the '08 season, the MLS reserve league was underfunded, badly organized and capricious with its rules. Publicity-wise, it hurt the league to have the painfully low salaries of the bottom-tier developmental players publicized, although many were still eager to work other jobs in return for getting a shot at a professional career. Guest players were often signed at the last minute to field complete teams, with some clubs pressing administrative staff into service. The reserve games never made any money as most of the matches were free to the public.

Pretty much the only thing that could be worse than the MLS reserve league would be to have none at all.

Of course, that's the direction the short-sighted MLS leaders took. On the surface, it was a smart cost-cutting move that streamlined the league. Beneath that money-centric shallowness, however, the entire premise of MLS -- to develop the game in North America -- was being undercut in a cynical gesture.

Hopefully the league will look at developing academies as a major step in helping develop young players for the first team, but will realise that the only true way to develop our young professional is by reviving its Reserve Division.

Williams states his case with victories

Could Richie Williams be the answer for the Red Bulls? He has a 6-4-2 record as the interm head coach, and as Kristian Dyer reports, Williams is certainly making a case for himself.

Too bad the Red Bulls probably will deem it fitting to bring in a "name" European coach to take over the team next season. After all, this is a Red Bulls franchise that has poured nearly $300 million dollars into the team in just four years of ownership. Williams, despite the fact that he never played overseas, is the perfect fit. The Red Bulls seem bent on bringing in current Portugal national team manager Carlos Queiroz to take over the job -- he who led the MetroStars into the playoffs in 1996.

But Williams has the right experience for the job.

All told, Williams appeared 20 times with the national team, providing a tough presence as a no-nonsense, physical midfielder. After eight years in the league -- Williams began play during MLS's inaugural season in 1996 -- he moved to his alma mater, Virginia, for a stint as an assistant coach. In 2006, he joined first-year coach Mo Johnston with the Red Bulls. By June, he was named interim head coach, and he returned to his assistant role when Bruce Arena was named to the head-coach position in August. Since then, Williams has assisted Arena and more recently the disastrous Juan Carlos Osorio.

And now it's his time to shine.

Williams has been a success everywhere he has been, from his youth career in New Jersey, to his collegiate career at the University of Virginia, to his professional career with DC United and the US National team. Maybe it is his chance to prove that he can find that same success as a head coach.


Kidd given Man City academy role

Brian Kidd is back doing what he does best, as he has returned to Manchester City as technical development manager at the Premier League club's academy.

The former Manchester United and Man City standout played an integral part in developing the young nucleus that led Manchester United to success in the 1990's, including Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary & Phil Neville and Nicky Butt.

Kidd, 60, played for City in the 1970s and will coach the youngsters and run the in-service training of the staff.

He spent last season as assistant boss at Portsmouth, where he and manager Paul Hart kept the club in the top flight after the exit of Tony Adams


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Evans is model of team-first attitude

Sigi Schmid has created a tremendous culture within the Seattle Sounders FC, and his players buy into what he is preaching.

A great example of this is Brad Evans - after returning from a stint with the US National team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, he found himself out of the lineup after Peter Vagenas had stepped into his role.

Rather than complaining or causing a problem, as the Seattle Times reports, Evans behaves in a professional demeanor that speaks volumes about the 'team first' atmosphere within the Sounders locker room.

"Hopefully, I'll be back on the field in time for starting the playoffs," Evans said. "It's all for the team. I don't feel left out at all. I'm still contributing and I practice day in and day out putting in the effort. It's a long season. That's why you have more than 11 guys on a team."


Why Ancelotti shouts at his Chelsea squad in Italian

Carlo Ancelotti's English has improved significantly since he's arrived in London this past summer, but when it comes to giving his Chelsea team a rollicking, The Spoiler reports that it comes in his native Italian.

“Only one time have they upset me, in a friendly against Reading. We were losing 2-0 at half-time and I wanted to be angry, but I didn’t have the words to convey that emotion. Ray (Wilkins, Chelsea assistant) said I should use Italian and then they can see by the look on my face that I am upset. When I am angry, I have to speak in Italian."


