School is out for the summer now, so I’m able to get to some things now that I have been meaning to but haven’t had time for. Like Louisville Coach Jeff Walz.
Watching him at the press conferences at the Final Four in April, I noticed that he stuttered – not much, but some. I made a note to discuss that with him at some point. When I contacted him a few weeks ago for my June 11 blog entry, I mentioned it. Walz said that ESPN had written about his stuttering issue, and that he wasn’t at all ashamed to acknowlege the problem.
I looked up the piece, by Graham Hays, and was struck by Walz’ integrity and honesty:
“The hardest thing for me, and this is the honest truth, when I’m recruiting and I start to call a kid for the first time, saying, ‘Louisville’ — I’m telling you, it kills me,” Walz said.
“I joke with my staff; I’m like, what I want to do is call up and say, ‘Hey, Graham?’ and you say, ‘Hey, yeah,’ and then I press play on my tape recorder and go, ‘This is coach Walz from the University of Louisville,’ and then press stop. Because then, I’m fine after that. I’ll stutter some, but it might take me a minute to get ‘Louisville’ out.”
What is remarkable about Walz is how at ease with himself he appears in public, joking during an answer at a news conference that he might just keep talking because he’s on such a roll without stuttering. Talking to him on the phone, even as he jokes that e-mail is his preferred means of communication, he offers up a familiar litany of stresses and frustrations, but here he is, running a college basketball program that is four games from a national championship and drew a crowd of 19,123 to Freedom Hall earlier this season.
Those who are fearless are far less compelling than those who overcome fear.
“I’m going to have to do it, and if someone doesn’t like the fact that I stutter, well then, they can leave,” Walz said. “It’s just a part of you.”
Walz is also a speaker and spokesman for the Stuttering Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps those who have the problem.
Hays’ column is over a year old, but maybe you’re like me and you didn’t know that this rising star of a coach has worked to overcome stuttering. I admire him for that.