Top-Shelf Tip No. 69:

"It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make the big things happen."

John Wooden

Secrets To Success From Sister Jean

Each year, as the NCAA college basketball tournament draws to close, one person stands out as the hero for that year’s March Madness. Who can forget University of North Carolina freshman Michael Jordan’s game-winning dunk to beat Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 2015, Keith Smart’s jump shot to stun Syracuse or Lorenzo Charles beating the buzzer to knock off University of Houston’s Phi Slama Jama—and Coach Jim Valvano racing across the court looking for someone to hug? These are some of the most memorable March Madness moments.

This year’s hero wasn’t a player, instead it was 98-year-old Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, chaplain for the 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago team that made an improbable run into the final four and stole the show. If you watched any of the tournament or saw a story on the Loyola team, it was impossible to miss her sitting courtside in a wheelchair, cheering on her team and offering words of encouragement. In return, at the end of the game, each member of the Loyola team, and even some of the opposing players, offered a hug to Sister Jean.

In an interview in USA Today, Sister Jean articulated several reasons she believes both she and the Loyola Ramblers overachieved in this year’s NCAA tournament, which we share in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

In whatever you do, do more than is expected of you. Sister Jean has been with Loyola since 1991. When the team chaplain retired in 1994, Sister Jean was offered the position. Not only did she jump at the opportunity, she threw herself at it beyond the job description. In addition to serving as chaplain and offering life lessons to players and coaches, Sister Jean also began putting together scouting reports on upcoming opponents. When current coach Porter Moser took over the program, Sister Jean had a scouting report on all the team’s players waiting for him when he arrived.

Don’t forget the basics. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work frenzy and forget the basics—the things that connect us as humans and that many of us learned in kindergarten. Loyola player Donte Ingram confirmed that’s not the case with Sister Jean, saying: “She sends emails after the game, generalized and individualized, letting us know what we did well and just to keep it going and instilling confidence in us. Obviously, to have her support, is great.”

Be a team player and be kind to your team. We all have heard how important it is to be a collaborator and about the value of teamwork, but Sister Jean provides an addendum to this precept: kindness. “Things turn out well when you work as a team, when you share the ball and you’re so kind to each other. And when you really like each other. That’s what happens with these young men, they really like each other,” Sister Jean said.

Have fun. Doing your best happens when you are having fun. Sister Jean doesn’t quote a study or statistics to make this point, she relies on her observations over the years, summing it up simply: “They’re having what I call fun on the court. If you don’t have fun when you’re playing, you’re not relaxed enough to get the ball into the basket.”

Source: Nancy Armour is a national sportswriter, based in Chicago. In addition to writing features and special projects, she has covered eight Olympics, seven Final Fours and three World Cups, and reported on the Grand Slam at the 2010 British Open. She also has run six marathons, posing absolutely no threat to the winners.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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