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Former college football head coach Lou Holtz gives life advice to high school basketball players before their Far East tournament game at Camp Zama on Thursday. Earlier, the well-known coach also spoke with noncommissioned officers at a base leadership training.

Former college football head coach Lou Holtz gives life advice to high school basketball players before their Far East tournament game at Camp Zama on Thursday. Earlier, the well-known coach also spoke with noncommissioned officers at a base leadership training. (Tim Wightman/S&S)

CAMP ZAMA, Japan — It’s not every day that servicemembers bring footballs and helmets along to military training sessions.

Then again, legendary college football coaches don’t usually factor into the agenda.

Lou Holtz, best known for his stint as coach of Notre Dame, took time during a football promotional visit to Japan to speak to Camp Zama troops Thursday morning. The visit coincided with the base’s weekly leadership training for noncommissioned officers.

Holtz spent an hour at Zama’s Community Cultural Center sharing stories and lessons learned over his life, frequently earning big laughs for his self-deprecating humor.

In one instance, the coach told a story of a man who asked if people ever told him he looked like Lou Holtz, to which the coach said, "I get that all the time."

"Doesn’t that make you mad?" the man replied.

But the weightier moments came from the coach sharing his beliefs about the kinds of practices that bring success.

Holtz said a person can achieve success by always trying to do the right thing and by doing their best in everything they do.

He also referred to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in emphasizing the importance of having a dream.

"Dreaming makes things happen. It’s where it all starts," said the 72-year-old who led six different collegiate programs. "Have a dream of things you want to accomplish. When I learned to have dreams is when I started succeeding."

Maj. Alfonso Rodriguez stuck around after Holtz’s speech to get a football signed for his grandmother, a big Notre Dame fan who lives in New Mexico. Rodriguez said the coach was inspiring.

"He emphasizes to believe in yourself, always keep striving and growing as a person. And once you do that, your leaders will react and your soldiers will follow you better," he said. "Coach Holtz took a college program that started at zero and he made it, not by words but by actions. And what he did there you can use in your own life."

Holtz also visited the Yano Gym and shared many of the same experiences with teenage athletes on base to compete in the 2009 Far East Girls Basketball Tournament.

Seoul American High School girls basketball coach Jesse Smith found himself nodding in approval at many of Holtz’s words.

"He’s one of the greatest coaches that’s ever lived. You can learn a lot from this guy," said Smith, a retired soldier. "Some girls on my team just said to me, ‘Coach, he reminded us of some things you’ve been saying a lot,’ so that really made me feel good."

Holtz, who was in the ROTC program in college, said his philosophy of success is a natural fit for military families.

"We always have problems," he said. "We all have difficulties. You’re going to have them. But you have to have the attitude of, ‘How are we going to be able to solve it?’"


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