Shelby and Linda Livingstone – The Coaches in My Life

One of the hardest things that I’ve had to do is to remove people from jobs. People that I knew well and liked well, and maybe even that I’d put in that job at one point or another, but recognize that their time in that role needed to end.” -Linda Livingstone

[00:00:00] Linda Livingstone: My dad passed away a number of years ago and at his funeral, many of his former players who played for him really in the 1950s and sixties and early seventies shared about the impact he had on their lives. And it was never about the basketball. It was always about the way they taught them to be, quality young men and to work hard and to have an impact beyond basketball.

I think coaches that I’ve had that were the most impactful for ones that it wasn’t all about the sport or about the basketball. It was about those life lessons that you learned maybe through sport, but that make you just a better person and better at whatever you’re going to end up doing in life.

Our guests today are Dr. Linda Livingstone, President of Baylor University and her daughter, Shelby Livingstone, Assistant Volleyball Coach at Liberty University.  Prior to establishing themselves on their respective career paths, both women excelled in intercollegiate athletics.

Linda Livingstone was a four-year letter basketball player for Oklahoma State University.

Shelby Livingstone was a fire-year letter volleyball player for Rice University.

Join us today for a discussion with these two women about the role that intercollegiate athletics and the coaches in their lives help mold them into the leaders they are today.

[00:00:46] Tommy Thomas: I am a firm believer that nonprofit leadership lessons can be learned from a lot of people in places. One of these is intercollegiate athletics.  Coaches can have a significant impact on a student athlete’s life. Our guests today are living proof of that. Dr. Linda Livingstone is the President at Baylor University

Before establishing herself as an academic leader, she was a four-year letter winner while playing basketball at Oklahoma State. Additionally, she is the first N C A female basketball letter winner to serve as president of a major division one university.

Shelby Living Stone is the assistant volleyball coach at Liberty University. Before getting into coaching, Shelby established herself as a leader on the Rice University Al Volleyball team, where she totaled over 400 kills and 900 digs as an outside hitter. During her five-year career, academically, she was named the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor and earn Rice’s Conference USA Spirit of Service Winter Award, and Scholar Athlete Volleyball Award.

What a treat it is for me to have this mother-daughter duo with me today. Shelby and Linda, welcome to Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership

[00:01:59] Linda Livingstone: We’re glad to be with you. Thanks for having us, Tommy.

[00:02:03] Tommy Thomas: Linda, you grew up in a home where your dad had played a prominent role in Oklahoma basketball. What was that like?

[00:02:10] Linda Livingstone: He was a college basketball coach in Oklahoma as I was growing up. I don’t know that as a child you really realize how prominent your parents are.  I didn’t really realize how prominent he was in college basketball in Oklahoma, but I do know we grew up in the gym at Oklahoma State watching practices and playing in Gallagher, what was Gallagher Hall then.

And so it was a great way to grow up and loved being in an athletic family with brothers that I got to play with as well as a dad that would take us to the gym at OSU.

[00:02:35] Tommy Thomas: I guess it should be noted before we get too much further, there’s another basketball star in the family. Brad, Linda’s husband and Shelby’s dad, was a three-year letter winner at Oklahoma State and then toured Europe with Athletes in Action.

Shelby, what was it like being raised by two parents who had excelled as division one athletics?

[00:02:54] Shelby Livingstone: It was really cool. Like my mom said, you don’t really realize how cool your parents are until you get older and you’re reminded of all the awesome things that they accomplished during their college basketball days.

But yeah, it was normal. Like my parents played basketball, my grandparents played basketball, so similar to my mom. We were always in a gym, always playing sports. But they were great role models to look up to as I continued on in my athletic career, to see that my parents played college basketball, like that’s something that I can accomplish as well.

[00:03:29] Tommy Thomas: Did you feel any pressure to play basketball?  How did you get to volleyball?

[00:03:35] Shelby Livingstone: That is a great question. I played basketball. I played pretty much every sport growing up, but my dad was my basketball coach. He’s gonna hate that I’m saying this, but my dad was my middle school basketball coach, and I think that is what pushed me to play volleyball.

