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Joint Chiefs chair helps motivate Olympic basketball teams

American Forces Press Service

Published: 02:52PM July 19th, 2012
Joint Chiefs chair helps motivate Olympic basketball teams

Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshal

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, left, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listens to Mike Krzyzewski, coach of the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team.

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a motivational talk to players on the USA Basketball men’s and women’s national teams Saturday.

General Martin E. Dempsey met the basketball players preparing for upcoming Olympics competition in London at the District of Columbia National Guard Armory. He was joined by service members and their families for the “Hoops for Troops” program.

The “Hoops for Troops” program, launched in 2006, provides support for the U.S. military and their families through programs, events, and partnerships, according to the USA Basketball website.

“If you’re a huge sports fan, this is one of these events that have got to be memorable to you,” Dempsey said. “It is a huge morale boost for us, that is to say, those that serve and their families.”

Dempsey said the event was a great morale boost for troops, but it was equally important for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which he had the opportunity to talk to before the event began.

“I told them I’m not going to give you any advice on how to play basketball,” he said. “I’m not going to talk to you about leadership because you’ve got Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University) and Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut), two of the finest leaders of any profession in our country.” Krzyzewksi coaches the USA Basketball men’s national team and Auriemma coaches the USA Basketball women’s national team.

The chairman said he explained to the players how the U.S. military’s young men and women operate with trust in themselves, their leaders and the institution they support.

“I let it just sit there,” Dempsey said. “I didn’t tell them: ‘Therefore, you need to trust each other.’ But in having that conversation about what makes us an effective team, and the foundation of which is trust, I think they’re clever enough young men and young women to figure out that the message is if they’re going to succeed in London they’d better learn to trust each other — in an extraordinary way.”

Dempsey also explained his connection to Krzyzewski.

“We do go back several decades I guess,” Dempsey said, “(We’re) both ‘West Pointers’ — him, Class of ’69; I’m the Class of ’74. I went to graduate school at Duke while he was the coach. “And then when I became the (U.S. Army) Training and Doctrine commander, I reached out to him on the basis on a shared interest in leader development,” the chairman continued. “And on that basis, we’ve grown even closer over the years.”

The chairman said he most admires Krzyzewski’s ability to adapt, “which is one of the attributes we’ve said as a force is most in need in the future ... because we don’t know exactly what we’ll confront.”

Dempsey also touched on the “Hoops for Troops” program which is an effort “to keep connected to athletes” and serves as one of a “triad” of important national outreach efforts.

Joining Forces “seeks to connect communities and make it easier for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and their families ... to move around the country and not have to restart everything every time they move,” the chairman said. “It’s been really successful.”

Dempsey noted the success of Hoops for Troops and other similar programs derives from their “bottom-up management,” as opposed to “top down,” senior-leader driven approach. Once resources, guidance and motivation are provided, he said, these programs catch on from the bottom up.