Podcast S1. Ep.27: The Caring Game - Character in Athletics With Coach Scott Westering Part 5/5

John Norlin · May 24, 2019

Scott Westering is the son of Hall of Fame Coach Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma Washington.  Scott was the Head Coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father who retired after 32 years. Over the last 20+ years Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches, and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences, and clinics - including USA Football and two Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speeches.

We finish up this five part series with the final piece of the Attitude Games: the Caring Game. Scott talks about the importance of character when it comes to our attitude, strength in serving, and the secret ingredient of great teams: they care about the success of each other

“We’re going to have a positive put up culture environment. We’re going to have a challenging look at calculated risk environment, removing that fear of failure. We’re going to compare ourselves to our best self and our team and be the best that we can be. And we’re going to add this idea of we’re going to be servant warriors towards each other, and oh, by the way, what’s going to fuel us is a secret ingredient ...We are genuinely gonna care about the success of each other. ”

— Coach Scott Westering

Episode Transcript:

  • John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong podcast, where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today we're talking with coach Scott Westering. Scott is the son of hall of fame coach Frosty Westering. He had the privilege of coaching with and being mentored by his father for 23 years as an assistant coach at Pacific Lutheran University. Scott was the head coach at PLU for 14 seasons, taking over the position from his father who retired after 32 years. Over the last 20 plus years, Scott has been a highly sought after speaker, having presented to hundreds of teams, coaches and athletes. His talks have spanned corporations, conferences and clinics including USA football and two hall of fame induction ceremony speeches. Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Scott Westering.

  • John: All right, everybody. Welcome back to the CharacterStrong podcast. We've been talking with coach Scott Westering over, this is really the fifth episode, the final episode of this initial talk with him. I'd love to be talking even more because there's so much you can go into here, but we're talking about the work that we're trying to do here at CharacterStrong with bringing character into the athletic realm.

  • John: If we're going to be talking about creating school wide culture and climate and improving that, we need to look at the whole child, we need to be looking at the whole athlete and a lot of times we know students are no more prime to learn than they are in doing something that they are really interested in and excited about and sport is one of those areas and so many times we see it done not in a good way. And I think a lot of times it might be that we don't know any other like, way of doing it because the example that I see on television or the example I see from so many others is one of, and you can fill in the blank with a lot of things, yelling, right? Talking down to, this is what it means to hold accountable, which is always really interesting to me that it's one or the other, when in reality you can hold people accountable and still do these things that we've been talking about.

  • John: So we've been talking about the attitude games and how we approach sport. We started with the comparison game. We then went to the confidence game, and the last episode was about the challenge game, today is about the caring game. Coach Scott, talk to me about the caring game and how it connects to attitude and the way that we approach sport?

  • Scott: Well, to me it starts so much, John, with the umbrella over this whole thing, and that's that word you used, which is at the base of of what we're all about. CharacterStrong, CharacterStrong athletics, is that word character. And many people talk about the fact that well, sports builds character, and yet that's really not true. But if you take it at its face value, sure. Okay. It can build character, but it can build bad character.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: And good character.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: A better or more comprehensive way of looking at it, sports reveals character and how that's done, how that's done through the coach, how that's done through the student athletes, and then really then how it plays into literally how you, we've got a saying how you play a game shows a great deal of your character, how you play it, how you win and lose it shows all of it.

  • Scott: And so how you go about winning and then how you go about losing and that sort of thing, as a coach, as a student athlete and all those things coming into play. When you look at this thing of the word character. Well when we tie character into the last C of the four C's here, of what we talk about attitude wise and it's termed the caring game, character reflects itself so much when it really boils down to how do you see yourself? But then how do others see you? And how do, the idea between reputation, which is what basically other people think about you versus your character being who you really are, at the end of the day? And character of value and worth really comes in, that the S that sits on our chest stands for selflessness, not selfishness. And in so many cases innately, we are selfish at our core.

  • Scott: And so when we really look at this idea of the journey that we're on and that we're going to not compare ourselves to other people, we're going to look at confidence and speak life into each other with our words and then deal with challenges and the power of choice in the power that that has in our life. When you wrap it all up and put it in the last perspective of, okay, what about enjoying the journey? 'Cause I've been around people and asked people, you've won games and win championships, but did you have any fun? And people would sit there, I've seen student have to shake their heads. I've even seen coaches shake their heads that ...

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: Eh, it was okay. Well you won in the world's eyes though. How was it you didn't enjoy the trip or enjoy the journey? Well so much of that comes back to this idea of the caring game, and we put it in a simple, again analogy, use that word a bunch here, but if you live life in a room full of windows versus a room full of mirrors. And if you live in a, at a room full of mirrors, life's all about you.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: You know, you look at the ceiling, you look at the floor, it's all about you.

  • John: And we see a lot of that today, because that message is definitely promoted. And like, our youth are bombarded with it.

  • Scott: By all means. And because they watched the pro game where it is all about me, I don't care what they say about the team, it is all about me, and not we, so to speak. And yet in so many cases you see how it's done it. We did it, you know, approached it quite differently in relationship to our team. We basically got across to our student athletes that, you know, this isn't about, literally it's not about you, and the practical play out of it. We started with how we numbered. We never issued the number zero or the number one. We didn't want any numbers in and of themselves to bring say, hey look at me, I'm what those numbers designate, so to speak.

  • Scott: We didn't allow kids to just decorate themselves however they wanted to decorate themselves when they went to play. We had certain parameters and all those things. We have a saying around that essential is unity and non essential is liberty, but in all things loyalty.

  • John: That's so good.

  • Scott: And how we dressed, we never put their names, it always said, you know, Lutes, short for Pacific Lutheran University or PLU. And, so it never had their personal name on the back of the shirt. It always said Lutes, their jersey, so to speak. And we all looked literally like a team. And that idea of getting kids, student athletes to understand that to be part of a team, you're going to forfeit your rights and accept now, responsibilities.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: And the one of the greatest basketball coaches now that we're kind of in March madness now with the tournament going on, John Wooden at UCLA who won ten final fours, so to speak, ten national championships. He basically was quoted as saying, if you're going to come back to play basketball for him at UCLA, you're going to have to learn to cease to exist as an individual. How powerful a statement is that?

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: Holy moly. And like you said, you put that in front of youth today, in this culture and society that we're all pushed to be individuals and selfish in nature and do our thing and be number one. And look at all my pictures and look at all this stuff about me, so to speak. And so we're fighting a cultural wave, no question, in how it comes down to play. But when you start to really get this idea of how people understand how they need each other to be successful, how they need each other to enjoy life. And then when it comes down to being successful in team sports, it's hugely that way. And understanding. So if we're gonna say, okay you're a window room kid versus, or a mirror room kid versus a window room kid. 'Cause once again that mirror room kid has got that, it's always about them.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: It's always about nice to meet me, isn't it? Kind of thing.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: Or they say their ego arrives two minutes before they do.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: And that never is conducive to putting a team together. Now, can you with a few talented individuals win a few games or win a championship or two, sure. Just like you can, fear, incentive and intimidation, use that as motivating factors and win some games and all. But the journey isn't going to be enjoyed in any way, shape or form. And to sustain it, and what it's really all about comes back to this idea of caring. And when you can say, okay, hey, if you live in a room full of windows, but then what do you see? So the challenge is that, so what do you see, you see out, you see others.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: But you even come up close to a window, as I always say, and you're still gonna get a reflection of you. The Lord's going to take care of you. You're still going to see a reflection of you there. And yet, wow as I always challenged kids and say, are those kinds of people fun to be around? You bet they are, the positive people, the put up people, the people that genuinely show and care versus the put down people and the big, you know, when they talk about that power of words, especially in the athletic realm, one of the biggest viruses that runs rampant is sarcasm. And how they're sarcastic with each other. And even coaches are towards kids or whatever. And everybody thinks that ha ha and laughs, but it goes back to that adage, you know, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

  • Scott: Yeah, they'll sit and laugh, and you're joking about how a kid is a little overweight or slower or whatever and he'll laugh and all that kind of stuff. But inside it's killing him.

  • John: Yeah, 'cause he's protecting himself.

  • Scott: Yeah, as opposed to when you look at the idea of caring game, we have another concept there, we call it the double win. The double win is the idea of getting the best out of yourself and a teammate, getting the best out of yourself and a teammate. And that's in everything you do, in how you go about practicing and how you go about competing and how you go about communicating and develop those kinds of relationships. We always said, or I always said, you know, teams that I ever coached, there's no class system. I never let the class system exist, because if you do, you're violating all this, especially the caring game.

“And when you look at that idea of being a servant warrior, which is another concept of serving each other ‘cause there’s such strength in serving, and that idea of caring comes in serving. ‘Cause we talk about, okay, if you don’t use fear, incentive, motivation or intimidation, excuse me, as motivating. What do you use? Well, it’s the idea I’m going to motivate through attitude. I’m going to motivate through relationships and dare we use the word, love.”

— Coach Scott Westering


  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: Because now the seniors walk around, banny roosters, chest puffed out. It's all about me. And Hey, Ricky, come up with a towel there and you know, your hazing and your initiations and all that stuff.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: That just, I've never understood that, 'cause that tears at the fabric of what you're trying to build.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: And we'll do all that stuff and coaches will do all that stuff. And yet sure enough, there's the banner in the locker room. There's no I in team or there's the T shirt says family on it, and who are we kidding?

  • John: Hypocritical.

  • Scott: By all means. And so as I have say to coaches and challenge student athletes as I meet with them around the country, it's better to take those down because if you don't live up to them, not that we don't stub our toes and we fail at times and all.

  • John: Sure.

  • Scott: But if you're not going to live up to them, they are purely hypocritical in nature.

  • John: That's right.

  • Scott: And then they're worse. Sit here and talk about family. What are you talking about?

  • John: That's right.

  • Scott: And it even starts with the simplicity of watching a team. You know, we're in basketball now, watching team break huddles after timeouts and you see half of them don't even put their hands in and half of them don't even say whatever the saying is. You know, "Knights on three, one, two, three Knights or whatever." As opposed to those that are really engaged, they all got hands on each other, they're involved. And that's what those kids that sit at the end of the bench are going to play in the game as well as anything else. And then it comes back, another big key point under the caring game is, and a gal named Marilyn Carlson Nelson wrote a book, How We Lead Matters, and she's got quite a story.

  • Scott: It's a great book. If you ever, for your own professional library out there, I would buy it and get it. And they're short little snippet, one, two page deals. But she's got one called the Secret Ingredient and basically it talks about how, you know, there's all these slogans out there, you know, about supposedly high achieving teams. You know, none of us are as smart as all of us together. There's no I in team. It's about we and not me and all that stuff.

  • Scott: But basically it's like, okay those state things, we kind of know inherently. That, wow, groups are truly more powerful than a bunch of individuals that a team really ... But what's the difference between the just the good teams and the great teams, or the great ones and the breakout teams? And she actually talked about a research company, actually did a lot of research, did a lot of surveying and studied it and ultimately they concluded, we're trying to look at what are the determining factors, and the biggest thing they came up with, which she termed the secret ingredient is that at the end of the day is that saying goes, that the members of the team cared as much about the success of others on the team as they did their own.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: They cared as much about the success of whoever on the team as they did their own.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: That that was ultimately the secret ingredient that set them apart. And when you look at that idea of being a servant warrior, which is another concept of serving each other 'cause there's such strength in serving, and that idea of caring comes in serving. 'Cause we talk about, okay, if you don't use fear, incentive, motivation or intimidation, excuse me, as motivating. What do you use? Well, it's the idea I'm going to motivate through attitude. I'm going to motivate through relationships and dare we use the word, love.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: In a service way, and that wow, when you can motivate that way and they start to serve each other, and especially then you take on your team, servant leadership from your older players serving your younger players and all the way around. It becomes such a powerful group.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: And when you take into account now, we're going to have this double wind prevailing. We're going to have a positive put up culture environment. We're going to have a challenging look at calculated risk environment, removing that fear of failure. We're going to compare ourselves to our best self and our team and be the best that we can be. And we're going to add this idea of we're going to be servant warriors towards each other, and oh, by the way, what's going to fuel us is a secret ingredient.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: We are genuinely gonna care about the success of each other. You take that and put those together in these four attitude games and the whole umbrella of how we're going to choose to look at winning, giving it our best shot.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: And that's what my father was all about. That's what he wrote his first book on. That's how he lived that out. How do you make the big time where you are when it's not about chasing, being number one and getting people, knocking people out of the way, so to speak, so that it's the state of your mind and state of your heart.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: And you do all that. And that's been at the core of my father's coaching career, my coaching career. And as you started off, when a few podcasts back.