It was a new sport that my parents didn’t know a lot about. So I could come home and they wouldn’t try to coach me on every little thing. I’m not sure that you did try, but it didn’t

[00:04:04] Linda Livingstone: I’m sure we tried, but it didn’t really work very well.

[00:04:05] Shelby Livingstone: Volleyball has less conditioning. There’s not as much running, and so that was a very good plus as well.  But I think I wanted to try something new and branch out.

[00:04:32] Tommy Thomas I read an article that said the role of a coach could be many and varied, from instructor to assessor to friend, mentor, facilitator, chauffer, demonstrator, advisor, supporter, fact finder, motivator, counselor, organizer, planner, and the fountain of all knowledge. When you two ladies, think about the coaches that got the most out of you Shelby, maybe just take me into that first.

[00:04:40] Shelby Livingstone: As I finished my first kind of semester season of coaching, that those are so true. You really have to wear so many different hats.  I’m not sure I’m the fountain of all knowledge, but you definitely have to wear many different hats as a coach. And I think that being a coach now and having this be my full-time job has allowed me to look back on my coaches that I’ve had that have really. Me and pushed me to be the best version of myself.

And I’m so much more grateful now than maybe I was as a student athlete. But when I look back on my college volleyball career at Rice University my head coach Jenny Volpe, looking back and in the moment, she stepped into those roles for me as just, she’s a mother, she’s a coach, she’s a former athlete.

And I’m just so grateful for the ways that she pushed me and she pushed. In ways that I didn’t even know I could be pushed or wanted to be pushed to then allow me to achieve more than I ever thought was possible. And so I’m just really, I’m grateful for her and many coaches in my life to wear these hats and push me and love me so well.

[00:05:54] Tommy Thomas: What about you, Linda? What do you remember?

[00:05:56] Linda Livingstone: When I reflect on what Shelby just shared, and I look and I think about this list of qualities that you read to us, I really think that we expect a lot more of coaches now than we did probably when I played. I think we expect them to be more of supporters and advisors and friends.

I don’t think when I played that’s necessarily how you thought about your coaches. I think you really thought about them much more of just what they did for you on the court and related to basketball. But I do know when I think about coaches that I’ve had, and my dad was a coach as well as you noted, and my dad passed away a number of years ago and at his funeral, many of his former players who played for him really in the 1950s and sixties and early seventies shared about the impact he had on their lives. And it was never about the basketball. It was always about the way they taught them to be, quality young men and to work hard and to have an impact beyond basketball.

So I think coaches that I’ve had that were the most impactful for ones that it wasn’t all about the sport or about the basketball. It was about those life lessons that you learned maybe through sport, but that make you just a better person and better at whatever you’re going to end up doing in life.

[00:07:09] Tommy Thomas: I read an article, it said that I was talking about the coaches process for providing feedback is a critical part to the success of the athlete.  I think proper feedback probably is an art form. and we see sometimes on TV and I guess this age of everything being captured that maybe we sometimes don’t see the best of the art form. And maybe sometimes we do.

But maybe to both of you, what do you remember about feedback that that you got from a respected coach?  What did that look like?

[00:07:36] Linda Livingstone: Go ahead, Shelby. Okay. You had this experience much more recently than I have.

[00:07:43] Shelby Livingstone: When I think about athletes, I think it’s almost like having kids. Like I feel like I am 26 and I had 19 daughters. This year that I had to take care of. And you have to know each athlete in order to know the best way that they will receive feedback.

Because the way that I talk to one athlete versus the way that I talk to another athlete is very different. And I think as a coach you can’t. Give the, you can give really great feedback, but if they’re not receiving it, and if you don’t know who they are and how they’ll best receive that feedback, then you’ll never make any progress.

They’ll never really quite understand what you’re saying to them. And so as I like enter my coaching career, I obviously look back on the coaches that have impacted me the most and I just look back on them and I see how much they knew me. Shelby living stone off of the volleyball court, and I see how much they knew me as Shelby outside of the weight room and outside of the track that we would condition on.

