Category Archives: group culture

From Passive to Powerful

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Mike Dilbeck is the founder of RESPONSE ABILITY and speaks to audiences around the country about bystander intervention and courageous leadership. Brother Dilbeck is an initiate of Sigma Nu’s Lambda Epsilon Chapter at Texas Christian University.

Like many of you, I have been paying close attention to all the news regarding the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma. As someone who visits campuses and speaks to tens of thousands of college students each year, I often think I have heard it all. However, I wasn’t prepared for this. Maybe it was because I had just seen the inspiring footage over the weekend of the tens of thousands of people marching in Selma, Alabama. Maybe it was because of the tears I shed as I listened to our president’s remarks in front of that bridge. Maybe it’s because the actions were just outright abhorrent and, as OU President Boren swiftly and powerfully said, “disgraceful.”

Even amidst all of my personal feelings, I know this is not who we are as members of the national fraternity and sorority community. I know this is not what Sigma Alpha Epsilon is truly about. I know this is not what represents the millions of us committed to dignity and respect for all. However, this is an opportunity for all of us all to pause and reflect on why something so divisive and offensive can happen at all.

There are many different ways to look at this incident and, rather than address the actions of the perpetrators, which most people will do, I want to explore the actions of another group of people involved: the bystanders. Anyone who was on that bus at the time of this racist chant and wasn’t participating in the activity is a bystander. Whether they wanted to be or not. Whether they chose to be or not. Whether they liked it or not. The simple fact is: when we see or hear something — anything — being done or said, we are a bystander.

What kind of bystander are you?

Now, here’s the question for them and all of us to ponder: what kind of bystander are we going to be? When we witness or hear anything that is inappropriate, offensive, unsafe, unhealthy, unlawful, dishonorable, or just plain wrong, we have a momentary choice to make. Are we going to stay silent, walk away, or laugh along? In other words, be a passive bystander? Or, are we going to choose to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right? In other words, be a powerful bystander? This is the choice we have — and we do make a choice, whether we experience making one or not.

We don’t know everything that happened on that bus this past weekend, but what has already become clear is there were both types of bystanders in reaction to the offensive and hurtful actions of a few. First, we know of at least one powerful bystander — someone who chose to take out their smartphone and record video of the chant. Then, hand that video over to someone who could do something with it to make a difference. By now, you already know that this video has gone viral and caused the SAE chapter being closed, all brothers moving out of the house, and the expulsion of two students. This action has also elevated the already-existing national conversation on race.

The reality is that we are expecting college students to do something that many will argue they are not developmentally ready to do.

As the founder of RESPONSE ABILITY, a program on bystander intervention and courageous leadership, I share various actions available to each of us in being a powerful bystander and intervening to prevent, end, or diffuse a problem situation. One of these actions is to do exactly what this bystander did — record video. This can be a powerful and safe alternative to direct, in-your-face confrontation to a behavior (which is also sometimes appropriate). They made the momentary choice to go beyond whatever fear they may have had and take some form of action to intervene. What this bystander did was brilliant and very effective. What this bystander did was demonstrate courageous leadership.

Which brings us to the other bystanders on the bus that evening. I want to believe there were more students who had a gut response that this chant was wrong. Granted, there will be more details to come out and we may very well find out that others did do something. However, my skepticism — even my own cynicism — doubts that anyone did. I fear that every other bystander that evening chose to be passive.

The reality is that we are expecting college students to do something that many will argue they are not developmentally ready to do. We are asking them to go beyond a deep-seated and real fear of standing up to their fellow peers and taking great risks in doing so. We are asking them to be bigger than they know themselves to be. Yes, we are asking this — not only of them, but of us all. Even though these students are at a distinct time in their lives, it takes something from all of us to do what we are not comfortable doing. There is nothing comfortable about intervening, regardless of age. Nothing! For many of us, this may be the greatest fear we have. Yet, none of this excuses us from tolerating the abusive, offensive, hurtful, and violent behavior we witness in our lives.

Are you going to give yourself permission to go from passive to powerful in order to be the man you have committed yourself to be?

To be clear, I am not telling you what choice you should make — this is up to you. My mission in life is to wake us all up to the opportunity we have to go past that which stops us in making the difference we are out to make. To empower us all to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right. To give us all permission to go from passive to powerful.

So, whether you are a college student, a parent, an employee, an employer, a spouse, a community activist, or any other role in life, you are a Sigma Nu. You are a man who has given your oath to the values of Love, Honor, and Truth. No matter how long ago it was when you were initiated as a Knight in Sigma Nu, you took a lifelong oath to uphold — and live by — these values.