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: We were pretty darn successful at doing it, but even more so, are the cards, letters and emails that I've ever gotten.

  • John: That's right.

  • Scott: From young men that I've coached that said, you have no idea the impact you made on me, my family, my life. It saved my marriage. It saved my job.

  • John: Yep.

  • Scott: Whatever. Those have far fulfilled the gas tanks beyond rings and watches and memories of trophies and all those things that are all going to, as they would say, all going to burn in the end anyway.

  • John: That's right. No, I love it. I mean, I don't know a parent, I don't know an educator, I don't know anybody who cares about what's best for kids that isn't going to be wanting to know more about this, and how they can bring it to their schools, their student athletes. And so we are proud to partner with you on being able to get it out into schools. I know you're presenting, last week you were in California, you've been in Washington multiple times, all around and presenting to coaches in to present to athletes. and if any school wants to reach out, they can reach out to us at CharacterStrong, right on our website, CharacterStrong.com, to learn more about how that, we're working right now on that CharacterStrong athletics, kind of like, the program. How can we keep this moving forward? As a coach, as an athlete.

  • John: So thank you for being with us. This will not be the last time that we're together on this podcast, but appreciate what you are doing, all the years of what you, your dad Frosty, as well as so many others that have been a part of that community have done, to really push on in an area that needs to be pushed on. And that is how do we view sport, how do we view athletics? And ultimately every single thing that we talked about, not only is about sport, it's also about life. And I just love that aspect and there's nothing that we just talked about that doesn't connect to both. And so if we want to create better schools, better communities, and a better world. We can do that through sport because a lot of times it's sport that drives so much of what's going on in our society right now. So thank you for your time.

  • Scott: Yep.

  • John: We'll be talking more soon, I'm sure.

  • Scott: And it's just like the classic picture and that's what's so kind of ironic in this whole thing John, as we know, we sol believe and live this stuff. It's been shown, proven, researched. A lot of times it boils down, it's that classic picture, it shows that king way back in the days when they all have only had to were swords and spears to to do battle with and some guys shown outside his tent and he's got a machine gun. He's trying to sell this guy and the guy, basically the caption underneath the picture says, "I don't have time to talk to any salesmen I've got a war to fight."

  • John: Yeah.

  • Scott: When the reality, there is such a better way to do this and it's there and it's so much more fulfilling. And the three things we talked about, you, kids, parents, cause boy parents are a part of this, too. And presenting to parents is a huge part of, as we move forward, being able to be able to do that. But getting young people to feel good about themselves, to have more joy in the competitive arena and produce better results. That's at the core. That's the pay value, the pay off of all this.

  • John: Cool. Right on. Thank you. Appreciate it.

  • Scott: You bet.

  • John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on Itunes, Spotify, and Google play. To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we are supporting schools, visit CharacterStrong.com. Thanks for listening. Make it a great day.

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John Norlin

John Norlin is a Co-Founder of CharacterStrong, a Servant Leadership trainer, and motivational speaker. He was Washington Advisor of the Year, taught 5 leadership classes per semester for 10 years at Sumner High School, and was a Program Administrator for the Whole Child for five years.