And as soon as I understood and knew that my coaches knew me as more than just a student-athlete, but as a person, as a daughter, as a friend, as a student, then those are the moments that the feedback really takes root, and you can start to make really great change and progress within athletes.

But that’s, you have to take the time outside of the core, outside of the gym to get to know athletes and for them to know that you care about them, to then understand the proper routes. Feedback and to grow and to learn. ,

[00:09:26] Linda Livingstone: I was thinking about what Shelby said and it reminded me of an experience I had when I was in college at Oklahoma State playing basketball.

And I think one of the other things, coaches that are good at providing feedback understand is when they make a mistake and don’t provide feedback in the right way to the. to the student athlete. They acknowledge that and yeah, speak to that. I remember we were scrimmaging preseason and we were not playing well.

And one of our assistant coaches just jumped on a couple of us really hard, and it was devastating because we were the kind of kids that just worked hard and always tried to do our best no matter what. And he later came back to both of us and apologized. He says, when I’m dealing with this other player, I know that I can say that to her and I can be on her like that and that’s what’s gonna get her to respond.

But for you guys, I really should have approached you in a different way and used a different way of giving you the feedback that you needed. So while it was hard in that moment, I think the fact that assistant coach acknowledged that they’d given feedback in the wrong way and acknowledged how they should have done it was actually a really.

Positive experience with that coach and their willingness to admit that they had made a mistake and could have done it better, I think was really impactful. And it’s a great leadership lesson. We sometimes do make bad decisions as a leader, and we need to acknowledge that and be willing to let people know that and then move on.

[00:10:46] Tommy Thomas: Take me to the best athletic team you were a part of and what made it so.

[00:10:53] Shelby Livingstone: you can go first on this one. Mom.

[00:10:55] Linda Livingstone: Oh gosh. I’m just trying to think back to some good teams I was on and my high school basketball team, we had a good teams in college as well, but my high school basketball team was really quite successful and we never quite made it to the state tournament, but we had some really good teams and, I think it was because, We liked each other.

I actually went to a pretty small high school, so we were all really good friends besides being on the basketball team together, we liked each other. We respected each other. We had a coach that really brought us together as a team and motivated us, and he was really good about knowing. What each person’s talent was and how to use them in the game properly to get the, to make the team the best they could be.

Sometimes it’s not always about the individual player and what you think is best, it’s about what, how using that player is best for the team. And he was really good at that. And so I think because of that we had some really successful teams along the way and enjoyed being together as a team as well, which I think is really important.

[00:11:56] Shelby Livingstone: I feel really lucky because I can look back on. Every single team that I’ve been on, and I could just talk for hours about how special those teams were, whether we won a championship or lost all of our matches that year. So I feel really lucky with the people that I’ve been able to play volleyball with.

I got to go to the Final four with Baylor volleyball as a volunteer assistant coach, and that’s an experience that as an athlete, I never thought I would be able to, sit on the sidelines of a game like that. But I’d have to say that my fifth year when I was at Rice, I. tore my ACL spring of my junior year going into what would’ve been my true senior year.

So I had to red shirt my senior year. And honestly, that year was really hard and I never, I thought I might never see the volleyball chord again. Whether I got cleared to play or just wasn’t gonna be the same volleyball player I was before my injury. And we, that was a hard year for our team.

The year that I redshirted, we. Had a lot of drama and a lot of really hard conversations that year, and I thought that maybe our team wouldn’t ever recover from that. And so coming back from my fifth year was really special because I earned the opportunity to be a sixth rotation outside hitter, which for volleyball is a really big deal and really awesome.

And our team went through a lot of self-reflection to get to a place that honestly I didn’t think we would be able to get back to as a loving, supportive community for one another. And that year we had 11 girls on our team, which for a volleyball team is really small. And so we just bonded together and whatever this season looks like, it’s gonna be fun and we’re gonna play with a lot of joy and we’re gonna support each other through all of it. And I think with that attitude and. Just relieving, releasing everything that we had experienced the year before. We played with a lot of freedom, and we ended up winning our conference regular season tournament or championship, and our conference tournament, and we made it to the NCAA Tournament, and it was just the perfect bow on top of my college volleyball career.