'two-horse race' says Ballack

Big derby wins over the weekend from Chelsea (over Spurs) and Manchester United (over Man City) have left the two teams in the pole position in the English Premier League.

Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack raves about the influence of Carlo Ancelotti to the Telegraph, and about the two-team race between his side and their rivals from Manchester.

“Since he has been here we have played very well. Under him we changed the system – which gives us more possession and makes the game feel a little bit more comfortable even if we don’t create one chance after another, because we know the situation will come."

"It looks a little bit like a two-horse race but we don't underestimate anybody. Man City did well until now. Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool are all teams that can have a run any time of the season."

"But United have a lot of good years behind them with the Champions League win and three title wins in the Premier League, which will give them a lot of confidence."

“That’s what he always tells us – you have to wait for your chance and you can see it now when they come, we are deadly. He gives the team a lot of confidence.”


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

'Welcome to Manchester'

As the Manchester derby heats up for this weekend's clash between Manchester United and Manchester City, you can clearly see that battle lines have been drawn.

This billboard of recent City signee Carlos Tevez in his new colors has sparked a lot of controversy on the Trafford side of town.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Problem with Women's Pro Soccer

The Women's Professional Soccer League has not generated much interest from the casual sports fan, let alone the average soccer fan. Soccer America's Mike Woitalla examines what problems lie within trying to develop a women's professional soccer league.

The first season of the Women's Professional Soccer league produced smaller crowds and bigger financial losses than anticipated.

Of course, the nation's economic downturn has been blamed, and the analyses of the league's struggles have focused on off-the-field issues.

Yes, media coverage is difficult to get as newsroom staffs keep shrinking. Sponsorships are a hard sell in this economic climate. And WPS's attempts to tap into the lucrative youth soccer market is tricky business. By launching camps, it competes with and antagonizes the youth clubs and organizations whose players it's trying to get into the stadiums.

But what really matters is whether the soccer on the field is entertaining enough to draw crowds and keep them coming back.

The primary customers for WPS are girl soccer players - and the parents and coaches who deem it worthwhile to take their daughters out to watch potential role models.

The notion is that girls will be inspired by watching stars of their own gender. They'll be encouraged to watch more soccer - a key to player development - because they'll enjoy watching WPS games.

But what do young, aspiring soccer players see when they attend WPS games?

What they rarely see is goals. The league averaged 2.14 goals per game. That's even lower than Major League Soccer's current 2.54 production.

There are problems here. For one, if a coach or a parent is taking girls to WPS games to learn by observing, what are they learning? They're certainly not seeing enough scoring to figure out how that's done.

Come watch WPS to see good defending! How enticing is that, especially as there is no shortage of stifling anti-soccer on the market already?

Are the girls attending WPS games being entertained when a goal occurs only once every 42 minutes? That is simply an unacceptable rate. More than a third of WPS's 70 regular-season games featured just one goal or were scoreless ties.

Defense-minded, low-scoring soccer plagues men's soccer. Wins by 1-0 might be celebrated by fans with a deep allegiance to the winning club. But such allegiance doesn't exist in a new, American league. And the youngsters of today's America have so many entertainment options they're unlikely to find thrills from soccer games played out like chess matches.

That's not to mention the adults who take them to the games. Often they are already spending much of their time on soccer, bringing their children to games and practices a few days a week. If they spend even more time and money on soccer by attending a pro game, they'd better be rewarded with some major entertainment.

Yes, of course, low-scoring soccer games can be entertaining. But rarely. Who would opt for a 1-0 match over a 3-2 game? The coach might. But not the fan.

WPS teams had a chance to prove themselves above an attitude to the game based on preventing rather than producing goals. WPS could have distinguished itself making soccer's most thrilling moments - the goals! - more frequent and offering an alternative to the depressingly downward scoring trend we have seen in the men's game. Instead, WPS delivered even less than the men.

WPS collected the world's best female players ever to play in one league - and they produced one of the lowest scoring leagues the world has ever seen. Imagine how that reflects on the sport and women's soccer in general. Here's the world's best - and they rarely put the ball in the net.

