Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mentors Make the Difference

Sports of all types have been a major component of life growing up and living in our little corner of the world. My wife Rhonda played college volleyball at Walla Walla Community College and I played college hoops at the U of I and at WWCC. To say the least, sports has trickled down (or flooded) to our family.

The picture was taken in 2008 when my little brother, Chris, was on leave from the military and came back for the beginning of deer season. Dillon had a Jr. High football game the day of the picture and Logan was a water boy. Dillon shot his first deer (a dandy) on opening day and Chris shot his the next.

Looking back at my life, I remember fondly the first time I went hunting with dad and he let me shoot the 300 H&H Magnum. I was about six at the time and I still feel the bruise on my shoulder and the humiliation of falling down.

About that time, dad put a basketball hoop in the barn. It wasn't regulation size, but it was high enough to provide a challenge. Along with that first hoop came my first basketball. It was rubber and red, white and blue; the ball used in the ABA before they joined the NBA.

I learned to rebound because of the basket location. If I missed a shot, there was a chance that the ball would get past me, go through a feeding hole, and then end up in the manure. Even though I would have just shoveled the barn, the ball would still be nasty. I learned to rebound because I didn't want to climb down the ladder and smell like cow poop worse than I did.

My parents were not athletes of the sense. I believe that my mom doesn't have one athletic bone in her body. Dad had an eighth grade education and didn’t play sports in school, other than in the sandlots. He was also a weight lifter and could have gone to the Olympics. He got in trouble with a girl and devoted his life to being a provider. He didn't have good social structure throughout his life and for him to achieve what he did in life was amazing.

Regardless of their talent level, they were always there to pitch, rebound, catch, give praise, challenge me (which happened more than the praise thank goodness), and spend money and time running me to practices and games during my school years.

There are four distinct times in my life: K-12, College, After College, and 9-1-1. The truly successful times in my life have been K-12 and 9-1-1. College and after college, I was just kinda there.

What was the difference between these times in my life...MENTORS! Going through school I had some great mentors. My mentors were both in the classroom and in sports. From high school coaches to AAU coaches, it is interesting looking back; I never had the same coach all through high school or college. What knowledge I received, but that is for a different time.

Success didn't just happen, I had to work. My 8th grade year I was the only kid outside of Lewiston and Clarkston to be on the AAU basketball team. I pretty much sat the bench while working just as hard as the other players did in practice, practice that I either had after my Jr. High practices or before. I was tired.

I didn't want to sit the bench anymore, so I worked hard. I worked hard that summer in the shop shooting the ball from everywhere. I worked so hard, I now shoot better left hand lay ins than I do right, and I am right handed.

Along the way, my parents never gave up and padded my ego, especially my dad. "You can be better" was always what I heard. He was not much for praise, but when I really deserved it, it was there. That was the common theme from my mentors: Challenge yourself!

I went to state all four years of high school, winning 4th place my Freshman and Junior years. I won state my Sophomore year (1985) at Kendrick and Senior year at Lapwai (1987). Both of those teams were special as far as Idaho hoops go.

The 1985 team still holds two Idaho State Tourney records for highest point average per game at 85 and most points in a tournament at 252 in three games. My Lapwai team holds the state record for most wins in a row at 81 games and it started my senior year. The last two years in high school I was first team All-State and my senior year I was first team State Tournament.

Why was I successful, it was due to mentors. People that believed in me and challenged me to be better. That piqued the imagination in my mind to want more. People that would play against me in my shop for hours on end during their summer break from college. These people knew there was more to me and saw the desire in my soul. I became successful.

During my college and post college years I didn't have mentors. My life almost became a waste. I became down and there was little motivation in me. Away from home, away from friends, and away from people that challenged me also shaped my life. This was a critical time in my life that I survived and look back on for knowledge of what I don't want in life.

I did meet my wife and we had kids. That takes up considerable time and all of my devotion was to them. There was also the farm. These became constants in my life. This was my life. I was wanting more. I wanted to challenge myself again in some form. Then came my opportunity.

2001 was a big year. My dad had an operation, leaving me completely in charge of the farm. I managed pre-harvest activities, did the harvest with help, and I did all of the fall work by myself. I winterized the equipment and farm and he passed away on December 1st.

In October I was asked to be a member of the Nez Perce County Grain Growers organization. I went to my first meeting and was elected as the State Director from our county to serve on the Idaho Grain Producers Association full board. This is the transition from a down turn in my life to where I am at today.

Going through IGPA gave me new life...and new opportunities. I made new contacts and learned about a bigger world. I also had new mentors. These mentors have been watching me and giving suggestions either bluntly or subtlety.

It also led to having new mentors through the Eisenhower Fellowships. The conversations with former USDA Undersecretary Jim Moseley have been insightful and inspiring. The phone calls from previous Fellows have helped me to understand the network I have joined. It has also proved a point that I try to live by: GIVING BACK!

A common trait of successful people is they enjoy helping people become successful. I understand the sacrifice that my mentors had from their family and free time to help me. Now I am in a position to be a mentor.

I am the "C" squad coach at Kendrick High School and in a position to be a mentor. I am also in a position to be a mentor to new members on the IGPA board. While learning and trying to push myself to new heights and challenges, I hopefully will be a mentor to others.

Looking back, I was awkward, uncoordinated, and didn't fit in. However, there were people in my life that made me challenge myself to be better. They lit the inner fire to be successful and were there to pick me up when I was down and to step out of the way when things were going great.

As I continue my life's journey, I hope that I can be a mentor to my sons. I believe that Rhonda and I have done a good job of that and will continue to our dying days. I also hope that those who want to be better and want more will truly open up to learn and not shun away help.

Success is not just what one accomplishes, but what one passes on. I can honestly say that I have been successful on many levels and a big thank you goes out to everyone who was a mentor. Now it is my turn. I am looking for anyone who wants to be successful and wants to learn. Applications are now open for me to be your mentor.


  1. A man who is learning the depth of his heart! I'm thankful that you open yourself up for others to appreciate and grow with!

  2. Louis,

    Thank you for the comment and your continued words of encouragement. It is conversations like this that make life interesting, worthwhile, and informative. All we have in life is our memories. Everything else can be taken away except for that. With that being said, those memories (or knowledge) is the "gold" to give the next generation.

    My favorite quote is by Wenell Holmes "To be as good as our fathers, we must be better!" To me this means we need to learn all that we can from past and current generations and then build on and surpass that level. Mentors play a crucial role in that success. Thanks again.