Which brings us to my final question: are you going to live these values in your life at all times — or just when it is convenient and comfortable? Are you going to let these values guide you and empower you to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right — or turn your back on them and experience the shame and guilt from doing so? Are you going to give yourself permission to go from passive to powerful in order to be the man you have committed yourself to be?

When we do live from these values and make the choice to take an appropriate, effective, and safe action to intervene, I call this courageous leadership. And, I do truly believe in our ability to respond to any form of discrimination, sexual violence, corruption, cheating, bullying, hazing, and other issues by going beyond our shame and fear to demonstrate courage in momentary choices.

For colleagues. For family. For friends. For strangers.

In organizations. In business. In community. In life.

If you would like to empower yourself — and others — in making this kind of difference, I invite you to join The Revolution for Courageous Leadership by visiting our website. Here, you will get exclusive access to valuable and free resources, including the recently-published eBook, “The Manifesto for Courageous Leadership.” Mike’s personal website is mikedilbeck.com.

Mike Dilbeck

Wells Ellenberg 2014 College of Chapters Keynote Address

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I can’t believe it’s been two years since I was standing in your shoes as the newly elected Commander of my chapter. At the time, I thought I had all the answers.  In retrospect, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

As you will soon discover, this year is going to be one of the most difficult and challenging of your lives. The responsibility is great; the liability, even more so.

But when the stakes are high, so too are the rewards. Tonight, I want to share some advice and perspective that will hopefully help you make the most of your term as Commander.

I want to begin by asking three simple questions. Your answer to each of these questions will be a good indicator as to how successful your term will be.

First:  Are you in this for the right reasons?

There are two types of leaders in this world: those who seek to add value to every endeavor, and those who seek to extract it.

As Commander, you should be focused on creating value for your organization by leveraging your strengths and the strengths of your members to solve problems.

If you are in this for yourself, for a line on your resume or a letter of recommendation, you will almost certainly fail.  How can you govern each act by a high sense of honor if your decision to run for office was based on dishonorable motives?  You will lose the respect of your members and ultimately yourself.

Second:  Will you be an ethical leader?

Much of your curriculum these past few days has focused on the concept of ethical leadership.  In my opinion, ethical leaders are those who lead with vision and courage.  They have a vision of a better future for their organization and are willing to make the courageous decisions along the way to turn that vision into reality.

I cannot think of a more appropriate venue that the Virginia Military Institute to share this message with you.  One of the Institute’s Latin mottoes, when translated, reads: “By vision and courage.”

Ethical leadership often involves saying “no,” and choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.  This is no easy task.  But make no mistake – your members elected you to lead; to make the difficult decisions they themselves are not willing to make.

Third:  Will you leave a lasting legacy?

Twelve months from now, at the end of your term, will your members be willing and able to fill the void you leave behind?

I am not suggesting you handpick a successor; quite the contrary. Identify those individuals who are capable of following in your footsteps. Give them opportunities to prove themselves, and provide them with support and guidance along the way. Then, let them compete for the hearts and minds of their would-be constituents. Let them prove they have the vision and courage to take your place.

One of your most important responsibilities as Commander will be to cultivate a sense of ownership amongst your members.  You may be their leader, but this is their chapter, and they are stakeholders in both its successes and its failures.

Remember:  Your obligation to excellence, at its heart, is an obligation to others.

Having considered these three questions, and their implications, you may feel a little overwhelmed or apprehensive.  Allow me to offer some words of comfort: you are not in this alone.

College of Chapters has provided you with a roadmap for success; a guidebook for achieving excellence. And, as you have seen over the past few days, the Fraternity offers a wealth of resources to help you along the way (if, of course, you choose to take advantage of them).

You will undoubtedly face adversity. And you will undoubtedly make mistakes. I did. But if you commit yourselves to leading with vision and courage, your alumni and this Fraternity will stand beside you every step of the way.

But you, and only you can make this commitment, and the time to make it is now.

Last year, your predecessors were asked to make this same commitment. Some of them chose to lead with vision and courage; others chose to maintain the status quo; to accept mediocrity; to shirk their obligation to excellence.

In particular, two Commanders from last year come to mind: one from North Carolina, the other from Ohio. Each had inherited a once-strong chapter facing serious operational deficiencies.  Each left College of Chapters with a vision, and a framework for achieving that vision, knowing that the survival of his chapter was on the line. But only one had the courage to govern his chapter with the high ideals and noble purposes of this fraternity – Love, Honor, and Truth.  The other saw his chapter’s charter suspended and its doors closed, on his watch.

Tonight, though he is not in attendance, please join me in thanking Brother Josh Cherok from the Zeta Gamma Chapter at Kent State University for his hard work and dedication to excellence.