And I got to do it with my best friends. And I got to do it in a year that I wasn’t promised and didn’t think I would. Get when I started at Rice. And so I’ll forever be grateful for those 11 girls on that team and for our coaching staff and just the way that we could have lost every match that year and I think it would’ve still been a really special year, but we ended up winning a championship, so that was a great memory to think back on.

[00:14:28] Tommy Thomas: Both of you are women of faith and have an abiding faith. I’m always curious, and I asked myself that question a lot, how does faith and competition mix?

[00:14:38] Linda Livingstone: When I think about that because I know a lot of people struggle with that, and Shelby’s the one with the port Ministry Master of Divinity and Sport Ministry, so she can talk about it probably from a much deeper theological perspective than I can.

But what I think about is that as Christians, we are really called to be good stewards of the talents and gifts that God has given us. And if those happen to be athletic gifts, then we really should strive to be the best we can be athletically, and then to use that athletic talent to have an impact for Christ in the world.

I think would mean playing your best, being as competitive as you can, being the best team member that you can. Being the best example you can be to those that are watching you . And so I think that does feed into being a great competitor but doing it in the right way, in a way that’s honoring to Christ.

And so I think about it as a stewardship aspect of being a Christian. But Shelby probably has other thoughts beyond. No,

[00:15:37] Shelby Livingstone: I love that. And I would add I would just add to that as a Christian, I would say that my motivation in all things that I do comes from love, and it comes from the example of love that Jesus sets for us in the gospel.

So, whether I’m playing my sport or I’m talking to my friends, or I’m driving down the road, all that I do. Should be coming from a place of love, and I fail at this every single day, but that’s the goal that I enter into each day with. And so as an athlete, as a competitor, I want my motivation to be from love.

If I’m competing through the love of Jesus, then. I think that’s a great way to share the gospel with other people. I think the court, the field, the pool is a great way to share the gospel through using our talents, using the gifts that God has given us to spread his joy and his love through everyone that we come into contact with.

I think if we’re going into competition with, This base of love with this motivation of love, then it can be used so well to further the Kingdom of God here.

[00:16:49] Tommy Thomas: It’s often said that a game is won or lost in the locker room before the game starts. Do either one of you have any memories of a good pre-game speech?

[00:17:02] Shelby Livingstone: There are some good ones. Yeah, I think that for the most part, my coaches and when I was at Rice and when I was at Baylor and now at Liberty, the locker room pre-game talks are like your last second chance to remind the players of your 3, 4, 5 most important things. It’s like your last refresh before you take the big test that is the match. And so I definitely remember some like big rah-rah locker room moments before a big conference rival match before we would play Western Kentucky at Rice or Texas at Baylor. But I think the locker room, the pre-game locker room talks are really just like your last moment to go over a couple last things to remind your players of what they’ll be seeing on the other side of the court. And my favorite thing about pre-game locker room talks at Baylor and Liberty is the time that we get to pray before we go out onto the court. I think it’s just a great way to, for our girls to recenter themselves to be reminded why they’re playing, what motivates them. And so honestly, that’s what gets me fired up about matches is the times that we get to sit together and just pray for joy before our matches.

[00:18:16] Linda Livingstone: Here at Baylor, there’s a famous story of Grant Teaff, our football coach for years. He’s retired now. And he gave a motivational talk and I don’t remember if it was pre-game or at halftime and he ate a worm and it’s this legendary motivational story.

So I have to say, I never had any coaches do anything quite like that when I was pre-game or at to get us inspired. But I think Shelby’s right, that it’s really whatever it takes for that particular game or match or competition. Given who you’re playing to get the team focused on the things they have to do in that event to do their best, to have the best opportunity to win.

And I think really good coaches know what you need in the moment prior to a particular game or match to get the most out of their players. And it may be something different each game, depending on who you’re playing and what you’ve gotta do to beat that team.

[00:19:06] Tommy Thomas: Linda you’ve had a few more years of experience than Shelby and you’ve moved up through the ranks of Dean of three business schools.  Now you’re a university president. What skills or competencies do you think you use most as a president?