WPS owners, I imagine, are spending the offseason reevaluating their marketing strategy. But they should also be questioning their coaches on how and why they took a low-scoring sport to new depths.

The coaches' responses are predictable. They will defend their defensive approach. They'll say their jobs are on the line if they don't get results. And that in soccer it's easier to get results by playing cautiously. That's when their bosses should make it clear that there will no jobs if there aren't more goals.

But because coaches aren't easily enticed to make the game more fun and exciting, WPS should go a step further and introduce a point system that rewards goalscoring.

The friendly autograph sessions and the lure of female role models isn't enough to make WPS a success.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Aguirre developing 'warriors'

Javier Aguirre has been the focal point of Mexico's resurgence in 2010 World Cup qualifying, and Goal.com interviewed Mexican star winger Andres Guardado about how Aguirre has revitalized the Mexican team.

A little over three months ago the Mexican National team was at a state of emergency. Sven-Goran Eriksson was driving the Mexican National team into the deepest pitfall they had ever seen. But then a change was made. A savior came along in Javier Aguirre. His objective was simple: qualify Mexico to the World Cup.

So far so good for Javier Aguirre who has turned around a defunct Mexican program in no time at all. This the second time that Aguirre has done it and he says there is no special way of doing it. Mexico’s winger, Andres Guardado, also admits that there is no special methodology in Aguirre’s work, it’s just who he is.

“We all know the type of personality that Aguirre has we all know his ways of working because he transmits it perfectly to us. It’s his fierceness and character. He mentioned when he got here that he wanted 11 warriors inside the pitch and I think were getting there,” Guardado told Mediotiempo.com.

Guardado also admitted that Aguirre gives them the motivation needed to face tough opponents like Costa Rica.

“We are attacking the way he wants us to because it is obviously an important factor. He is someone you have in front and that always transmits that you are better than your rival and that quality exists. Everything we do on the pitch is reflected back to him,” Guardado explained.

Interview: Bob Bradley

SI's Grant Wahl does an outstanding job of gaining some insight from US national team head coach Bob Bradley, and really outlines some important components in Bradley's philosophies-

• Playing hard games matters. "As players move from one level to another, they have to grow," Bradley says. As you'll see below, there is a clear awareness on Bradley's part that what works in CONCACAF may not work against the world's best teams at the World Cup. That's why the U.S. has played tougher games outside of CONCACAF than in the previous World Cup cycle, whether they were friendlies (Spain, England, Argentina, etc.) or tournaments (Confederations Cup, Copa América). That's why you can be certain that the U.S.' last three games before the 2010 World Cup will be against harder teams than the '06 pre-World Cup friendlies (Morocco, Venezuela and Latvia).

• Defense has to be a priority, even (and especially) for the world's best teams. Even if you have a ton of skill, Bradley says, the great teams do more when they lose the ball. If you ask Bradley to discuss his strategies for hard games -- as I do below for the U.S.' 2-0 upset of Spain and recent 2-1 loss to Mexico -- he will always begin by talking defense.

CONCACAF - win and we're in!

After the 1-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago last night, the United States moves into the top spot in the CONCACAF region for 2010 World Cup qualifying.

While in a position to control their own destiny, Soccer America's Paul Kennedy outlines the scenarios that must play out for the US to secure a bid to South Africa.

Wednesday's Hexagonal results could not have been more favorable to the USA. Its 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador's 1-0 victory over Costa Rica -- on Rudis Corrales' goal in stoppage time -- moved the USA into first place in the Hexagonal and opened up a four-point lead over the sinking Ticos.

The results give the USA multiple ways to close the deal next month, but do pose a quandary for Coach Bob Bradley. Does he go for a win against Honduras on Oct. 10 in San Pedro Sula or save key players for the game four days later against Costa Rica in Washington when a win or tie will clinch a berth in the World Cup finals.

First things first, Wednesday's win clinched no worse than fourth place, but considering Argentina looks like it might finish fifth in South America, no Concacaf will want to finish fourth and risk a playoff date with the Argentines, with or without Diego Maradona in charge.