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The question remains:  Will you follow Brother Cherok’s example and lead your chapter with vision and courage?

I want to share with you three pieces of advice that served me well during my term as Commander.

First:  Be kind.

Kindness inspires results. People enjoy working for those they enjoy working with. Whenever possible, let your members know that you respect them and appreciate their contributions. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot run a successful chapter on your own.

In their book Remarkable!, Randy Ross and David Salyers draw an important distinction between leadership and power. Leadership is about influencing others.  Power is about dominating them.  And nothing of enduring, positive value ever happens by force.

Second:  Be humble.

The position of Commander is a thankless one. Your best will never be good enough. Your achievements will be minimized and your mistakes blown out of proportion.  But, at the end of the day, if you can look back on your term confident that you left everything on the field, you can hold your head high and be proud that you did your level best.  What more could anyone ask?

In times of trial, I often look to a passage entitled “The Penalty of Leadership.” The passage comes from a 1915 Cadillac advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post. Cadillac had just introduced the first mass-produced V8 engine automobiles. The company’s competitors said they were destined to fail.  Cadillac responded:

“If the leader truly leads, he remains – the leader.  Master poet, master painter, master workman; each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives.”

Third:  Have fun.

Your experience as Commander will serve you well in the real world. And though you have taken on some real world responsibility in this new role, you are not in the real world just yet. Take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy yourselves and spend time with your friends. You will look back on college as four of the best (but also four of the shortest) years of your lives.

Take a moment and look at the person seated to your left and to your right.  Collectively, we are a diverse group of individuals representing a diverse group of chapters.  For example:

Garrett Oberst from the Epsilon Mu Chapter represents 103 members.  Tony Lee from Eta Omicron represents 49.

Jon Paul is the Delta Gamma Chapter’s 106th Commander.  Brendan Hall is Mu Psi’s 9th.

Glenn Walls leads the Iota Delta Chapter from Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Cody Wagner leads Delta Iota from Pullman, Washington.

And yet, despite these differences, each of these chapters is on pace to achieve Rock Chapter status.

The metrics we use to judge success from one campus to another vary.  But ethical leadership is the constant; vision and courage will always be the keys to success.

I want to leave you with the words of General George Patton, best known for his command of the Seventh and later the Third United States Army in the European Theater of World War II.  Patton, an alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute, is remembered for his fierce determination, capable leadership, and ability to inspire men on the battlefield.  He said, “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.”

Gentlemen – I hope you choose to lead; to lead with vision and courage; to meet and exceed your obligation to excellence. Your chapter needs you. This Fraternity needs you. And this country needs you, desperately.

I am honored to call each of you “Brother.” Good luck, God’s speed, and remember: there is no honor in mediocrity.  Honor can only be obtained through excellence.

Wells Ellenberg (Georgia) is a past Collegiate Grand Councilman and the 2012 Sigma Nu Man of the Year.

Stand Up for Sigma Nu in 2014

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

Dear Brothers,

It is with my most sincere feelings that this message finds you in good health, good spirits, and good cheer. For many, this time of year holds a special place in our hearts as a time of celebration, recognition, and reflection. We celebrate the ending of a year and the coming of another. We celebrate all that we have to be grateful for. Many of us celebrate the great moments of our faith, while a good number of others take part in other cherished cultural traditions. Perhaps most of all we celebrate the thought and firm belief that man is not forsaken and that we have only grazed the edge of our true potential in this great world. We celebrate our achievements, reflect on our losses and failures, and recognize that the start of a new year marks the start to a world of possibilities for us to reach what past Regent Joe Gilman described as Semper Ad Altum – Ever Higher.

With the year now behind us, it is also appropriate that we celebrate our great Legion of Honor. This great brotherhood has stretched across generations and continents and has not only lived another year but has thrived to push us into the start of another.

But we should always recognize that much is still to be done and accomplished.

As we celebrate 145 years of our great fraternity, we remain confronted with those who tear down the foundations of human decency and respect to replace them with malice. The cultural ill of hazing that plagues our society’s organizations and teams exists under the false premise that one should be subjugated to another. It is a premise that has been debated many times and defended out of ignorance. As members of an organization built upon the principle that men should no longer be beholden to the whims of children (for the perpetrators are far from anything else) it is our duty to lift the veil of ignorance and shine a light as bright as our beloved White Star on the damage and destruction that hazing causes.

