Beyond Championships: A Playbook for Winning at Life

Beyond Championships: A Playbook for Winning at Life

Beyond Championships: A Playbook for Winning at Life

Beyond Championships: A Playbook for Winning at Life



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As the coach of one of high school basketball’s greatest programs, Coach Dru Joyce has been mentor and motivator to some of the nation’s best young players, including basketball legend LeBron James. Despite having virtually no experience in the sport, in less than ten years Dru went from a no-name fan to one of the highest profile basketball coaches in the country.

With insight and grit earned from his years on and off the court, Coach Dru shares for the first time the secrets to his teams’ success and his own coaching achievements. Far more than a sports book, Beyond Championships is a blueprint for anyone looking to make better choices, reach their full potential, and become winners in all areas of life.

As Dru outlines the nine principles that he promotes to his players and tries to live in his own life as well, you’ll discover that the solid foundation on which he built so many successful basketball programs can be applied to almost any situation. As you assess your chosen path in life and look for ways to embark on a more inspiring and rewarding journey, Coach Dru offers an accessible and relatable roadmap for personal evolution.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310340539
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: eBook
Pages: 224
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dru Joyce II was born and raised in East Liverpool, Ohio. He is a graduate of East Liverpool High School and Ohio University, with a degree in Business Administration. Dru moved his family to Akron in 1984 for his position at Con Agra. In 2004 Dru left Con Agra after twenty-six years to coach basketball full-time. Dru and his wife Carolyn are parents of four and grandparents of four. For more information about Coach Dru check out



Read an Excerpt

Beyond Championships

By James Dru Joyce II


Copyright © 2014 James Dru Joyce II
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-34052-2


The Beauty of Rock Bottom

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sensing an upset, the 20,000 fans inside Columbus, Ohio's, Value City Arena are starting to go wild.

Amid the pandemonium, my eyes are focused on Josh Hausfeld, the star player for our opponent, Cincinnati's Roger Bacon High School, as he steps to the line to ice the game. Only seconds remain, and Bacon leads 66–63. If Hausfeld makes just one free throw, then the game, our season, and our hope of being named the nation's greatest 2002 high school team will be over.

Compounding the unbelievable frustration my players and I are feeling, Hausfeld is at the line because, moments earlier, my son Li'l Dru had been called for an inexcusable technical foul. A technical that was as much a reaction to the pressure we had all been feeling over the course of that crazy year as it was to the fact that Dru hadn't gotten the ball to attempt a game-tying three-pointer.

Even as I stood there hoping Hausfeld would miss, I had seen this moment coming. Ever since taking over as the head coach of Akron, Ohio's, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School's (STVM) basketball team ten months earlier, I had worried there was no way we could live up to the incredible expectations that had been heaped on us. The expectations that come with being the two-time defending Ohio Division III champs. The expectations that come with being labeled the best high school team in the nation before the season started. The expectations that come when your best player is a lanky seventeen-year-old with a once-in-a-generation talent whose name is LeBron James.

As Hausfeld prepares to put up his first shot, his teammates on the bench gleefully hook their arms together at the crooks of their elbows—the very definition of a connected team. The energy of impending victory is already coursing through the entire lot of them, the glory already held. Behind me, my bench tells a much different story. Each player is on his own island of despair, united only in their common pose—the lower halves of their faces buried in the fronts of their jerseys to conceal the tears. A courtside TV announcer sums up the scene this way: "A lack of composure down the stretch has hurt STVM."

I feel my dismay like a sack of bricks on my chest. Yes, I had seen this moment coming. And no, I hadn't been able to stop it.

Hausfeld takes a deep breath and lets his shot go. It's pure.

With what feels like the eyes of the world on that basketball, we've come up short. A failure that seemed to say so much—about me as a rookie coach, as a father, and as a man.

* * *

The day hadn't started off well. Despite being heavy favorites in the game, I had walked into the Value City Arena that day with a thick mess of worry already bubbling up inside of me. I was still getting over a nasty flu and had spent a good part of the previous evening sniffling and shivering. Between tissues and mugs of tea, I had also been forced to corner some of my players in the hotel corridor for having the impudence to party late into the night with the cheerleaders, despite knowing exactly what was at stake the next day. To make matters worse, LeBron woke up that morning with back spasms, and we rushed him to Ohio State for electric pulse treatments, which we hoped would help calm the muscles. But by game time the spasms were back, so I had to make a decision: Do I let him play and hope he can work through the pain, or do I sit him and just have him try to stretch and keep the muscles warm and then see if I can get him in later in the game? I chose to play him.

