Gary Wondrash - On coaching, basketball and the value of hard work

Tue Jan 24 2017 (31:14)

For those who don't know my background, I grew up in Crivitz, Wisconsin, a rural town of 996 people in northeastern Wisconsin. I wasn't the fastest kid, or the smartest kid, or the most athletic kid. In 7th grade, I was one of the worst basketball players on the team. I had generic shoes the other kids called "G-Didas" for generic Adidas shoes. They were Win Streaks, and they were all we could afford. 

I didn't believe in myself - at all - in 7th grade basketball. To say I sucked was an understatement. I played 5 minutes a game, if that, and I don't think I scored any points. 8th grade was a little better, and Coach Nelson showed me some sympathy and started me a few games. I averaged 6 points per game. I still had no confidence in my game or me.

It took me until freshman year when I really thought I could be a decent ball player. We practiced hard, harder than I ever had before, and I worked my butt off, in large part because of the belief of my coach, Gary Wondrash. I still believe in myself, and much of that started with Gary's belief in me first. He was a great coach, and I still use his coaching philosophies in how I lead and how I live.

Work hard. Practice hard. Hustle. Don't be afraid to do the hard work. Focus on your fundamentals. Keep improving a little bit more, every day. Learn from your mistakes. Be a good sport. Smile. Sing in the shower.

Easy for him to say. He was the coach. He was my stud coach. He could hit 10 free throws in a row. Heck, he could hit 50 free throws in a row. To say Gary was someone I wanted to be like would be a gross understatement. 

But I didn't know his back story, until we had this conversation.

Growing up, Gary wasn't the fastest kid, wasn't the smartest kid, or the most athletic kid. By the time he got to my school as a teacher, he had been awarded all conference in basketball, had set school records that are still unbroken, and he'd impacted some kid's lives. 

In this conversation, Gary Wondrash shares his philosophies on basketball, life, and on the value of hard work. On how growing up as the hardest working player on the team helped him be better than his more naturally gifted teammates. 

This is one of my favorite conversations, and I hope you'll listen and learn from my mentor, my coach, and now, my friend, Gary Wondrash. He inspired me with this conversation, just like he inspired me my freshman year of basketball. 

More about Gary Wondrash
  • Gary is still a teacher, though not in my hometown. He also is a fitness coach, and teaches older adults the benefits of moving more and eating right.
  • Visit Gary Wondrash's website to learn more about his fitness coaching and a little more about him.
  • You can also check out the Tough Kid Challenge, something Gary spearheaded, for kids in the Fox Valley area (in Wisconsin).