[00:19:22] Linda Livingstone: Yeah. There’s a lot that go, goes into being a president and I think first and foremost, you really have to approach a job like this that has the scope and breadth and depth that a university presidency has from a very mission centered perspective, and I think this is with any type of organization, you have to really say, okay, what’s the mission of our institution and what do I have to do as the president to help ensure that everything we do is consistent with our mission? And in my view, what really is important there is alignment.

Alignment from our Board of Regents to me, to my leadership team, to our deans and on down through the faculty and staff. And so hiring the right people is critical to me. I, everybody always asks me, what’s the most important thing as a president? I said, you’ve gotta put the right team there with you to help lead the organization. I can’t do everything. There’s some things I’m good at, there’s some things I’m not so good at, and I’ve gotta put together a team because this is a complex organization, it’s a large organization, and I need a team with diverse skills that all care deeply about the mission to make sure that we get it done and do it well, and then that we have alignment with our board and with our faculty and so on. And so I think hiring the right people and then helping them to be successful. If my team is successful, then our institution is going to be successful. So, my job is to make sure that they have the resources and the support that they need to do their job well so that Baylor can be success.

[00:20:55] Tommy Thomas: If I came to staff meeting week after next and we excused, you and I got a chance to talk with your cabinet, what do you think they would say would be the most challenging aspect of working for Dr. Livingstone?

[00:21:06] Linda Livingstone: You’re always welcome to come, Tommy. I’d be happy to let you have some time with my team.

They’re a wonderful group of people. It’s an interesting question. I would say I’m. a pretty resilient person, and I have a really positive attitude and I love what I do.  I love the work that I do. So there’s not a lot that kind of gets me down even in really difficult situations.

I really seek to have a positive attitude and look for the good in things. And I think there’s a lot of good in that, but I also think that it can sometimes cause me to maybe miss when somebody on my team, experiencing a lot of stress or some difficulty in the work that they’re doing. And because sometimes that’s not how I would react to something.

So I have to really pay attention and frankly, have people, remind me occasionally that this vice president maybe needs a little bit of encouragement, or they’re really struggling with something right now, so we might need to provide them with some additional support. So I think it’s a conscientiousness on my part that I may miss sometimes of the struggles they’re going through and what they’re finding hard and maybe even that they don’t always want me to know because they think I might not have that same reaction and I don’t want that at all. I want to know when they need my support and my help.

[00:22:19] Tommy Thomas: On the flip side of, what do you think that would say is the most rewarding aspect?

[00:22:23] Linda Livingstone: I hope they would say the flip side of that last question is that they feel like I support them, that I’ve got their backs and that I’m doing everything I can to help them and their teams to be successful.

And that frankly we build a good culture within my leadership of support and care for one another. Again, all in service to the mission.

[00:22:45] Tommy Thomas: Shelby, if I came to volleyball practice when you returned to campus in a couple weeks, and what words and phrases do you think your team would say that would best describe you as an assistant coach?

[00:22:57] Shelby Livingstone: Oh, man. I I hope that they would say that they know that I love them and that I care about them and that my door is always open. Whether they’re experiencing joy or sadness or hardship, that Shelby is a coach that we can always go to and she will listen. I feel like a lot of my job is listening, which I love.

I love listening to people’s stories. I love hearing about people’s successes, but also sitting with people and their hardships and moments of loss. And so I feel as if I’m super lucky that these girls. really invited me into deep pieces of their lives, and I’ve only been there for a little over five or six months.

And so I hope that they can see how much I care about them because as an athlete, I didn’t realize how much my coaches cared about me until I graduated and got to know them on a different level than my coaches.  I wish that I had experienced my coaches like that because I know that they cared about us in that way.

And so I hope that when my athletes and my girls see me, that’s what they feel and experience as their assistant coach. .

[00:24:13] Linda Livingstone: And I can actually tell you that I know that’s how they feel, Tommy, because we’ve got to go to several of Shelby’s tournaments and games this year, and the girls would come up to us and just tell us how much they loved Shelby, how happy they were that she was there.