Despite the ominous signs, my team just knew they were going to win. Not because they had prepared better or worked harder than their opponents. But because they were already high from a taste of fame. I had tried to temper their cockiness all season, but the recent Sports Illustrated feature that baptized LeBron as "The Chosen One" and the nonstop attention and hoopla that came with all that fuss had helped them tune me out. They were giddy with the confidence that came with so much attention and so many victories already, not to mention the fact that we had already beaten Roger Bacon once that season. Spasms or not for LeBron, the invincibility factor had grown up and around the boys like a stubborn weed, despite this gardener's best efforts.

I didn't walk into the arena that day with such coolness. In fact, it was precisely the pressure of such a game that made me weary of accepting the head coaching job at STVM to begin with. The fact was that I simply didn't want to mess it up. The team already had two state championships under their belts; they now had a chance to win three in a row, which would then put them in a position to win four, something no one has ever done in the state of Ohio. Somehow it felt like I was walking into a catch-22. If we won the state championship, I figured the credit would for sure go to the boys' previous coach, Keith Dambrot. But if we lost, I knew the blame would be mine alone.

And that's exactly how it went.

The Ohio media had a field day with our defeat, putting it squarely in my lap. "Flop at the Top," read one of the headlines; "Coach Dru Dropped the Ball," quipped another. An article in the Akron Beacon Journal split no hairs in its assessment of just what went wrong, claiming that the "main difference between this year's STVM and the past two ... was its leader."

Those words came off the page and seemed to pierce my sense of self the next morning as I stood at our kitchen counter, taking it all in. It's not that I didn't feel responsible; on the contrary, I felt like a captain of a ship that somehow lost course and drove us all into the bluffs. The hard part was knowing that, unlike most first-year high school athletic coaches, who are free to make (and learn from) their mistakes in total anonymity, my shortcomings—given the national notoriety of the team—were in the spotlight for all to see and judge. Not to mention the fact that my son's technical foul essentially sealed the win for Roger Bacon. My son.

Li'l Dru was the sole reason I even considered taking on the challenge of coaching boys basketball, and my intentions back then were rooted in the simple desire to be a pillar of support for my son. But the pressures that came with the team's quick ascension into superstardom somehow started to eclipse the simplicity of my original objective, and like the boys I was coaching, I also lost sight of the essence and got caught up with winning and losing.

The night after the game, I lay awake in my bed, replaying each play in my mind's eye, suffering through every unforced turnover and wasted possession, all the while asking myself a series of fundamental questions: Was this whole thing a mistake? Am I in over my head? Am I really cut out for this?

To really appreciate just how confounded I felt, consider that I made the choice to accept this head coaching job in both midlife and midcareer (a career I admittedly wasn't passionate about but one that at least had some stability to it), while being responsible for five mouths to feed.

So when Li'l Dru came into our kitchen the next morning and saw me with my head buried in the palms of my hands and a slew of critical newspaper articles strewn out on the counter, I knew he would understand just how bad I felt. I was consumed with the failure of the moment and wasn't able to see the opportunity for growth that lay in front of me.

Though I may not have seen it at the time, I was forced to call on some key principles that in hindsight not only armed me with the strength to endure the painful aftermath of the defeat but also ultimately helped transform me into a better basketball coach and man.

One of the most important lessons I've learned in life is that the most growth is possible when one stands at rock bottom. And that is exactly where we felt we were after our crushing loss to Roger Bacon. For the team to reclaim our championship—and our integrity—we would have to recommit both collectively and as individuals. Our guys would have to decide to stop playing basketball for themselves, for their parents, for their buddies, for their fans, or even for their future. If they were to climb out of the massive hole they'd dug for themselves, they would have to play only for each other.


Decisions Create Environment

Man does not simply exist, but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. Viktor Frankl

Though most of the players on that 2002 high school team were only sixteen or seventeen years old, the journey leading to the championship had actually started several years earlier. The core of that team—LeBron, my son Li'l Dru, and a burly center named Sian Cotton—had been playing together since they were ten and eleven years old, when they first took the floor together at our local Salvation Army's gym on Akron's Maple Street. As I'll relate shortly, after honing their skills during practices at Maple Street, the group began to play in local Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournaments. After dominating the local competition, we headed out of Akron (something many of the boys had never done before), cramming into our family's minivan as my wife, Carolyn, and I drove around the Midwest, taking on all comers and even venturing as far as Florida for a national tournament.

Between learning the game and seeing the world (or at least as much of the world as our faithful minivan could carry us to) together, the boys forged a strong bond. Not wanting to go their separate ways once the games and practices were over, LeBron, Sian, and Willie McGee (who joined the team at age thirteen) began sleeping over at our house many nights. I can still hear them down in our basement, watching movies, playing video games, devouring food that Carolyn couldn't seem to make fast enough (I'm looking at you, LeBron!), and horsing around in the way young boys everywhere do. Checking in on them late at night, I'd peek into the rec room and see them on the floor wrapped up in their sleeping bags, with empty pizza boxes strewn all around them on the carpet. They might not have been blood, but they were definitely brothers.

