I love to read. Enter my USA Volleyball office, or my little home built back in 1899 and you might be taken aback by how many books are sitting on so many shelves. I love to read because the lifelong learner in me wants to know more. By making sure there is time in my day to read, I get to ponder what others have considered valuable enough to write about.  I get to stand on the shoulders of those people, and maybe make something even bigger, taller, and better.

This blog is twofold. First, to share something a coach I respect from Spain shared with me and second to share some of what I consider MUST read commencement speeches.

Have you ever heard of Catalan Castling? Until Oriol Pascual shared it with me I never had. Which by itself always amazes me, that something so important to tens of millions in one country, I did not know about until I was over half a century old. That’s what I love about Atul Gawande’s quote, bold emphasis is mine –

“To be sure, we need innovations to expand our knowledge and therapies, whether for CF or childhood lymphoma or heart disease or any of the other countless ways in which the human body fails. But we have not effectively used the abilities science has already given us. And we have not made remotely adequate efforts to change that. When we’ve made a science of performance … thousands of lives have been saved.” Gawande, A. (2008) Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

So here is what Oriol shared with me. I found the video of the tower that won this year. Please note that you get two possible achievements: to build the castle and another one, and harder even, is to unbuild it "in an elegant way"... I just tell you to understand the end of the video when the group of Vilafranca is so very happy...

A climax happened in 2006, when Vilafranca build the very first in history a castle of 10 levels.

And imagine, for the first time, it was also unbuilt in 2009 by the group from town Terrassa.

And you can count that every different castle was built and unbuilt some days for the first time by any of the strongest groups (there are plenty of varieties! 7, 8, 9, 10 levels... and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or up to 6 people per level, and with a second base, or a third base... crazy people these catalans... I tell you!), so every time a big celebration!

Nevertheless, is a pure team's work, with hard practices several times a week, serious construction design, professional planning, and hours in the gym as well, for a short summer season, but the real hero is the "Enxaneta", the little boy or girl that reaches the top of the castle! Without them the castle is not considered as built, and they are free to decide if they go ahead or if they go back... all honours for these brave youngsters, watch here

Wow. Now THAT is a lesson in teamwork ANY sports group can understand and marvel at. Gracias Oriol for letting us stand on your shoulders and learn of another form of teamwork that is astounding.

The second shoulders to stand on are those brave, enough to deliver a college commencement speech. My favorite of all time, is David Foster Wallace’s delivered to Kenyon College in 2005.  It can be found HERE on the USAV Grassroots Player section, as I wish every player reads it. It will pop up, if you need to share it at a later time, by simply searching for the title “This is Water – by DF Wallace.”  It is about learning how to be better learners, by being better thinkers, and ties wonderfully into how any player needs to be more skillful at both on and off the court life.

I also love watching the mayor of the big island of Hawaii, Billy Kenoi, deliver his speech recently that I call “No Can.”  This talk teaches everyone, coach/teacher/parents and athletes/students/children alive how to be better at family/ohana and at doing….My favorite line I say often now, in a Hawaiian tone, and sometimes even body language, “No such thing as no can, only always can, only thing you gotta figure out is how can."

Rounding out my top three is Conan Obrien’s speech to his alma mater, Harvard, about a decade ago. The road to success is not linear, as many coaches and parents might think, and his talk is filled with both humor and insight that helps anyone. 

So feel free to share your favorite commencement speech link and reasons it resonated and taught you to be a better person…NPR did some pretty impressive legwork for you already, as here are their top 300 -  I look forward to learning from you.

PS. Since I can add my own postscript, if you have never watched Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” (in the spirit of my not knowing about Catalan Castling), PLEASE carve out an hour this week to watch it. You will be glad you did.