Leadership Lessons from Coach Kay Yow (part 3)

Leadership Lessons from Coach Kay Yow (part 3)

Coach Kay Yow’s impact reached far beyond the NC State basketball family or even the world of women’s basketball. In compiling stories from her former players for Leader of the Pack: The Legacy of Legendary Coach Kay Yow, it became clear that she made a difference in the lives of her players’ relatives, of North Carolinians and most certainly of anyone touched by cancer.

We’ve looked at two of the key principles she subscribed to that helped her live successfully: to Be Persevering and to Be Present. Today, we look at one of the hallmarks of Coach Yow’s life, her ability to:

Be Positive

You’ve heard that our attitude determines our altitude. Or that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. Both true. Yet, in a world filled with unemployment, financial hardship and cancer, how exactly can we be positive?

Known for her many sayings, Coach Yow would say “use intelligent ignorance.” When I first heard this, I was confused. How can we be intelligent and ignorant at the same time? According to former Wolfpack player, Kerri Hobbs Gatling, intelligent ignorance means:

remaining ignorant of others’ opinions and turning a deaf ear to people who tell us we can’t reach our goals.” (p. 87)

One challenge of leadership is knowing which voices to listen to and which ones to ignore. Coach Yow helped her players understand the impact of the voices that whispered doubt and uncertainty about their abilities and goals. Staying positive meant learning to ignore the negative voices that would hold them back from reaching their desired outcome.

For us, using intelligent ignorance might mean ignoring the folks who tell us we don’t match up on paper against our next opponent. Or perhaps it’s ignoring the people who say we’ll never land our dream job. Or that our fight against the illness in our body is hopeless.

Coach Yow modeled positivity to her players every day, always searching for the “silver lining in every dark cloud.” She truly believed that good could be found in anything—even in cancer.

When she received the Heart of a Coach Award from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in April 2008, she talked about how cancer was a blessing because of the opportunity it gave her to encourage others and to develop the Kay Yow Cancer Fund to help raise awareness and money to find a cure. (Listen to her acceptance speech)

The disease that had ravaged her body by taking her hair and fingernails and giving her sores in her mouth and neuropathy in her feet, she called a blessing. Amazing perspective from a woman determined to be positive.

How do you stay positive in the midst of life’s challenges? Please take a moment to share your thoughts below.