They even came up with a nickname for themselves—the Fab Four, an adaptation, of course, from the Fab Five, the nickname of the famous University of Michigan college basketball teams of the early 1990s.

The Fab Four decided to enroll together at St. Vincent-St. Mary as freshmen (a move that was in many ways LeBron's first controversial decision—more on that later). During their sophomore year, they were joined by a young man named Romeo Travis. On paper, Romeo seemed like the perfect candidate to turn the Fab Four into the Fab Five—he had been playing against the guys in various leagues since they were kids and was a very good player himself. But rather than look to break into their group, Romeo had proudly flaunted his independence from it. He didn't have much interest in being the "Fab Fifth." Romeo was more comfortable being a lone wolf than someone who ran with the pack. And rather than trying to help Romeo get past that tendency and invite him into their circle, Li'l Dru, LeBron, Willie, and Sian responded by poking fun at his "me versus the world" attitude and making him feel like even more of an outsider.

As I said, Romeo was an excellent player and his play was critical to the team's success. At six foot seven, he was a tremendous inside presence for us, a fierce rebounder and great leaper who would punctuate lob passes from LeBron with thunderous slam dunks. And he's still throwing them down to this day overseas, where he's played professionally for many years.

Yet back in the winter of 2002, as I looked back at our season and tried to make sense of what had gone wrong, I couldn't help but think that perhaps the uneasy dynamics that existed between the Fab Four and Romeo, their attitudes of invincibility, and all the pressure and expectations placed on the team played a vital part in their loss.

I spent a lot of time that winter and into the spring reflecting on the dynamics and factors that had led to our unraveling. And what I finally decided had done our team in, causing them to come apart at the seams in front of those 20,000 fans, was the simple fact that they had lost their focus.

Don't get me wrong. Had I gathered the guys together in the bowels of the Value City Arena in the moments before the championship game and asked them, "Fellas, are you focused?" they would have answered with a resounding yes. And they probably would even have believed it.

But no matter what they would have said to me in the heat of the moment before the big game, their actions over the course of the year told a different story. Instead of building an unshakeable foundation on the unique journey they had shared—the practices in hot gyms with no air-conditioning, the endless road trips in our minivan, the countless times they lay on the floor watching VHS tapes late into the night—they chose to become distracted by all the hype of celebrity status.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I too had become distracted. I couldn't just coach a basketball team; I had to coordinate and manage the media, entourages of family and friends and hangers-on, ticket requests, and so on—the likes of which hadn't been seen before on a high school stage. I will admit it wasn't an easy task.

I also made the mistake of keeping an assistant coach on staff who eventually tried to undermine what we were trying to accomplish. He had also interviewed for the head coaching job when it became available and was resentful when he didn't get it. His resentment ultimately led to him creating divisions behind my back with some senior players and parents. Instead of helping everyone be on the same page, he encouraged those parents to second-guess my decisions, especially when it came to playing time. All of this came to light early in the season, and I should have asked the coach to step down, which would have been in everyone's best interest. Instead, we tried to work out our differences; but even though we both said the right things, the seeds of mistrust and division had already been planted and taken root.

Our talent covered up most of the internal strife, but the weeds had grown tall by the time of the state championship game, and it cost us. The price was not only the Ohio championship but also a chance at the national championship the kids had been wanting since they were eleven. I can't point a finger at anyone but myself, because the decisions that led to the fracture within the team were my own.

It took that bitter defeat to help me grasp one of the most important lessons I've learned as a coach and as a man: Decisions create environment. Whether it's a sixteen-year-old boy struggling with a teammate or a grown man struggling to get his career and life on track, too many people believe they are destined to be a product of their environment rather than its producer. They have a hard time seeing that their choices are the building blocks of their reality. So every time someone makes a choice, they are essentially mapping out the very scenarios in which their lives will play out.

This is a lesson I want to share in this chapter, using as examples not only the experiences of my team but also some of the ups and downs of my own life. But first let me pose this question: If decisions create environment, what creates decisions? In the best case, it's our intentions. Our intentions are the "why?" in the decisions we make, so the truer and purer our intentions are, the clearer will be the decisions when the time comes to make them. The formula, however, works the other way too. When our intentions are blurry or we are distracted from them, our decision making is inevitably compromised. And sometimes in life we make decisions without really knowing or being connected to our intentions, which may lead to outcomes we don't want or understand.

