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In a small midwestern town, the local high school of 878 students recently produced its first state championship basketball team in over 90 years. The community has had an organized city basketball league for its younger boys for many years. But, this league, designed to spot talent early and then feed the high school basketball program, did nothing to produce the state title. There is also an open gym at the high school every Tuesday and Thursday night to encourage the young men in the community to play basketball. But like the city league, this open gym contributed nothing to the team in its championship bid.

A local banker, a former college all-star, has volunteered his services for one dollar a year to assist the high schools coaching staff. The boy’s varsity basketball program also has an able assistant coach. But these two accomplished assistant coaches, like the city league and the open gym, were of no value in helping the boy’s varsity team win the state title. The reason these community programs and an extra coach had little effect in producing the state title, was that the state championship was won by the high schools girls varsity basketball team.

Everyone in town, with the exception of the school’s administration, can see that the failure of the boy’s varsity basketball program lies with the head coach. The girl’s coach is a woman who is tough but fair, a coach who works hard to build self-esteem and confidence in each member of her squad. She teaches the fundamentals, drills her team for skill and then empowers her players to make decisions on the court that will get the job done. The confidence she has developed in each member of the team gave the girl’s team the ability, under extreme pressure, to put up the winning shot at the final buzzer, to take the state championship.

On the other hand, the boy’s varsity head coach is a tyrant who literally destroys his players by trying to mold them into an antiquated system that fails to capitalize on each boy’s strengths. He makes all the decisions and directs the team from the sidelines. As a result, the boy’s team rarely lives up to its potential or the investment in time, talent, and money the community has made in the boy’s basketball program.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has written that an organization “is the extended shadow of one man.” As this example of the two high school basketball coaches illustrates, it is the extended shadow of the coach that makes a winning or a losing basketball team. At the supervisory level in your company or firm, it is the extended shadow of the manager, more than any other single element that is the key to developing a sales culture and consistently achieving sales success.

To learn more about how to cast a positive shadow check out The $elling Edge, Inc. Coaching & Team Development self-directed learning manual at

VIRDEN title=

VIRDEN> J. THORNTON is the founder and President of The $elling Edge®, Inc. a firm specializing in sales, customer relations, and management training and development. Clients have included Sears Optical, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Deloitte & Touché, Bank One, Jefferson Pilot, and Wal-Mart to name a few. Virden is the author of Prospecting: The Key To Sales Success and the best selling Building & Closing the Sale, Fifty-Minute series books and Close That Sale, a video/audio tape series published by Crisp Publications, Inc. Menlo Park, California. He has also authored a Self-Directed Learning series of sales, coaching & team development, telemarketing, and personal productivity training guides. Check out the listed books and manuals at

Virden title=

Virden> teaches for the Center For Professional Development, Texas Tech University at Lubbock, Texas and in the School Of Entrepreneurship, J. Willard And Alice S. Marriott School Of Management at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. You can contact Virden at:

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This Entrepreneurship article was written by Virden Thornton on 8/19/2005

In a small midwestern town, the local high school of 878 students recently produced its first state championship basketball team in over 90 years. The community has had an organized city basketball le