Jay Harris – ESPN Personality

December 13, 2005

Sports hall of fame hosts breakfast.

ESPN personality Jay Harris speaks to students-athletes about leadership.

by Johnny J. Burnham (The Bristol Press).

MarkJayBristol – “Whatever your path, try to remember to keep it simple, make it possible for others to succeed, never forget where you came from and learn from your mistakes,” ESPN’s Jay Harris told athletes from the city’s two public and one private high schools at the Bristol sports Hall of Fame’s leadership breakfast Tuesday at Nuchies Restaurant.

Harris, an anchor on “SportsCenter” who also appears on the sports morning show “Cold Pizza,” opened his speech to chosen junior and senior athletes from Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern and St. Paul Catholic high schools with a four-question quiz.

He asked in sequence: How do you put a giraffe into your refrigerator? How do you put an elephant into your refrigerator? The lion king is hosting an animal and reptile conference for all animals. Every animal is there except one. Who’s not there? You must cross a river inhabited by crocodiles, but you don’t have a boat. How do you manage to get across?

Harris disclosed the answers.
To the first question, he said that all you have to do – which was to one young woman’s upraise, not “break it’s neck” – is open the door, put the giraffe in and close the door.

“The question tests whether you do simple things in an overly complicated way.”

A correct response to the second question was; open the door, take out the giraffe and then put in the elephant.

“This test your ability to think of the effects of your previous actions.”

The third answer; the elephant would not be at the meeting because it is stuck in the refrigerator.

“Question three tests your memory.”

Lastly, Harris revealed a right answer to the fourth question – swim across. All the crocodiles are at the meeting and the river is safe to dive into and venture across.

“Question four test whether you’ve learned quickly from your mistakes.”

He said that true leadership involves incorporating these lessons and never making things complicated. He cited how professional football quarterback Peyton Manning’s ability to simplify things continuously puts his team in a positive position to succeed.

One has to challenge, in a non-confrontation way, teachers, coaches and teammates. Harris said a leader must never rest on their goals, explaining how after six NBA championships Michael Jordan wasn’t satisfied and was hungry to make multiple comebacks in an attempt to win another.

Also, it is extremely important to put your mistakes behind you, Harris said, or, quite simply, “learn from them and move on.”

Through enlisting speakers like Harris, the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame hopes to get the city’s future leaders prepared for life after high-school sports.

“The goal is to help [the student-athletes] become better leaders, not only on the sports teams but in the schools and also in the community.” said Mark Ziogas, one of 23 members of the hall of fame;s board of directors. “We tried to bring in people that could give a message that you may not get from coaches or teachers.

Hall of Fame President Dave Mills said, ‘we’re trying to present ideas to the kids so they can go out and be leaders.”

Mills added that he believes the program is having a positive effect on the students.

The student athletes, many of them captains of their respective teams, agreed with Mills, saying that the program was “definitely worthwhile” and that they will take some of the messages with them as the make critical after-graduation decisions.

Students like Central’s Steve Lavoie, who said he has aspirations of becoming an engineer and attending the University of Connecticut or Central Connecticut State University; Eastern’s Jenna Kosiba, who wants to attend Southern Connecticut State University’s healthcare program; St. Paul’s Marissa Wolff, who aims to study aerospace at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; and Paige Sherman, also from St. Paul, who has a goal of studying fine arts at CCSU have already made up their minds on future endeavors.

Harris said that to be successful one must have trust within themselves and have fun, because “if it;s not fun, it’s not worth doing.”

“Don’t get caught up because if you really think about it, all this stuff really isn’t that important,” he said in reference to success in high school sports and popularity. “You know what you have to do, so just do it.”