When we recognize the power of our decisions, whether they are seemingly petty or substantial, every "move" in our life becomes an opportunity to create a new reality, which is an invaluable tool at every age, whether you are a teenager eager to design his destiny as a star athlete or a midlife adult who feels stuck in the rut of an unchangeable monotony.


When I look back at the choices I made at some of the intersections of my own journey, I see several I'm proud of, some less so, and others that became cornerstones of who I am today. The ones that led to the best outcomes were clearly those rooted in my most authentic and positive intentions.


Excerpted from Beyond Championships by James Dru Joyce II. Copyright © 2014 James Dru Joyce II. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by LeBron James, 13,
Chapter 1: The Beauty of Rock Bottom, 15,
Chapter 2: Decisions Create Environment, 23,
Chapter 3: The Myth of the Self-Made Man, 51,
Chapter 4: Use the Game; Don't Let the Game Use You, 77,
Chapter 5: Master the Art of Discipline, 97,
Chapter 6: The Power of Words, 121,
Chapter 7: The Heart of a Servant, 133,
Chapter 8: Make Lemonade, 151,
Chapter 9: Take Charge of Your Own Mind, 171,
Chapter 10: Dare to Dream, 195,
Acknowledgments, 211,
More Than a Game: Coach Dru Joyce II, 215,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Coach Dru has shared some valuable principles in life with us in Beyond Championships. My son, Jibri, came to Coach Dru’s program at St. Vincent-St. Mary as a junior in high school and has become a better person and a better player. I am grateful for Coach Dru’s mentoring and the leadership he is providing for so many young people. Beyond Championships reveals the heart and soul of a good man and a good coach. It’s a must-read for young people, as well as for older people. Thanks, Coach Dru, for sharing with us some lifetime lessons we can all use on our journey. — Mel Blount, four-time Super Bowl champion and member of the NFL Hall of Fame

After graduating from high school, the number one question I received was, “What was it like playing with Le Bron?” The second most-asked question was, “What kind of coach did you have?” The first question was easier to answer than the second. But now you can read this book and begin to understand how great a man Coach Dru is! For Coach Dru, living a full and productive life has always been about more than just basketball. It’s about relationships and being a Christian man and being a great father. It’s about how to treat women, how to compete, how to be a student athlete, and so much more. Coach Dru is the best coach I’ve ever had. Not just because he’s so good at the X’s and O’s, but also because he knows how to help a young person be the best person he can be. Coach often asked, “Are you prepared for the game of life? Because it never stops, even when the clock on the scoreboard hits 00:00!” Thank you, Coach Dru, for all you have done to prepare me for the game of life. — Willie Mc Gee, Fab Five member of the St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball team (1999–2003)

One of my favorite maxims is “serve the underserved,” and few people put these words into practice like Coach Dru Joyce does. We all know the incredible work he did in helping Le Bron James develop into the player and, more importantly, the individual he’s become. I’m excited that in Beyond Championships, Coach Dru shares the principles that helped mold so many other young lives as well. Coach Dru’s story should inspire all readers, both young and old alike, to have the faith to chase their dreams, no matter what obstacles they perceive to be in front of them. — Russell Simmons, cofounder of Def Jam Records and author of Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All

Anything that Dru Joyce has to say is important, because he is a quality man who cares about young men! — Bishop F. Josephus Johnson II, presiding bishop of The Beth-El Fellowship of Visionary Churches

Coach Dru’s teachings on faith, family, and character are an inspiration to athletes and nonathletes alike. Beyond Championships transcends sports the way Coach Dru’s influence on young lives reaches far beyond the basketball court. — Kristopher Belman, writer/director of the documentary More Than a Game

Dad, you have been an ongoing leader in my life. I value what you taught me both on and away from the basketball court. You’re a man of many quotes to live by. Each morning as I was growing up, you would always remind me, “Be a leader and not a follower today.” Well, I would follow your lead any day. Proud to be a former player, a student to your lessons, and, most of all, I am proud to call you my dad. — Dru Joyce III, Fab Five member of the St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball team (1999–2003)

Beyond Championships is what happens when one of the nation’s most influential high school coaches lets us in on his secrets to success. Whether or not you love sports, this book and the life lessons herein are invaluable to both young and old. Sit down, read, enjoy, and learn! — Harvey Mason Jr., music/movie producer; producer of More Than a Game

Heartfelt and inspiring, Beyond Championships is a book for people of all ages and both genders. The teachings from my father—Coach Dru—apply not only to sports but to life as well, and that’s what makes this book so good. Through sports, we’re able to see real-life situations and how they tie in both positively and negatively in our lives. — Cameron Joyce, assistant coach at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, and youngest son of Coach Dru

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