Why this book matters?
Every year since the age of five when I laced up my high-top Chuck Taylor sneakers to play for the Victoria Park 76ers in Carson, CA, I have participated in a competitive sport. I grew up in a two-square mile, football-crazed neighborhood that regularly sends young men to play college football and beyond. I was a frequent attendee of the Banning vs. Carson high school football games. From the early 1970’s to the early 1990’s both schools were responsible for a combined 17 Los Angeles city football championships and in one year, 1988, sent 34 kids—many of whom were my friends—to division I football programs.
In high school I played football and basketball and I eventually earned a scholarship to play basketball at the University of California at Irvine (UCI). Nearly all of my friends played high school, college, or professional sports. I’ve had countless ankle sprains and pulled muscles, bloody and broken noses, and a fractured thumb. In college I played with a broken bone in my right ankle for three years. Ouch!
Some of my earliest memories as a kid were going with my father to football games, basketball games, and track meets. I loved reading his scrap book and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. My father, Charles Hollaway, is one of the most legendary high school sports figures to come out of the city of Detroit. In high school, he lettered in four sports and eventually earned all-city honors in football, basketball, and track and all-state in basketball. He played football at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for the legendary Coach “Red” Sanders and was also on UCLA’s first national championship team in track (under the guidance of then track coach Ducky Drake). He also played a year in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Calgary Stampede. He later coached football at University and Crenshaw high schools as well as football, track, and tennis at West Los Angeles Community College.
As a kid I often remember my dad telling me stories about how he raced against Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson, played in the 1956 Rose Bowl, left his track shoes at home prior to tryouts for the 1956 Olympics, the time Coach Johnny Wooden asked him to come out for the basketball team at UCLA, or how he attended coaching workshops with the likes of Hall of Fame football coaches Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame) and Coach Bear Bryant (Alabama). Still, my dad often talks about the touchdown pass he dropped while playing in the CFL (after having caught 3 touch down passes).
Sports has been directly responsible for many positive experiences in my life and has afforded me a free education, travel experiences across the United States, and has helped to establish life long friendships. To this day (and for the foreseeable future) I still play basketball, often hurting feelings of younger players half my age—Yes I still have game! I am also deeply involved in youth sports in the Los Angeles area and have friends who coach in high school, college, and the professional ranks. Throughout my life I have worked as teacher, a salesmen for two Fortune 500 corporations (Pfizer and Nabisco), and as a technology executive for a startup company. Today I have my own children’s educational software company called Quackenworth. However, sports continue to play a significant role in my life.
My inspiration for the book comes from many places including my personal experiences as well as those of my father and close friends. Perhaps the main reason for writing this book comes from a single conversation I had with a good friend of mine, Julius Ward. Julius was my high school teammate at Crenshaw High School who went on to play basketball at St. Mary College as well as a few years professionally overseas in Turkey. Julius had a solid basketball career but his biggest claim to fame is that he won a dunk contest in high school that featured me, as well as future NBA stars Harold Miner (Miami Heat/ Cleveland Cavaliers and 1993 and 1995 NBA Dunk contest winner) and Chris Mills! Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller, who was at UCLA at the time, was the judge that cast the final vote that cemented Julius’ name in basketball history!
A few years after college Julius and I attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) to get our masters degree (MBA) in finance. When we were in high school and college, we, along with my other close friends and teammates Danny Griffin (UNLV/Rhode Island), Cornelius Holden (University of Louisville), and Pat Sanders (Texas International) played in Joe Weakley’s Run, Shoot, and Dunk league at Crenshaw High School. Joe Weakley was an assistant boy’s basketball coach at Crenshaw and was a crucial component in helping legendary coach Willie West dominate Los Angles high school basketball for nearly 25 years. During that time, Coach West won 803 games, 16 Los Angeles city championships, 8 state championships, and had a winning percentage of .852. During my senior year (1988), we were ranked number one in the country by USA Today for 11 weeks and in gyms across Los Angeles we are often talked about as one of Crenshaw’s best teams ever. Twelve guys from that team went on to play basketball in college and four played professionally. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that, eleven graduated from college, four have masters degrees, three operate successful businesses, and one is a lawyer. Additionally, Crenshaw high school has a rich history of successful sports and entertainment figures including, University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, former five-time NBA All-Star and now Fox Sports basketball analyst Marcus Johnson, rapper Ice-T, NFL player De’Anthony Thomas, to name a few.
At the time the Run, Shoot, and Dunk league, predecessor to the Drew League, was the premiere basketball league in Los Angeles. It featured the top high school, college, and professional basketball players in Los Angles. The league featured guys like Marques Johnson (Milwaukee Bucks), John Williams (Los Angeles Clippers), Robert Smith (Denver Nuggets), LaSalle Thompson(Sacramento Kings), Tellis Frank (Golden State Warriors), Corey Gaines (Philadelphia 76ers and multiple NBA teams), Reggie Theus (Chicago Bulls, and multiple NBA teams), Dwayne Polee (Pepperdine and overseas), Darwin Cook (New Jersey Nets, and multiple NBA teams), Lester Conner (Golden State Warriors, and multiple NBA teams), Leon Woods (Philadelphia 76ers, 1984 US Olympic team), Wally Rank (Los Angeles Clippers) and scores of overseas players. There was a lot of running, shooting, and dunking. As young basketball players we admired all of these guys. They were great athletes who always had the best looking cars and the prettiest women. We all wanted what they had.
One day, several years later, Julius, who now operates a real estate investment and management company named 401k Realty, called to tell me that some former NBA players, guys we had once looked up to, were now calling him to rent Section 8 (low income) apartments. It was a peculiar situation that puzzled us both. How could guys who had earned millions of dollars be calling to rent low income housing? We both were humbled and confused as to how this could happen. This conversation, along with other stories and experiences, serve as the inspiration for this book.
Over the years, through conversation and experience, I’ve observed that many of the problems that athletes face are similar no matter what the time period. My father, who played and coached for over 60 years, often tells stories about things that happened in the 1940’s that are still happening today.
The Athlete’s Handbook is part self-help, part inspirational, and part informational. I take personal stories as well as stories from my friends and around the sports world to help enlighten the next generation of student athletes. The information is presented in a simple and succinct manner with detailed graphics. It offers life and lifestyle advice, provides an overview of topics in the business of college and professional sports, general business, finance, investment, and more. The book is directed toward young athletes in high school, college, and the professional ranks. It is a must read for coaches, parents, and anyone who advises or is associated with young athletes. With this in mind, I wanted to create a resource that would enlighten and inform young athletes so that they can avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors. Just as the politician reads Machiavelli’s The Prince or a military leader reads Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the modern athlete should read the Athlete’s Handbook. Happy reading!