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Former Notre Dame running back Greg Bell Shares His Wisdom For Student-Athletes (and us all)

How To Manage Life’s Wins and Losses

Phoenix Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams
ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 2: Running back Greg Bell #42 of the Los Angeles Rams breaks loose on a run against the Phoenix Cardinals during the game at Anaheim Stadium on October 2, 1988 in Anaheim, California. The Rams won 31-10.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The past twelve months have been like nothing I’ve ever seen. Maybe you feel the same way, too. As we head toward our new normal, some words of wisdom couldn’t hurt (right?). Although this book was written with student-athletes as its target audience, the lessons can be applied in all of our lives.

Athletic Wisdom For Students: How to Manage Life’s Wins and Losses

I’d like to start by sharing the foreword written by Digger Phelps.

Greg Bell exemplifies what a Notre Dame man is all about. He has been successful in high school, college, the National Football League, and in every professional feat he has embarked on. Greg continues to win as a shining example for our youth. He exemplifies the mission of service to others, which Notre Dame strongly advocates.

When Greg informed me that he was writing a book to share his insights from the field and regarding life’s wins and losses, I could not have thought of a better author to pen Athletic Wisdom for Students for high school students. He beat tough odds both statistically and realistically while coming up in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio. He held onto his dreams of becoming a professional athlete despite being surrounded by many people with no direction or purpose. He learned the power of faith and focus at an early age and implemented it while his peers were falling prey to their environmental and economic challenges. His daily life centered upon making his dreams come true. Now, Greg thrives on helping youths understand how to endure the odds and obstacles that will inevitably be present yet should not destroy their dreams.

The climate for student-athletes to go on to college recruitment and beyond is bustling with opportunity through social networking and electronic communication. Visibility was never so easy! Simply click and post game plays and photos. With this regular access also come endless distractions, vulnerabilities, and myths about athletic success. The rules of the game in any sport have not changed with technology nor have the qualifications for achieving greatness. This is why Greg is such a heroic force, as it is essential for voices of reason and experience to drown out some of the noise that bombard student-athletes. He is candid, authentic, and humorous in his approach. As a matter of fact, I laughed on many occasions while reading this book. I know you will, too, because that is who Greg is — touch as nails in his physical stature, yet down to earth and refreshing in his everyday engagements.

Greg refers to this book as a meaningful conversation with readers, I assure you there is no better person to sit and talk with given the subject matter. —Richard “Digger” Phelps, Fomer Head Coach, Notre Dame Basketball and Author, Undertaker’s Son

Next I’d like to share a few of Greg’s words of wisdom on how to survive the ups and downs of life.

Faith and Focus

Faith is a belief in the unseen and its power supersedes hoping or wishing because it is inherent knowledge that something will happen. Without faith, your mind will wander because you have to focus on something that is quality. To “have faith” means to be confident that your desire will manifest into being.

Thinking Big, Standing Out

Playing sports helps to develop some of the strongest business leaders in the world, generation to generation. From entrepreneurs of apparel companies to presidents of the United States, many of them fulfill these roles after honing leadership qualities and key responsibilities as outstanding student-athletes. The very act of playing sports provides athletes with superior life skills, whether they go to college or not. Through sports, winners are developed. Here, I am not just talking about wins and losses. I am talking about character building. Sports can grow leaders that strive to be the best at whatever it is they are working at or participating in. From honoring routines and schedules, discipline and tenacity, to proving to be a team player and fulfilling the goal of upping the last scoreboard, sports individuals become self-starters and natural born leaders.

Every Decision is an Opportunity

In my world, friends are my sunshine every day, but I define me. I have my identity — needs, desires, attributes, preferences, opinions and convictions. Please make sure that you do too. Know who you are. Put your efforts into your own goals.

Live It, Love It describe passion as, “1. Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling as love or hate; 2. Strong, amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor.” however, my definition of passion is “what drives me.” What drives you?

Whether it is the passion to read, write, speak, or act, passion is the driving force that is common in all of us, yet separates each of us as an individual. Passion is the driving force that allows you to never give up, such as in the sport you love playing.

The Meaning of Greatness

Do not miss out on terrific teachings from an individual who does not look like you, come from the same background as you, or have the same credentials as you.

Sometimes you have to step out into the snow and create your own path. Let people follow you. Sometimes it takes one person to chart a new path and to envision a future that comes with hard work and long hours instead of the future that comes with very few challenges. Lead by your personal standards.

Forward — Forever

Okay, life has been great, but don’t forget there are always bumps in the road! Still, just like driving for the first time, you come to the split in the road, and you stop and look at that split as if it is from outer space. Should you veer to the right, or should you turn to the left?

Life in general is about wins and losses. I tend to dislike making the same comparisons using the words success and failure. Failure to me has always meant that’s it, the end. I believe every loss can be improved upon and all wins can be even sweeter. Challenge yourself in all that you do.

Wake Up to Goals

Motivational speaker Les Brown said, “if you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you.” Success does not occur by mere chance... the meaning behind the message is the navigation of life’s journey. If you shoot for the moon and trip through outer space, you will be shown stars and galaxies that will amaze you on your journey; the same goes for life.

The World Can Be Your Network (or The Power of Hello)

Here is a challenging icebreaker: the next time you are in a situation where many people are just standing around, looking at each other and waiting for something big to happen, you break the ice. I want you to walk up to the oldest person in the room, extend your hand and say, “Hi, I’m —. And you are? What brings you to the event today.” Just notice what happens.

Action Plan of a Champion

We’ve discussed the eminent need for a dream (or many of them throughout your life) and the intense desire to make it come true. Well, we do not just dream the day away and wake to the reality of it having come true. A plan for success is essential. With every plan comes a daily routine.

I have merely touched the surface of the topics that Greg goes into great depth in his book ... so if you like what you’ve seen here, please check out his book. (

Like I said, although it is aimed at student-athletes, his words of wisdom speak to me now (at almost 50) as they would have as a young adult. It never hurts to take a look at how we’re living, and adjust our sails from time to time.

I’ll leave you with one more quote from the book: Perseverance is the greatest lesson that all players can learn, and trust me, you can’t play the game of football and not learn, feel and taste defeat (failure). “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” Vince Lomardi.