Here's what it take for the USA to clinch one of the top three spots in the Hexagonal, in order of ease ...

(1) Tie Costa Rica in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14; or
(2) Beat Costa Rica in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14; or

(3) Beat Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Oct. 10.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

ESPN SportsNation Poll: Getting our Kicks

ESPN's SportsNation has spoken in regards to what the average american sports fan thinks about soccer, and it certainly seems like this past summer has increased the interest level of our game-

Which is more likely in the next 10 years?

Cubs win the World Series - 40%

Danica wins the Indy 500 - 37%

U.S. wins the World Cup - 16%

Raiders win the Super Bowl - 7%

How much more would you care if America had international success in soccer -

Too much - 10%

A lot - 32%

A little bit - 36%

Not at all - 22%

Will Pro Soccer ever become a 'Big Five' sport in the US?

No - 63%

Yes - 37%

If Yes, what will it displace?

NASCAR - 55%

NHL - 40%

NBA - 5%

What do you consider the world's biggest sporting event?

Olympics - 40%

World Cup - 33%

Super Bowl - 27%

Laws of Leadership

The 8 Laws of Leadership were displayed on All Pro Dad. Dr. William Cohen in his book, The Stuff of Heroes, writes that the eight universal laws of leadership are:

1. Maintain absolute integrity.
2. Know your stuff.
3. Declare your expectations.
4. Show uncommon commitment.
5. Expect positive results.
6. Take care of your people.
7. Put duty before self.
8. Get out in front.

Be careful about locker room bulletin board material

Unfortunately for Slaven Bilic, the Croatian coach didn't heed that warning prior to sending out comments that have ended up in the England team locker room.

As Matt Hughes of the Times Online reports, Fabio Capello has thanked Slaven Bilic for giving England all the motivation they need to win tonight's World Cup qualifier at Wembley.

The Croatia coach has dismissed England as a “flawed” team still scarred by the 3-2 home defeat against his side that cost them a place at last year's European Championship and Capello is convinced that Bilic's criticism has made his job easier.

“I'm very grateful to Mr Bilic because I don't need to motivate my players for the match,” said the England manager, whose team will secure a place in South Africa with victory this evening. “Thank you Mr Bilic.

“He tried to provoke a reaction and it is the best. I have no need to motivate my players after this. It's fantastic assistance. My players are very determined, so thank you.”

Preview - Trinidad & Tobago

With an all-important World Cup qualifier on the road tonight versus Trinidad & Tobago, Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney previews the challenges ahead for the USA.

In past Hexagonals, the USA has qualified for the World Cup as early as the seventh game in the 10-match campaign, or by the eighth game on other occasions. No such guarantee is available this time around. Even a victory against Trinidad & Tobago Wednesday in Port of Spain (kickoff at 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic, Telefutura) in Game 8 will assure only fourth place, and the fourth-place finisher must play a treacherous two-game playoff against the fifth-place finisher in South America for a spot in South Africa.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

US varies from game plan, but still grinds out result

The US National team grinded out a 2-1 victory over El Salvador over the weekend in World Cup Qualifying in the CONCACAF region, but as Luke Cyphers from ESPN reported, it didn't go quite exactly as planned.

The plan all week for the U.S. soccer team ahead of its World Cup qualifier was simple: Play an attacking lineup, grab an early lead, then wear out El Salvador by possessing the ball in the midfield.

One out of three ain't bad. In fact, it was good enough for a 2-1 victory and three points, keeping the U.S. on track for a berth at next year's World Cup in South Africa.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley started an offensive-minded lineup, with Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies at forward, and the creative Benny Feilhaber alongside attack-minded Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in the midfield. Meanwhile, left back Jonathan Bornstein made several overlapping runs up the field, and right back Jonathan Spector attacked with long balls to the forwards.

Yet despite creating scoring chances early, the U.S. found a way to fall behind, on Christian Castillo's header off a Rodolfo Zelaya assist in the 32nd minute.