Parents would come up to us and. Say the same thing. So we were very proud parents because they just couldn’t say enough about the impact Shelby had, not just on the team, but on the girls or the their daughters personally. So it was very affirming and consistent with what I think she hopes they say, because that’s what they’re actually saying about her.

[00:24:54] Tommy Thomas: Shelby, how close is the reality of the job, to which you might have thought it was going to be?

[00:24:59] Shelby Livingstone: That’s a great question because I think as an athlete you don’t realize all that your coaches do. You see them at practice and you think that’s all that goes in to their day is just being at a two or three hour practice.

It’s definitely been a huge learning curve. Just knowing with recruiting. With scouting other teams, planning practices, all the travel that’s involved with recruiting.  There’s definitely a steep learning curve. But I’m super grateful that I have great people around me to help me learn.

But I think the most surprising piece of being a coach is I am thoroughly convinced after my first semester of coaching, Every coach needs some sort of counseling or seminary ministry degree, because I felt like most, more than maybe 50% of my job this past semester was like I talked about earlier, just sitting with the girls, just listening to them, hearing their hearts, getting to know them, helping them through tough times, and honestly, that’s what draws me to coaching. That is really what gets me excited is just living life with these young women. And I really think that my seminary degree, I used it a lot. My counseling classes that I was able to take and honestly not to know the answers, not to these girls’ problems, but more so just to listen, to know when to be silent, to know when they just need someone to talk to. And so that was probably the most, the thing that I didn’t realize was such a big part of coaching is the relational piece of it, the counseling piece of it to just. And listen to the girls and be there for them in hard times because being a college student is hard.

Being a college student athlete is hard. And so I am just grateful for that piece as well. But it was definitely an more unexpected piece of my first coaching experience.

[00:27:10] Tommy Thomas: Linda, what’s the most maybe the hardest, the most difficult decision you’ve had to make in your career, and how did you come out of it?

[00:27:17] Linda Livingstone: I’m going to mention two things, Tommy, because they’re very different.  I think one of the hardest things you have to do and that I’ve had to do several times is of remove people from jobs. People that I knew well and liked well, and maybe even that I’d put in that job at one point or another but recognize that their time in that role needed to end and we needed to move on to somebody else.

And that’s extremely difficult to do particularly when you love people a lot but it’s the right thing to do for the best of the organization. So that’s, some of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. The other one is one that so many and so many organizations had to deal with during Covid in Spring of 2020, March of 2020, we had to make the decision to go fully online to shut down our campus as we went into Covid we were at the Big 12 basketball tournament.  We had to make the decision to shut down that tournament. So many organizations had to make such hard decisions with limited information during Covid and that decision. And then many decisions that followed that over the next year and a half or so.

We’re just really hard ones. And we’ve tried to focus as a team on some overarching values. The health and safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff had to be the highest priority. The ongoing sustainability of our educational efforts and mission through all of that had to be a high priority, and so every decision we made, We tried to tie it back to some of those overarching goals and values, and it was hard when you had limited information, but when you’ve got a great team that are all committed to the same thing and trying to make it work it turned out well for us.

But those were really, those were hard and difficult decisions that had huge life impact on so many people.

[00:28:57] Tommy Thomas: What about you, Shelby?

[00:29:00] Shelby Livingstone: Yeah. I would say that the hardest decision was going to Liberty.  I had been living in Waco for the past three years. I had been living in Texas since I started at Rice, and I wasn’t looking to leave the state of Texas.

And I had, I just felt like I had it all in Waco. I had great friends, great community but once the job at Liberty came to my attention and I started learning more about it, and I met the head coach, and I met this other assistant coach and I met some of the girls. It was one of those things that, yes, like taking the step out and moving to Virginia and leaving everything that you know is going to be really hard and it’s going to be challenging, and I really didn’t wanna do it at first, but I knew that.

I was just really excited about the growth that I knew was going to come from this challenging new opportunity that was placed in front of me. And I never wanted to look back and think, man, I just stayed with something that was so safe instead of going out and trying something new. I never wanted to regret and look back and wish that I had gone out.