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Let us reflect on Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, specifically the foreboding warning that the Ghost of Christmas Present extends. He reveals a boy described as ignorance and a girl described as want. “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

Brothers, ignorance is our greatest foe in this new year. It is from ignorance in which the resolve of those who would disingenuously call themselves Knights of the Legion of Honor is fostered. They are our true traitor knights. They take our solemn oath to stand for our values of Love, Honor, and Truth but they do not embrace either in their hearts or minds. They speak of Love as they watch their candidates suffer torments and juvenile pranks in their distorted version of “pledging.” They speak of Honor as they disgrace the good name of gentleman by embodying their twisted and perverted idea of what manhood is. They become so focused on gaining fleeting recognition from humor websites that they forget why fraternity exists in the first place.  They speak of Truth as they dishonestly wear the letters that so many before them have given soul and spirit to preserve.

It is also in ignorance that we find our doubters and nay-sayers who demean the fraternal movement and view only the weaknesses of a few and cast a blind eye to the strengths of so many. They view a world without fraternities and sororities as one free from all the social ills they see, but they do not see how fraternities and sororities are the furnaces in which the steel of values, citizenship, leadership, ethics, and the lifelong ties of lasting and loving friendship are forged. But we have not washed our hands in this struggle, for those who have wronged our values have given the critics the stones to cast from their glass houses.

I challenge each and every member of our great and distinguished brotherhood to reflect this season and then stand.

Stand for Honor and live up to the worthiness of the oath you took upon your initiation and never cease to remind yourself of them.

Stand for Love in a world that has far too few examples of it and volunteer at a local community service organization to assist in erasing want. Stand for Truth and challenge those who would dishonestly wear the letters of Sigma Nu while they exemplify all that we do not stand for.

These actions do not require a great deal of effort. They only require that you do something.

So this holiday season, as we spend time with those who mean the most to us and indulge in those most precious of human emotions – happiness –let us not forget to be grateful for what we have. Let us cherish it and then work to preserve it.

It is unlikely we will ever reach a utopia, but if that remains our end destination then every year we shall come closer and closer. And a world closer to that destination today is better than yesterday.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season and I look forward to standing with you in 2014.

Illuminating a Path

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By Merritt Onsa

Photos courtesy of TJ Martin/The Weinstein Company

Brother Bill Courtney (Mississippi) just wanted to coach football again. But when his life intersected with the players on one of the worst high school teams in the State of Tennessee, he not only helped the team turn things around on the field, he showed them where true character and manhood come from.

“Football doesn’t build character. Football reveals character.” It’s a common refrain for Bill Courtney (Mississippi). And he should know, since he’s spent most of his life playing or coaching the game.

“In a lot of ways, football is a microcosm of life. There’s pain, triumph and loss. You have to work with other people and listen to someone else’s instruction. You have to learn the difference between hurt and injured. And when you get hurt, it sucks, but you still have to keep going. Those are all the same things that happen in everyday life, and how you respond does, in fact, reveal your preparation to deal with those things,” he says.
Ever since Undefeated — the documentary featuring Courtney and his role in turning around the Manassas High School football team in Memphis — won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Courtney has been invited all over the country for speaking engagements. He talks about leadership — as in, leading yourself and leading others — which is something he learned not only through football but also in Sigma Nu.

He regularly recalls what he first heard as a candidate: To believe in the Life of Love, to walk in the Way of Honor, to serve in the Light of Truth. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s an amazing creed; that’s something worth thinking about and implementing in your life. If you could just take that creed and walk the rest of your life doing those three things, by and large, you’d be successful.’ Those words have always meant something to me,” says Courtney.

As he coached the Manassas Tigers from 2003 to 2009, Courtney closed every team prayer with this challenge from the Sigma Nu Creed. It made no difference that the players didn’t know where those words originated; they still provide the guidance a young man needs in deciding how to live his life.

Before He Was “Coach”

For as long as he can remember, Courtney played sports, especially football. Raised in a single-parent home — Courtney’s dad left when he was just four years old — the only male role models he had were his coaches and teachers.

He lettered in six sports and played competitive chess in high school. He describes himself as “a fair athlete but pretty bright.” At the time, that didn’t necessarily seem like a good thing to Courtney. But one of his mentors, the chess coach and math teacher, had also played football in high school; he showed Courtney that being smart wasn’t necessarily weak. Courtney joined the chess team his freshman year, and four years later they won third place in the national tournament. “I learned a lot of valuable stuff from him. It was guys like him and my other coaches who formed my thinking as an adolescent,” he says.

Courtney was recruited out of high school to play football at several smaller colleges; but Ole Miss offered an academic scholarship. He accepted and planned to walk-on the football team, but six days before tryouts he separated his shoulder. And, as it turns out, once he saw the skill level of the guys on the team he knew he wasn’t good enough to play with them. “I just wasn’t that caliber of an athlete,” he says.

