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Clinic to focus on sports rage

Gresham man recruits famous coaches to address problem
by: John Klicker, Gresham businessman Dexter Morrison has seen bad attitudes in sports as a coach of his children's youth teams. “We’re sending the wrong message on winning,” he said.

Most athletes have heard the words: Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.

The phrase was popularized by legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who came to regret his word choice, with its win-at-all-costs emphasis.

But the ethos continues to prevail among many athletes, young and old. Gresham businessman Dexter Morrison has seen it too often as a coach of his children's youth teams.

'We're sending the wrong message on winning,' he said.

Morrison wants players and coaches to remember a different phrase, one along the lines of celebrated sportswriter Grantland Rice's 'it's not whether you won or lost but how you played the game.'

With that in mind, Morrison is organizing Sports Tune Up, a conference that will bring together sports personalities and inspirational speakers to talk to area coaches, athletes and parents.

Ken Carter will be the keynote speaker at the Saturday, June 9, event. Carter drew national attention when, in an effort to improve players' grades, he locked out his undefeated varsity basketball team at Richmond High in California. His Web site says he banned all basketball-related activities and was prepared to cancel the entire season.

The saga was eventually made into a Hollywood movie, 'Coach Carter,' starring Samuel L. Jackson as Carter.

Morrison, who is an assistant football coach at Centennial Middle School, said sports rage is a growing problem that 'no one's addressing.'

'Coaches have these kids' lives in their hands,' he said. 'I've coached - it's about motivating and teaching.'

The Sports Tune Up has grown from 'a small deal,' he said, into a large event with multiple focus areas, including physical and mental health issues; natural strength training; character building; coaching to build esteem; and emphasizing the importance of education.

Despite staggering odds against them making the pros, many athletes never consider what their lives will be like after prep or collegiate sports, Morrison said.

Coaches he has spoken with have said that such a conference is long overdue.

Among those scheduled to speak at the Sports Tune Up are:

• Rod Heagy, a star athlete who was paralyzed from the neck down in a surfing accident the day before his 18th birthday. Heagy, who Morrison said is 'a fantastic speaker,' will discuss never giving up. He earned a master's degree by typing with a stick between his teeth and is now an inspirational speaker, painter, author, husband and father.

• Don Hooton, whose son committed suicide after using steroids as a teenager. Hooton works with Major League Baseball to educate youth about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.

• NFL Hall of Famer Mel Renfro, who was a 10-time Pro Bowler with the Dallas Cowboys.

Putting together the event has been 'amazing,' said Morrison, who also hopes to get Portland Trail Blazers' star Brandon Roy and new Portland State football coach Jerry Glanville on board.

'It's been a lot of work, but it's worth it,' he said. 'Character does matter in sports.'

If you go

What: Sports Tune Up, a character-building conference with notable sports figures and inspirational speakers

When: Saturday, June 9, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Holiday Inn at Portland International Airport, 8439 N.E. Columbia Blvd.

Tickets: $15 for breakout sessions, $30 for the same sessions and lunch with coach Ken Carter.

More information: The event is looking for sponsorships and also for people to buy tickets for athletes who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend. Space is also available for exhibitors. Call 503-327-9026 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .