Carl Parker

A great look at an AAU coach who goes about it the right way.  The quotes from his players really tell the story.

“I’ve never wanted to work for a coach as much as I wanted to work for him.”

“Coach Parker really gave me a certain confidence about the game.”

“He’ll tell you exactly how he feels, which makes it really makes it easy for players to know where he’s coming from even if he knows what he’s going to say isn’t always going to be what you want to hear.”

Best Practice

As I drove on to campus on Tuesday morning I watched the football team going through their morning practice before their afternoon scrimmage.  I realized I hadn’t been on a campus with a football team in over 15 years, and it was exciting.  The energy in the fall is a little different when their is a football team in camp, getting ready for their first game – especially a championship football team like the one we have in Orono.   You can really feel the energy within the athletic department from all of the teams at UMaine.

I am very lucky to be a part of a great athletic culture at the University of Maine.  The energy that everyone in the athletic department has is contagious.  All of our programs can feed of one another, and I’ve been really impressed with how invested each coach is in the success of the entire department.

Sharing best practice is something that can really help you as a coach and I’m not sure coaches do enough of it.  How many coaches of different sports make it a point to sit down together and seriously discuss what they do that works the best?  A lot of coaches are so focused on their own team and their own program that they don’t reach out to other coaches in the department to see how they handle the same challenges, what type of leadership approach they use, and how they build their team.  There is so much that can be learned across different sports, and some of the best leadership resources you can find are right there in your own department.

On the day I got the job and was driving up to campus, Red Gendron our hockey coach reached out and called me to welcome me to the department.  He said that UMaine was one big family and that we were all in it together to help each other.  He said we were more than welcome to come by practice anytime or stop by the office.   He’s won 2 national championships and been a part of a Stanley Cup winning organization?  Do you think he’s got a pretty good approach to building a winner?  How much can I learn from a guy with his experience?

Jack Cosgrove has been running a championship level football program at UMaine for over 20 years.  He’s won league championships, played in the NCAA playoffs five times and coached a number of NFL players.  Do you think he knows something about building a championship team?  Coach Cos is always open to having us visit practice, spend time in his office, and to share his philosophy and approach.  Just yesterday I stopped by his office after their scrimmage to see what he thought, and we talked about his team for a little bit.  He’s always interested in talking about what works and what doesn’t in coaching, and he’s had consistent success at UMaine.  Why wouldn’t any coach want to learn from someone like that?

Richard Barron built an Ivy League Champion at Princeton and is on his way to turning the Lady Black Bears into an America East power.  Steve Trimper has taken his team to 2 NCAA appearances and coached almost 20 guys who have been drafted.  Both of them reached out immediately to say if we needed anything they are their to help.  Aren’t those two terrific resources for a coaching looking to build a championship program?  I’d be nuts not to learn what I can from how they run their programs.

Everyone has a different leadership approach and every sport is different, but that is part of the value of being in a great athletic culture.  Preparing and motivating a baseball team or a football team is a lot different than preparing a basketball team, but in general it’s still building a team.  There are so many different approaches that you can learn from within an athletic department, so why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?  I don’t feel like college athletic departments take advantage of their own resources as much as they should.

I’m lucky to be at UMaine for a number of reasons, but one of them is being surrounded by great coaches who are wiling to share their best practice.  Everybody is pulling for each other and eager to help and share ideas.  It’s really cool to see guys as experienced and successful as Red Gendron and Jack Cosgrove so energetic and bought in to the success of everyone when they could easily just keep to themselves and run their own programs.  There are great coaching resources in the same building all day every day, and I’m excited to learn from all of them.

Sharing best practice is a great way to improve, and a resource I don’t think coaches use enough.  Whether your are in high school or college you are surrounded by great resources with different approaches that you can learn from.  When was the last time you stopped by soccer practice to see how the coach communicates with his players and how they respond?  Or asked the women’s coach what her approach was to discipline for an individual rules violation? Sometimes we get so focused on our own thing that we don’t realize it, when learning a different approach is just a conversation away.  Share you best ideas with the coaches next to you and ask them what they do that works.  It’s a simple way to get better and there are great resources next to you every day.


One of the questions you get asked a lot on the recruiting trail is “What are you guys looking for for next year?”  You always have your current roster in mind and where you have the most depth, but that’s not as important as getting the right talent.  Ultimately what we are looking for is guys who can play.

While you certainly have to take things like position, skill set and size into account, that’s not nearly as important as getting enough good players.  I don’t ever want to make the mistake of passing up a good player because he didn’t play the right position.

Versatility is a great asset.  At Rhode Island College we had a number of great players who didn’t really have a specific position, and that’s probably why they slipped to the D3 level.  They were really talented and productive, but the scholarship level schools often got caught up with what position they would play.  I’m talking about the 6-3 combo forward who wasn’t really a shooter, a ball-handler or a post-player, but was good at a lot of things.  I’m talking about the small guard who wasn’t a point guard and couldn’t really shoot, but was tough as nails and changed the game with the way he defended and the tempo he played at.

When I see a good player and hear someone say “I just don’t know where to play him” I immediately think to myself “On the floor.”  If you put enough good players out on the floor they will figure out how to play together.

The best players can handle a lot of things – if you ask them to bring the ball up or guard someone taller than them, they usually figure it out.  And if they’ve figured out how to be productive against good competition without having a defined position or specific skill set, it means they’ve figured out how to play a certain way – if they are too small to be a post player, or not a good enough shooter to be a guard, but they are still productive, that’s usually a good sign.   If they are productive against good competition you can count on them being productive when they get to college.

The challenge is a little different at the University of Maine with only 13 scholarships to use, so you certainly can’t mass recruit like you do at the D3 level.  You do have to take size and skill into consideration. But versatility is still very valuable and will translate well.  If you get enough good players and put them on the floor together, they’ll figure it out and win a lot of games.  Rather than get position-specific, I’d prefer to start with enough good players and try and make it work from there.

Maigread Eichten CEO Interview

Some great stuff to take away from this interview.

“If you really care about somebody, you give them constructive feedback. And if you don’t care about somebody, you only say positive things.”

“I want to get better at taking more risk. My goal is to do one thing every day that kind of scares me or that’s kind of hard.”

The C.E.O. Must Decide Who Swims

This interview of Maigread Eichten, president and chief executive of FRS, a maker of energy drinks, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. When did you first learn how to lead people?

A. You’re really taking me back. I was a lifeguard and a swim coach at a pool in the Walnut Creek area outside of San Francisco. The hardest thing about being a swim coach in a somewhat affluent area is that all the parents want their kids to swim on the team, of course, and to swim every event. And while you want to win, you also want to make sure all the kids get to swim. So there’s this balance.

I was 17 and you’ve got these parents screaming at you every weekend — “How come Johnny didn’t get to swim?” and “He’s better than Sally.” — and you’re going back and forth on this every week: Do I want to win or do I want to swim all the kids, and the kids are looking at you and the parents are screaming at you.

That experience is very similar to many days how I feel here. I feel like I’m a judge, and I use that mental image a lot, which is that my job is not to make everybody happy. My job is to chart the right course and, at the end of the day, I leave this building and if I feel like I’ve done the right thing and people respect me, I’m happy. But on any day someone is probably unhappy with a decision that I made in the day, and that’s the best I can do.

It’s the same thing with the swim team. Mr. Smith is probably mad that I didn’t swim his daughter, and sometimes I have to look at little Jane and say, “You know what, you’re not going to swim the 100 fly today, sorry.” It’s a team sport.

Q. It sounds like good training for dealing with all the stakeholders in a company.

A. It’s a balance. You’ve got the board, you’ve got investors, you’ve got employees, you’ve got the press, you’ve got consumers, you’ve got retailers. It’s the hardest thing, which I didn’t expect, about being C.E.O. You’re a judge, and you cannot make everyone happy. It is impossible. It’s the same thing with parenting.

Q. Talk about how you give feedback to employees.

A. One of the most memorable things one of my bosses at Pepsi told me was that if you really care about somebody, you give them constructive feedback. And if you don’t care about somebody, you only say positive things. That’s stuck with me all this time. So I really try to make sure that I give people good, constructive feedback — positive first, of course, then constructive, and I give it in real time. It’s got to be in the moment. It’s got to be private.

Q. Tell me about your goals as a leader and manager.

A. I want to get better at taking more risk. My goal is to do one thing every day that kind of scares me or that’s kind of hard. Today, it’s being interviewed by you. I think that, to get better, you have to challenge yourself. You have to put some things out there that are hard for you personally.

Q. When did you develop this rule to do something risky every day?

A. Probably about 10 years ago, when I left PepsiCo. I moved out here to San Francisco, which is where I grew up. I made a lifestyle decision then that I was going to change some things up. I went to work at VeriSign, and then the downturn hit in 2000. Everyone needs to manage through a downturn. You learn a ton. It’s much harder than managing in good times.

I also decided to start taking some calculated risks and pushing the envelope as a way to run both my business and my personal life. I believe this leads to success and a really fun life adventure.

Your learning curve is so much steeper doing it that way, because calculated risk is really how we learn. And I think it’s a better leadership style because you’re growing, both as a person and, I think, as an executive.

Q. You mentioned all the things you learned in the downturn. Any other broad take-aways?

A. I reflected a lot on this when it came around this time, and I’ve talked a lot about this with fellow C.E.O.’s. So the first thing you learn is that it’s going to end. The sky is not falling. The sense of panic that starts to overtake people is overplayed.

So you chart a course, and you plot out kind of a worst-case, middle-case, best-case plan. You’re probably going to have to do some cost-cutting, and get that plan laid out, and then stay on strategy. This is your reality, and that’s how it is. The sky isn’t falling, and you have to show calm confidence every day. Your employees are watching your behavior.

Q. How do you manage your time?

A. I work out really early in the morning, and I use that time to kind of set my key priorities for the day — the two or three work things, the two or three personal things, and what are the key personal relationships that I want to make sure are set. That’s usually one of my top priorities — making sure that the team works well together. If I sense something’s off a little bit with the team, that’s usually one of the first things I zero in on.

When I come in, my first priority is to go through the to-do list before anybody’s here, and make sure that I’ve got a list on my desk of no more than 10 key things that I want to get done. I find if you have a to-do list of more than 10, it’s just not going to happen, and I pretty much stick to that list. I walk around a lot and if I see in people’s eyes that they need help, or if I get a sense that something’s up, I drop things because sometimes people just need help.

Q. And you’ll sense that just by the look in their eyes?

A. Absolutely, or I can hear it in their voice. I can hear it in their voice, and I think that’s really important that you have sense for your people. I call it my Spidey-sense. My 13-year-old daughter does not like this, by the way. It’s the same Spidey-sense I have with my kids. If something’s off, something’s off, and if I get a sense something’s off, I drop everything and I will not let go until I know what it is because it’s a sign there’s a problem.

Q. So how do you broach it?

A. Well, my people know me well enough. They know I’ll come in, I’ll close the door, and I’ll just say, “O.K., spill it.” There’s no warm-up for me. They know I will not leave. I want to help. I always say to them: “Look, guys we’re in this together. We’re a team.”

Q. Are you a gadget person? BlackBerry, iPhone?

A. Both. The iPhone I love for the apps. Then the BlackBerry I use for my work stuff.

Q. How do you deal with the constant pull of the BlackBerry?

A. One thing I love about having three kids is, it’s all about them. So when you’re with them, they only want to talk about them. They’re very sports-oriented, so we spend a lot of time on sports. They keep me from being too overly focused on the BlackBerry because they will take it away.

Q. What career advice will you give your kids?

A. I interview a ton of people and I get really frustrated with interviews, to be honest, because I find that people come in a lot of times and they don’t even know that much about the company, which I find just really odd.

I went to business school, and I decided I wanted a PepsiCo internship. They were only taking one intern, so my shot at getting this Pepsi internship was slim to none, because I had no experience.

But I decided I wanted this internship and what I did was — I think about this all the time when I interview people, sort of, why don’t they do this to me? — I researched all the people coming to campus to interview. I knew everything about them. I knew everything about Pepsi-Cola and the PepsiCo company. I knew everybody in the U.C.L.A. recruiting office and I wrote the story of myself as a brand and I came up with a whole talk about why Pepsi should hire me, and the assets I could bring.

I had called up the two or three people who had been Pepsi interns from other campuses, and I found out every single thing that they had done as interns. So I had done all that work before I took this interview. I was one of the four people they took back to New York for an interview, and I got this internship. I was probably also incredibly annoying, but I certainly was superqualified.

And what I would say to my kids is, to get the job you need two things. You need the functional skills, but then you also have to be superprepared, and you have to have incredible passion. You have to make that person want to hire you. They have to have a reason to hire you. There’s no excuse why you can’t have that.

I’m just really surprised by some of the people I interview. A few people, when I say “FRS,” they say, “I haven’t tried the product.” If they say that, the interview is over.