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When Courtney graduated with a degree in psychology and English, he decided to be a teacher and continue coaching. By the age of 22, he was a head varsity football coach, the youngest in the state of Tennessee.

So he got involved in other things during college; he wrote for the student paper and joined Sigma Nu, where he served as Lieutenant Commander in 1989. “What I remember most about Sigma Nu is living in the house and the relationships, fun and the understanding of people that I developed there,” says Courtney. He also played a key role in launching Epsilon Xi’s renowned Charity Bowl, which has raised more than $1.2 million since its inception. (See the sidebar about the history of the Charity Bowl.)

During his junior and senior years of college, Courtney coached soccer at Oxford High School and soccer, baseball, swimming, track and basketball at a private school, Oxford University School. When he graduated with a degree in psychology and English, he decided to be a teacher and continue coaching. By the age of 22, he was a head varsity football coach, the youngest in the state of Tennessee.

Once he got married, Courtney couldn’t afford to keep teaching and coaching. In 2001, he started a lumber business out of his living room. Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. sells lumber to companies that manufacture flooring, cabinetry, trim and furniture. His company, now with 120 employees and offices all over the world, is headquartered just blocks from Manassas High School near some of Memphis’ most underprivileged neighborhoods.

Building a Promising Football Program

It was two years later when an employee and fraternity brother Jim Tipton (Mississippi) had been volunteering at Manassas and asked Courtney if he was ready to get back into coaching. Tipton said there were 17 kids on the football team, some of whom looked promising; but in the last three years, they’d won only a single game. Courtney saw it as a challenge. “I didn’t go there to save anyone,” he says. “I went there to coach football. But it didn’t take long to realize the inherent dysfunction of those kids’ lives. That’s what turned ‘I’ll try it for a year’ into a six-year exercise.”

In his first year at Manassas, the Tigers won four games and went to the playoffs. Every year after that, the more success they had the more the program grew in terms of team members and local volunteers. And, at the same time, Coach Courtney fell in love with the perseverance of these kids who’d faced more than their share of hard knocks primarily because of where they’d been born.

According to Courtney, an 18-year-old male from the neighborhoods around Manassas is three times more likely to be incarcerated than go to college by the time he’s 22 years old. Most of the kids he coached didn’t have a father at home; many had at least one relative in prison. They were hungry to learn about life and how to be a man. Courtney understood those desires; he’d faced them growing up without his father.

“I was able to say to them, ‘I know where you are. I came from where you are. I may be a white guy with a business and all that, but I really do understand what’s hurting you and what’s driving you. I was there; and if I can do it, you can do it,’” he says.

But he also knew from experience that “doing it” wasn’t something that happened in a vacuum. “The Lord put some unbelievable men in my life in the form of coaches. I don’t think I would be a third of what I am today if it weren’t for the men I played ball for, and that goes all the way back to elementary and junior high school,” he says.

Remembering that, Courtney knew he had an opportunity to reach these kids through something they cared about — football. Aligned with his mantra that “football doesn’t build character” he set out to help them figure out what does.

Committed to Character

What builds character? For Courtney, it’s living out those words he learned as a candidate. “It’s a commitment to integrity, hard work, honor and keeping your word. All of that comes straight out of the Sigma Nu Creed. The guy who wrote that meant it. The whole idea is to think about those words and make them a part of who you are. That’s where you build character. So when life hits you in the mouth, what you’ve built is revealed in how you handle those circumstances. The game doesn’t build character, but it will certainly reveal it.”

Day after day of hard work on the field and encouraging his players to keep their focus in the classroom, Courtney and his fellow coaches modeled what it means to be men of character. After reading Tony Dungy’s book Uncommon, Tipton introduced “The Uncommon Man Award” to help team members recognize the importance of doing well on and off the field. Every week, during their devotional time with the team, Tipton read a chapter from the book. The player who most illustrated what it means to be “uncommon” over the last week received the award before the pre-game meal.

Building a team of uncommon men wasn’t going to happen overnight; and it certainly wasn’t going to happen without help. Over time, at least 200 other volunteers served at Manassas in one way or another. Courtney eventually gathered a full staff of volunteer coaches; and members of local churches cooked pre-game meals, sent mentors to campus and hosted football camps for the team. “Every day it seemed someone new was asking how they could help at Manassas. Over the course of six years, with so many volunteers surrounding the team, it became a program,” he says.

And that program was attracting some attention. In Courtney’s sixth year, documentary filmmakers T.J. Martin and Dan Lindsay had heard about O.C. Brown, a promising lineman at Manassas; they wanted to create a 30-minute film about him. But once they saw the bigger rising-from-the-ashes story of the Manassas Tigers, they decided to temporarily relocate to Memphis to film the whole story. What resulted was an inspiring documentary that is well-illustrated by its title: Undefeated.

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Most of the kids Courtney coached didn’t have a father at home; many had at least one relative in prison. They were hungry to learn about life and how to be a man. Courtney understood those desires; he’d faced them growing up without his father.

Not Just about Football

The film, however, isn’t just about a once-failing football team’s rise to success. Courtney would be the first to tell you there were far more lows than there were highs in those six years. Four of his players were shot and killed in the course of his time at Manassas. This was about far more than the game of football.

In his words, “Undefeated has nothing to do with what happens on the field. It’s about being undefeated by your circumstances, and this group of people was not going to be defeated by their circumstances.”

And, it seems, the “people” he’s referring to aren’t just the kids on the team. “This is about two very diverse groups of people from very different socio-economic walks of life who put aside their preconceived notions and social inhibitions and just came together to work for a common goal. That’s the beauty of it.”

But just like football, it was a combination of pain and triumph. Every bit of those six years with the team was excruciating as Courtney worked and coached 16 hours a day before coming home to spend a few moments with his family. But he says it was all worth it.

“The rewards were immeasurable as more kids came to the program, as they started to win on the field and as they started to change the way they were approaching their lives. In our last two years, we graduated 36 seniors, and 35 went to college. When you see change happening in kids’ lives, you’re absolutely drawn to it. That’s the satisfaction you get by giving of yourself,” he says.

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“What builds character? It’s a commitment to integrity, hard work, honor and keeping your word. All of that comes straight out of the Sigma Nu Creed. The guy who wrote that meant it. The whole idea is to think about those words and make them a part of who you are.”

In those years Courtney changed, too. “Ten years ago I would have told you, if you don’t succeed in this country it’s your own fault. I’m here to tell you today, that’s just not true,” he says. “That sounds right, and it should be right. But the truth is, even in a country with all the opportunity in the world, until that opportunity is explained and that path is illuminated, you can’t expect a kid to just find it.”

To continue to help illuminate that path, Courtney and Tipton created The ManRise Foundation — a mentoring program for young men in Memphis schools. Mentors encourage morality, good character and responsibility through biblical principles and personal encouragement. Now that Courtney is no longer coaching at Manassas, several local churches continue to carry the torch and invest in the lives of the young people in Memphis through the foundation.

In 2003, he just wanted to coach football. A decade later, Courtney has a platform to spread the word about what it takes to impact the life of another human being. “All the money in the world is never going to fix this problem [of poverty]. This is a very human problem. The only thing that fixes it is in-your-face compassion, mentoring, real-life love and teaching about the healthy ways to live life. These kids are lost. But you light that human spirit with a little bit of hope and a little bit of guidance; and it’s amazing what can happen.”

And all it takes — is character.

Undefeated is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Netflix streaming.

How Well Do You Know Your Potential New Members?

By Director of Risk Reduction Fred Dobry (Indiana State)

Have you considered how the expectations, experiences, and assumptions you had when you arrived on campus as a freshman may be drastically different than those of the current freshmen class? Have you modified your chapter’s recruitment strategies to reflect these differences?

“68% of first-year college students identified themselves as “non-drinkers.”

One of the more significant trends to recognize is the evolving change in attitude and behavior regarding alcohol use.  For instance, 68% of first-year college students in 2012 identified themselves as “non-drinkers,” a 9% increase from 2007.  And the number of first-year college students defined as “high-risk drinkers*” has decreased by 6%, down to 19%, in that same timespan (Source: AlcoholEdu National Survey Database).  Additionally, 25% of high school seniors in 2012 reported being drunk on at least one occasion, a decrease from 32.9% in 1999 (Source: Monitoring the Future, 2012).

What is contributing to this increase in college freshmen choosing to be alcohol-free?  One study concluded “abstainers’ decision not to drink appears to be a lifestyle choice, supported by multiple reasons including personal values, religious beliefs, not wanting the image of a drinker, and beliefs about alcohol’s effect on behavior.” (Huang, DeJong, Schneider & Towvim, 2011)

How is your chapter supporting members who choose to not consume alcohol?  Remember, most incoming freshmen already have the incorrect assumption, reinforced by pop culture, that high-rate alcohol consumption is a major component of the fraternity experience.  Are your recruitment strategies effectively debunking this myth?  How many non-drinkers who would be great members of our fraternity do we overlook by not seeking them out or creating recruitment events that appeal to that portion of the student population?

If your chapter doesn’t adapt to the evolving demands and expectations of our potential recruits, you will have a difficult time competing with all those other student organizations attempting to attract those same recruits.  How will you ensure your chapter experience will continue to be attractive for incoming students?

