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BATON ROUGE – Over 50 principals in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System gathered for an afternoon retreat at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center on Thursday, awaiting the arrival of a surprise guest speaker.

Little did they know that the speaker who would walk through the door was new LSU women’s basketball head coach Nikki Caldwell, who addressed the group and fielded questions for an hour on teamwork, attitude and her excitement about being a part of the Baton Rouge community.

“You all have a tough job to do,” Caldwell told them. “Hats off to the job you do, the leadership you bring to the table and the guidance you give our youth. At the college level, we get the finished product and get to offer scholarships. You are at the grass roots level and I admire the work you do.”

Caldwell, who built UCLA into a national contender and won championships at Tennessee, stressed the importance of how her team will be involved in the community and with schools in the Baton Rouge area. The Lady Tigers have annually played a game to honor education and the team plans on continuing that tradition.

Among the many topics related to teamwork that she discussed, she touched on the examples of Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and the late John Wooden. She told the story of how she wrote the letters “T-E-A-M” on the wipeboard and asked each player to describe what each letter meant to them.

“Togetherness has a lot to do with what you are going to tolerate,” Caldwell said. “When you step over the lines into competition, whether it’s in the classroom or on the basketball court, I tell our team don’t expect anything but greatness. Greatness exudes in all of us, so don’t tolerate you or your teammate underachieving. Be the one that takes initiative and is proactive in making sure you and your teammate are tolerating nothing but greatness.”

Caldwell used examples she has shared with the Lady Tigers this offseason and how they plan on reaching their goals for the 2011-12 campaign, which gets underway in November.

“I remind our team everyday that we haven’t arrived,” she said. “We have to get better every day and hopefully that fuels our toughness. Our team must have a feeling of unity. Every student-athlete must put the team ahead of her own personal glory. Dreams are fueled by the act of sacrifice. You can take the word team and put it right next to the word sacrifice and you will get the exact results you are looking for. Those are the things we try to instill in our players.”

Caldwell fielded questions from the group after her lecture, including how youth today need to continue to dream big.

“I was always encouraged by mom growing up to dream big. I wanted to go to a big time college, get my education and get a job. I didn’t know what field was going into, but I did know that through playing basketball, it was going to give me the podium I needed. Obviously, I love to win, but it is more so just me wanting to give back to these young ladies and the community.”



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