When I was a sophomore in high school a new teacher and basketball coach was hired and began what would be a long career in my hometown. At first things seemed harmless enough ... just another new teacher/coach and not something I thought too much about. That was until the start of winter practices. It took but one practice to realize that the new coach was very disciplined and expectations were extremely high. I recall practices to be more grueling than what I remembered from my freshman year and more than once the thought of quitting may have crossed my mind.

At the start of the second week of practice, the players that had not called it quits found a single white sheet of paper posted to the front of their gym locker. The page was titled “Hope vs. Expect” and there were about 20 different statements on that page that would come to define the philosophy of the coach, the players and the general mentality of the basketball program for many years to come.

As I dressed for practice, I started reading through the bulleted statements. Statements such as:

• “We no longer hope to hustle during all drills, we expect to hustle during all drills.”

• “We no longer hope to be good teammates, we expect to be good teammates.”

While many of the statements were specific to the game of basketball, others were focused on things that could apply to other aspects of our life. Statements such as:

• “We no longer hope to be at school on time, we expect to be at school on time.”

• “We no longer hope to represent ourselves, our school and community in a first class manner, we expect to represent ourselves, our school and community in a first class manner.”

For many years that one page sheet of paper that was filled with expectations has remained a foundational focus for that teacher/coach and his students and teams. I continue to make it a focus in my personal and professional life nearly 30 years after I first read it. The philosophy can apply to all walks of life. Our teacher and coach understood that successful people and organizations have strong expectations and commit to those expectations. He made sure we all knew that hoping for success is one thing ... expecting it is another.

Hoping is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not bad to “want” things to happen or have a “desire” for things to happen. There is definitely a time and place to hope. However, when goals are in place and clear expectations are focused on accomplishing the goals, success generally will take care of itself. As we prepare for the start of the 2019-20 school year, it is a great time for parents to discuss goals and expectations with their students. Create that vision before school starts and make sure the expectations are known. Then revisit those goals and expectations throughout the year. 

As a principal, I don’t hope that students leave O’Neill Public High School well prepared to succeed as they pursue their goals, I expect it and I will work hard to help students accomplish their goals. Best wishes to all as we begin the 2019-20 school year. Go Eagles!


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