*Defined as having 5 or more alcohol drinks

Pat Riley’s Legacy of Leadership

By John Bauernfeind (Indiana)

Pat Riley (Kentucky) and the Miami Heat begin their search for another NBA title tonight as they face the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Pat Riley is a man of his craft. He has won NBA championships as a player, coach and, most recently, as Miami Heat team president, a post he’s held since leaving the head coaching position in 2008. Championships define success in sports, and multiple championships mean greatness. His basketball legacy is unmatched, and he isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Riley’s basketball career began in Schenectady, NY, where he grew up the youngest of six children. A star on his school’s varsity basketball team, Riley chose to play college ball at the University of Kentucky after legendary head coach Adolph Rupp personally recruited him.

Kentucky was where Riley’s basketball persona began to take shape. He became a star at the University of Kentucky, earning SEC Player of the Year his junior year. It was also at UK where Riley joined the Gamma Iota Chapter of Sigma Nu.

“Rupp’s personality rubbed off on Pat,” said Brad Bounds, who played with Riley at Kentucky from 1964-1967. “Riley is the best competitor I ever played against.”

Riley’s first interaction with a championship game came his junior year when he led the 27-1 Wildcats against Texas Western with the 1966 NCAA Championship on the line. Bounds said that he and his teammates overlooked them, even though Texas Western had only one loss coming into the game. Louie Dampier, Kentucky’s starting point guard, who was All-SEC and an AP All-American that year, had the ball stolen from him three times in a row by Texas Western’s point guard, Bobby Joe Hill. “That’s when we knew we couldn’t take these guys lightly,” Bounds said. The story of the Kentucky vs. Texas Western game was made into a movie, Glory Road, as they beat Riley and the Wildcats, 72-65.

Bounds described Riley as “one tough hombre.” A very competitive person, he said that those traits have served Riley well in his successes in the NBA. In a recent phone interview, Bounds, who currently resides in Frankfurt, Ill., told the story of LeBron James’ free agent courtship by Pat Riley. Bounds said that his friends, who were Bulls fans, were excited at the prospect of signing one of the best players in the NBA to their favorite team. Bounds tried to quell their excitement, however, telling them to look out for Riley, who he predicted would successfully bring LeBron to Miami. Needless to say, James did not end up in Chicago thanks in large part to Riley’s role as team president.

After Kentucky, Riley was drafted by the San Diego Rockets in the first round of the NBA draft. He played limited minutes before bouncing around to the Portland Trail Blazers, and then signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he found himself teammates with the likes of Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. Riley played sparingly, coming off of the bench for just nine minutes a game during his first year with the club.  Riley became known for his tireless work ethic, to the point where West would occasionally have to coach Riley in harnessing his intensity during practices.

In 1972, Riley and the Lakers embarked on a 33-game winning streak, an NBA record (coincidentally, Riley’s Heat team this year challenged the streak, tallying 27 wins in a row). Riley came off the bench that season, quickly becoming head coach Bill Sharman’s go to sixth man. That team in 1972 went on to win 69 games and defeated the New York Knicks for the NBA title. The 1972 Lakers are widely considered to be one of the best teams of all time.

Riley played three more seasons for the Lakers, a total of five, before being traded to the Phoenix Suns three games into his fourth season. Riley would play only one season with the Suns, retiring in 1976.

In 1977, Riley, longing for a return to the game, found himself hired as a radio play-by-play man for the Lakers. Riley called games for two years, until during the 1979-1980 season a twist of fate changed Riley’s second act in basketball. Then Lakers head coach Jack McKinney was injured riding a bike to play tennis with Paul Westhead, a Lakers assistant coach. McKinney crashed and, upon being found unconscious, was rushed to the hospital. McKinney’s vitals were fine, but doctors kept him in the hospital. The Lakers, now without a head coach, needed one in a hurry. They promoted Westhead who, after six games, was allowed to continue coaching throughout the season. Westhead had one demand, however: that Riley serve as his assistant coach.

In Riley’s first year as a Lakers assistant coach, the team won the NBA title. Led by veteran Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rookie Magic Johnson, the Lakers defeated the 76ers on their home court, with Johnson recording a near triple-double in game six in place of injured star Abdul-Jabbar.

The 1981 season was a disappointment as the Lakers managed to win 54 games but would stumble in the playoffs as they watched the rival Boston Celtics defeat the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.

The 1982 season began similarly to how the previous season had ended and after eleven games, Paul Westhead was fired as head coach of the Lakers. The Lakers wanted Jerry West to be head coach. West wanted Riley to be coach, and an awkward compromise formed: the Lakers had asked West to be the team’s offensive coach, whereas Riley would assist on defense. West thought he’d be merely helping Riley out. Riley didn’t know what to think.