"I was angry," Donovan said. "We started the game pretty well and put them under a lot of pressure. We should have found a way to get a goal and then we make one mistake and they capitalize. It was frustrating."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Your best career move - humility

All Pro Dad, which is supported by Tony Dungy and the National Football League, referenced recently about management guru Jim Collins - he had studied 11 of the most successful American companies over the past 15 years. These businesses averaged more than seven times the stock returns of the general market. The most significant attribute about these businesses that Collins found is that every one of them had a modest CEO.

There's no doubt doing your job and doing it well has a significant, positive impact on your family. So what is essential in climbing that corporate ladder? Management guru Jim Collins studied 11 of the most successful American companies over the past 15 years. These businesses averaged more than seven times the stock returns of the general market. The most significant attribute about these businesses that Collins found is that every one of them had a modest CEO. Collins shares that the starting point of a great company is a humble leader: "When these successful CEOs do something right, they walk you over to a window and point to all the reasons (and especially all the other people) 'out there' contributing to their success. When they do something wrong, they walk to a mirror and assume the blame themselves." Want to go far in your career? Walk humbly.

Why Osorio Left

Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer spoke to Juan Carlos Osorio in his first interview since stepping down as head coach of the New York Red Bulls.

"When I stepped aside, I felt they would be relieved and there was a sense of urgency," Osorio said. "I am not surprised the team won two games."

"I expected that to happen. There was no pressure. They used to play with more urgency, with more desire, with more passion."

"I felt they were feeling pressure to keep me in the job. They were panicking and making the wrong decisions all the time."

US vs El Salvador Preview

The US National team have an all-important World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador on Saturday night, and Jeff Carlisle of ESPN SoccerNet has a preview of what lies ahead.

The U.S. hasn't lost a home qualifier since Sept. 1, 2001, when it fell to Honduras 3-2. Since then, the Americans have gone 16-0-1 at home, the lone blemish being a 1-1 semifinal round tie versus Jamaica during the 2006 campaign that occurred after passage to the final stage had been secured.

But all it would take is one slipup against El Salvador on Saturday, and the Americans could find themselves staring at a likely fourth-place finish, with a playoff series against a difficult South American opponent their consolation prize. It's a scenario the Yanks are very much aware of, and keen to avoid.

"I wouldn't say we're worried," said U.S. forward Brian Ching. "But we do understand this game is extremely important, especially because we didn't pick up points in the last game."

'Who Packed Your Parachute?'

Mac Anderson and his Simple Truths company send out tremendous daily emails, and I have always shared this special story with our players here at the University of Evansville. No story illustrates humility better than 'who packed your parachute?'

As a leader, do you honor and appreciate the power of WE? Do you stop to thank and recognize the members of your team? Do you consistently show an attitude of gratitude?

I recently read a great story about Captain Charles Plumb, a graduate from the Naval Academy, whose plane, after 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam, was shot down. He parachuted to safety, but was captured, tortured and spent 2,103 days in a small box-like cell.

After surviving the ordeal, Captain Plumb received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and two Purple Hearts, and returned to America and spoke to many groups about his experience and how it compared to the challenges of every day life.

Shortly after coming home, Charlie and his wife were sitting in a restaurant. A man rose from a nearby table, walked over and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

Surprised that he was recognized, Charlie responded, "How in the world did you know that?" The man replied, "I packed your parachute." Charlie looked up with surprise. The man pumped his hand, gave a thumbs-up, and said, "I guess it worked!"

Charlie stood to shake the man's hand, and assured him, "It most certainly did work. If it had not worked, I would not be here today."

Charlie could not sleep that night, thinking about the man. He wondered if he might have seen him and not even said, "Good morning, how are you?" He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent bending over a long wooden table in the bottom of the ship, carefully folding the silks and weaving the shrouds of each chute, each time holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn't know.

Plumb then began to realize that along with the physical parachute, he needed mental, emotional and spiritual parachutes. He had called on all these supports during his long and painful ordeal.

As a leader, how many times a day, a week, a month, do we pass up the opportunity to thank those people in our organization who are "packing our parachutes?"