[00:30:15] Shelby Livingstone: Cause I think of any time in my life to do something and to go out and try something new right now in my mid-twenties is the time to do that. And so definitely taking the step of faith to go to Liberty was really challenging and hard. But I think in the end, and so far it’s turned. So and has just pushed me and allowed me to grow in new ways that I never expected.

Maybe ways that I didn’t want to be pushed and to grow, but that I look back and I’m so grateful for, and I’m so excited to see how my time at Liberty and in Lynchburg continues to not only push me, but how then I can help and push my athlete.

[00:31:02] Tommy Thomas: I listen to Alan Alda’s podcast, Clear and Vivid quite a bit, and he always closes by getting people to respond to quotes.

[00:31:10] Tommy Thomas: And his quotes are usually about communication since that’s his business. Maybe mine are a little different. So I like to throw these two quotes at the two of you and respond from the chair in which you sit. The first one, Thomas Edison famously said, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

[00:31:32] Shelby Livingstone: Okay. I really, I like this quote because I think especially in athletics you got to work hard. You have to put in the time in the gym, in the weight room, on the track to achieve the goals, achieve the championships, do the things that you want to be doing. And I’ve known athletes who are just super athletic, but they don’t put that time in. They have all these goals, but they think they can just cruise by and achieve all the things that they want to without the perspiration, without the hard moments, without the hours and hours of extra time in the gym. And I wasn’t one of those athletes. I had to put in all the extra work to achieve the things athletically that I wanted to achieve, and.

I think it’s just this idea of grit, and I think grit is really something that can separate an athlete from an athlete and a team from a team and a championship level team, from a not championship level team. And so when I look at our team at Liberty, when I look at the teams I’ve been on, it’s. The teams that achieved more than maybe was expected are the teams that had a goal, had this idea of what they wanted their season to look like, but it didn’t just stop there.

[00:32:49] Shelby Livingstone: They went out and they did the extra reps and they took the extra time in the weight room. And then those were the teams that were able to achieve all that they wanted to, not because of the 1%, but because of the 99% that they pushed themselves farther than other people.

[00:33:08] Tommy Thomas: Frederick Wilcox said, progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base by keeping your foot on first.

[00:33:18] Linda Livingstone: So I think about my job as a leader. An awful lot of what I do is calculate that risk, reward, trade off, right? Because almost every decision you make, there’s risk involved in it, and you have to determine whether that risk is worth the potential reward.

Using the analogy that Wilcox used, the first base coach does not always send that player to second base. They make a calculated decision about how important it is it that we get to second base right now.

  • Who’s the runner that’s on first base?
  • Who’s the pitcher?
  • Who’s the catcher?
  • What are the chances they’re going to get there?
  • How important is it right now, at this particular time, that they actually get to second base?
  • Is that going to really help us win this game?

I think those are the kind of calculations you make every single day as a leader is you have to take risk to make progress, but you have to be smart about when to take the risk and how to take it to give you the best opportunity for success in that particular moment, given the circumstances.

It’s a great quote and it’s really important and it’s one that as a leader, we spend a lot of time working on is that risk reward calculation.


Thanks to Shelby and Linda Livingstone for taking time from their holiday schedule to be with us today. As you can see from their lives, the coaches they have had have played a big role in helping them become the leaders they are today.

If you’re new to the podcast and enjoy the theme, the coaches in my life, you might enjoy the conversation I had with Brody Croyle the former quarterback for the University of Alabama and Kansas City Chiefs and Dr. Terry Franson, prominent track and field coach who coached 123 NAIA, All Americans, 81 national championships and eight Olympians.

In an upcoming episode we’ll be talking with Jimmy Mellado, the President & CEO of Compassion International.  In addition to discussing leadership and board service we’ll discuss jimmy’s life as an Olympic athlete.

He’s gonna hate that I’m saying this, but my dad was my middle school basketball coach, and I think that is what pushed me to play volleyball.” -Shelby Livingstone


Links and Resources

JobfitMatters Website

Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas

Baylor University

Liberty University


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