In the end, everything worked out. Sporting the Western Conference’s best record midway through the season, Riley was coach of the West for the All-Star game. His Lakers team earned the number one seed in the playoffs, and cruised to the Finals where, once again, they defeated the 76ers in six games. In his first year as a head coach, Pat Riley had himself a championship ring.

Riley would win three more championships with the Lakers, in 1985, 1987 and 1988. After winning his first title in 1982, Riley’s Lakers lost in the Finals the next two seasons, to the 76ers in a sweep and to their archrival, the Boston Celtics, in seven games. The next season, the Lakers defeated the Celtics 4-2 for the championship. In 1987, after missing the Finals the previous season, the Lakers again defeated the Celtics in six games for another title. In the locker room after their victory, Riley guaranteed a repeat next year, and issued his statements once more to the city of Los Angeles in the Lakers’ championship parade. Riley delivered on his promise, as the Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons in seven games in 1988. The next season, the Lakers were swept by the Pistons in the Finals. The year after, Riley’s team failed to reach the Finals and he resigned from the team. Ironically, 1990 was the first year Riley had been named Coach of the Year.

Riley then went on to coach the New York Knicks, leading the team to the 1994 NBA Finals where they lost in seven games. Riley spent another year with the club before moving on to be the head coach of the Miami Heat, where he has served in various roles ever since.

Riley is often pictured in telecasts of Heat playoff games, usually sitting behind the Heat bench, but not too close to the players. Riley is stoic; rarely do you find him offering the slightest emotion on his face.

Riley coached the Heat from 1995 to 2003. Before the start of the 2003-2004 season, Riley stepped down as head coach and took over as the team’s general manager. Under Riley, the team drafted Dwayne Wade in 2003, and saw him turn into one of the league’s most dominant players. At the start of the 2005 season, head coach Stan Van Gundy resigned from his duties, and Riley assumed the head coach position once again. Riley took the Heat to the NBA Finals, where the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

After last year’s championship, Riley had amassed eight NBA Titles; one as a player, five as a coach (one as an assistant coach), and one as an executive. Now, as acting President of the Heat, Riley is in search of a ninth championship ring.

In every level of his NBA tenure – tireless player, hard driving coach and esteemed executive – Riley has inspired excellence among his fellow coaches, players and teammates. Pat Riley has found ways to get buy-in from all players with his uniquely positive approach to leadership. If LeBron James is the face of the Heat franchise, then Riley is its protector behind closed doors.

After being named Coach of the Year three times, Riley was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2012 he was honored with the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, presented each year by the National Basketball Coaches Association to the coach who best exemplifies integrity, competitive excellence and relentless promotion of professional basketball. Riley is also the only person in American sports to have won a championship as a player, coach and executive. That makes for an outstanding career and legacy, one that won’t be forgotten by the basketball world or Riley’s Sigma Nu Brothers.

Are We Bemoaning ‘Animal House’ For the Wrong Reasons?

Most of us accept the idea that movies like Animal House and Old School haven’t been so great for fraternity stereotypes. But lately I’ve been wondering if we tend to overestimate the impact such movies have had on public perceptions of Greek life while overlooking a far more damaging effect.

It shouldn’t be too controversial to acknowledge that some parts of famous Greek life movies and TV shows were based on real life. We know the writer for ABC Family’s Greek joined a sorority in college, from which she drew ideas for the show. The Old School writers didn’t come up with those ideas out of thin air. Some were parodies while others were sensationalized (or both), but it’s safe to say most were based on someone’s experience, albeit a false one.

Rather than creating the negative stereotypes we live with today, it’s more likely that pop culture’s attempts at depicting Greek life have merely confirmed what people already thought.

Though I’m confident fraternity life would be better off had Animal House never been made, I can live with art [poorly and inaccurately] imitating life. What’s more concerning — and what’s far more damaging than merely perpetuating existing stereotypes — is when life tries to imitate art.

Researchers at Ohio State University may have confirmed that very concern this month with a new study examining “experience-taking,” in which subjects subconsciously absorb the behaviors of a fictional character.

When you “lose yourself” inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behavior and thoughts to match that of the character, a new study suggests.

Watching parody movies or reciting jokes from satire websites might seem harmless enough at first. Before you know it, though, and without even realizing it, those jokes and movie quotes seep into the culture of your chapter, gradually reinforcing the insidious behaviors that lead chapters to certain failure.

Watch the movies if you must, but for heaven’s sake, don’t reenact the scenes.

[HT Will Wilkinson]

//Nathaniel Clarkson