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Teaching the Value of Earning Rewards

By Joshua Tepper, US LaCrosse, 12/20/17, 12:00PM CST

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Great coaches don’t just teach technical aspects of their sport, they also inspire and teach life skills

Great coaches don’t just teach technical aspects of their sport, they also inspire and teach life skills.

James Gurick overcame cancer as a teenager, went on to win two NCAA Division III championships at Salisbury University and now teaches and coaches lacrosse in Illinois.

Earned, not given.

Those are the words my 5-year-old son heard when he walked into the Optimal Lacrosse training center in Lake Bluff, Ill. The words were spoken by founder and owner James Gurick and were in response to my son's desire to have one of the Optimal jerseys the other boys were proudly displaying.

For three years, my son was awarded with a jersey and trophy just by enrolling in soccer, baseball, and basketball. He was already timid about lacrosse and now, here he was, confused. He didn’t understand why he wasn’t just handed a shirt because he wanted one. Coach Gurick explained, “If you come every week for two months, listen to the instructions, and make an effort to improve, you will earn a jersey and learn the secret Optimal handshake.”

I was worried how my son would respond. After all, he was already timid about lacrosse, partly because his only exposure to the sport was listening to glorified stories of my high school lacrosse days, partly because the other kids were older, and partly because none of his friends were enrolled in the class. For the first time, I was cognizant of the adversity my son was facing. I would come to relish the opportunity he had to face this challenge under the tutelage of James Gurick.

James has been, and continues to be, the perfect coach and mentor for both of my boys. Great coaches don’t just teach, technical aspects of their sport, they also inspire and teach life skills. I would argue that there is nobody better suited in my community to teach real life skills then James.

James battled and defeated cancer at the age of 16, a pivotal time in a young man's social and emotional development. James poured his life into lacrosse. He was a member of both the 2003 and 2004 Salisbury University NCAA Championship teams.

This past year, James authored his first book, “Just a Thought, A Motivational Guide to Building a Positive Life in an Adverse World,” which serves as a guide to approach life’s endless challenges. He offers strategies he gained from his life and uses his perspective to effectively connect with young student athletes.

My son responded as James must have known he would have. He dutifully attended the weekly training sessions. During that time, James taught him how to get up after getting knocked down, how to participate enthusiastically, and how to respect authority figures. Having my older son engaged inspired his younger brother, who enrolled at the age of 3. Both earned their shirts and it remains their prized possession (well, their favorite shirt, as it’s hard to compete with an iPad). I am forever grateful to James.

Thank God he doesn’t coach baseball!

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