Conquering an Addiction

By Kevin Larkin
Head Basketball Coach, Kentucky


We read  about many examples of Virtuous men; from the SportsLeader playbook to stories we read about in the news that are usually at the extreme edge of doing good works.  How many times have you looked at your own life and found examples to use?  We are all good at pointing out short comings of skills , habits, etc among our players, can you look at your own life and do the same?  Have you thought about sharing your commitment as an example?

At the beginning of the 2009-10 basketball season I placed an order for new commitment cards, included was black wristbands to use with my players.  The idea was if they follow through on a commitment they make, they earn a wristband.  In addition to the verbal reward from coaches here is something small and tangible to remind them of the commitment they made to themselves, their friends and family and their coach.  If someone asked if you earned one, what would you say?

I start out slow with each team, talking about something small they need to do better in their life.  As you can imagine, 12 & 13 year old young men will start off about as small as they can.  When they capture the concept of virtue we start to move onto bigger items.   As I read through some of the initial stories I remembered they were dramatic but very powerful in getting the point across.    As I read more I thought, these are great but none of them can be told with the enthusiasm and determination that you could if it was YOUR story.   What did YOU overcome to become a better man?  Are you willing to look in the mirror and say “ I need to do better at this”.  I had that opportunity.

On October 23, 2009 I started a journey that was one of the most difficult I had ever encountered, and my living virtuously helped immensely.  After 23 years I was ready to admit I was addicted to nicotine through the use of smokeless tobacco.  I had just stopped, no step down, just cold turkey.  

What could I do to remind myself of the commitment I made to not use.  That same day I put the black SportsLeader band on to remind me of the commitment I was making.  I used a website that required me to give my word to people each day that no matter what, I would not use nicotine in any form.  I used the SportsLeader principles and the band, be a man of virtue, and sometimes that requires you to admit you need to be better.  

On day 56 I made a choice to share this with my players.  They had assumed that since I used the program that I just wore it to wear it.  I told them that I had to earn mine just like they earned theirs, I had to honor the word I gave every day, to admit I was an  addict but to make a promise I would not use nicotine that day.  What I wanted them to hear was, you have to earn that band everyday by living a virtuous life.  

The players asked me throughout the rest of the season what day was I on.  It is an amazing feeling to this day to know I could share my story which can be told with so much more of your soul, but you have to be willing to look in the mirror and ask what in my life is not living like a man of virtue?  We can talk the life, can we live the life of the Virtuous Man and admit when we aren’t?

Here is a video link of Coach Paul Passafiume talking about what it means to truly be a man: