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Monroe, Ohio, United States
Began my photography career as most people do...the highschool yearbook. Upon graduation I attended the US Naval Photography School in Pensacola Fla. After getting a qualification in basic photography and then later attending their Portrait School,was assigned to a military operation. Experiences included USO photography for Bob Hope, Brooke Shields, Kathy Lee Crosby and Wayne Newton.Have also had the opportunity for travel assignments to places such as Beruit, Israel, Africa, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Spain and England. Upon exiting the Navy in 1984,opened up a Tanning Salon and Health Club in Oxford,Ohio and began photographing weddings, all as a vehicle to fund my way through college. I enjoy travel, sports photography, special event and Cincinnati Reds photography. I am frequently contracted as a sports photographer by parents, sports teams, and organizations,throughout the Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio areas, to provide the highest quality sports photography, both on an individual and team basis.

November 16, 2016

All In, All the Time; Servant Leadership in High School Athletics.

A Profile on Franklin Wildcat Coach and Athletic Director, Brian Bales.  By Vincent Rush

On a late January night in 2015, an unassuming figure, dressed in a black Nike warm up suit, sits alone with a clipboard diligently taking notes in a high school gymnasium.

It’s a rare off night in this man’s schedule that begins in late October and will run non-stop till, hopefully sometime in late March, with the culmination of a State Championship in Columbus. But as for the immediate, his attention is squarely focused on the team on the floor, that will be his next opponent.

Equipped with a note pad and basketball intelligence quota that’s off the charts, he carefully observes and takes notes on individual skill sets, tendencies, habits and match ups. He instinctively observes things such as...which player has a difficult time going to his left? How many times can the teams point guard be turned on his progress to mid court? How does the offense deal with sudden attack traps and full court presses and which players lose their cool with a little bit of pressure from a pit-bull of a defender?

It doesn’t matter that the team of his focus has only 3 wins on the season, nor that his OWN team is nationally ranked, has already wrapped up its 4th straight SWBL conference championship and is the home of a two-time Mr. Ohio Basketball and Duke University commit Luke Kennard.

No, this is Brian Bales, the head coach of the Franklin Wildcats and one of the brightest basketball minds in the game and one of the hardest working men you'll ever meet.

But Bales is much more that simply a good coach, he is one the finest an example of servant leadership that you will ever meet and preparation is a part of his character.

I had a conversation with another Coach recently that made an interesting statement when he said, “No one likes to face Brian early in a tournament”. When I asked him to elaborate, he replied, “No one prepares more for any game at this level…than Bales. He’s not only a tremendous leader, he’s an incredible example, not only to his players but to all of us that are lucky enough to call him a friend.

However, don’t simply think that Brian Bales is only about basketball and preparing for the next game. While Bales loves the sport, he understands that a Coaches true calling is more about significance in the lives of those he has been entrusted with than simply short term successes as indicated by wins and losses.

Bales has taught his players, and is constantly teaching his own family, that preparing for the game of life begins with ones goals which influence thoughts, leading to action then habits, and eventually form character that inevitably leads to a destiny in each and every individual’s life.

Every one of us in life, no matter what level of success...as determined by the world that we achieve, can always point back to special mentors and various examples we crossed paths with that changed the entire trajectory of our lives.

There are individuals who are driven by success and then there are those special individuals who are DRAWN to something greater than themselves…significance. And at its root, significance has the DNA of caring and character woven all throughout it’s makeup.

Bales is a fierce competitor and no one that you would want to get into the octagon with. His intensity is unrivaled on game night, often making you wonder if he secretly fantasizes about being a Marine Drill Sargent. But underneath the trademark black button up shirt, as he turns multiple shades of red while getting up-close and personal with a player that has suddenly lapsed into on-court unconsciousness, he is also a compassionate individual with a servant’s heart that genuinely cares about the kids that he is helping develop into young men, equipped for success in the real world. 

His impact on these young men that he Coaches and mentors extends well beyond the simple win-loss record or final score. It’s resonates in the character and makeup of the individuals that will graduate and begin to write their own life stories into adult hood.

Franklin Senior, Gavin Crase, when asked about Coach Bales impact on his life, had this to say;

I can’t say enough about the influence Coach Bales has had in my life. One of the most influential things that he has helped me realize is that positive competition can be a very valuable and driving force to help you succeed in our goals and dreams. 

I’ve learned from Coach that goals aren't just about sports but about succeeding in the game of life as well. 

Coach Bales has been an inspiration to me over the past few years and has inspired me to put my head down, focus and work hard to make myself a better person, become a better husband when I am married and hopefully the type of Father that I have had the honor to watch and learn from.

Being close to Coach Bales for so long he has shown what being a leader is all about. He has shown me that a true leader is honest, confident, and committed to excellence in all his endeavors. He is a good communicator and the most positive person I know. While these are admirable qualities of a great coach he is also a great leader in the community as well.

The qualities that I wound want to aspire to the most are his honesty, commitment, and being a positive person. Those things created the "next play" mentality that we use in the basketball program. This mentality holds yourself accountable and allow yourself to have the strength and fortitude to overcome any obstacle that comes up in life.

I believe Coach helped make me a better man by simply being around him and seeing how he handles situations, good or bad. Whether in his career or personal life he has shown that its important to have my own goals to strive for. One day I plan on becoming a teacher as well as a coach. Thanks to Mr. Bales, I have learned what it means to be “all in” in these endeavors.

It’s my belief that if I ever become half the man he is, I would've done well for myself. The Franklin community is very lucky to have him.

Another one of Bales players, 2016 Franklin Graduate Braxton Lawill offered his own testimony to the influence of Bales mentorship during his high school basketball career;

“I have had the honor to watch Coach Bales lead this team by example and servant leadership. From the example in how he carries himself as a Christian, as a Coach, a mentor and by the way that way that he treats other people and kids, he is a tremendous example to all of us. I would love to be like Coach Bales in those exact ways and character traits as well as develop into the type of Father and husband that I have observed in him.


“I’ve grown up over the past four years and have learned a lot from Coach. One of the most influential things he has taught me in competition is that you should never give up, give in and to keep fighting for what you want! We learned this many times on the court, and Coach Bales was always great about connecting what we had battled through, overcame and learned in the process. I remember Coach telling us that adversity does not build character but rather reveals it.

While Coach Bales fiercely competitive, intense he is extremely firm with the players on is teams, however he is also very fair and he is extremely loyal to his players, his school and his friends. While he is one of the hardest working people I have ever seen he always seems to balance the time between work, basketball and family.”

“NEXT PLAY! NEXT PLAY!”, Bales screams at the top of his lungs at his son Isaiah who is standing and looking in disbelief at a rare shot that has just rimmed out from 3 point land in his 7th grade game against Bellbrook. The life lesson in the Bales mantra of his WTNO (Win the Next One) philosophy; Move on from mistakes, forget the past and focus on the future. Whether it’s the next game, next play, next exam or just a bad day, move on. God can’t do anything with your past, but he can work miracles with your future.

But Bales leadership doesn’t merely exist on the confines of a basketball floor or in a pre-game locker room speech.

Bales exemplifies all the qualities that you want in your Athletic Director / Coach / Counselor and Father.

Its midway through the Freshman game on a Friday night in Eaton Ohio and Bales is coaching and preparing again. However, the coaching is not a basketball player, it’s his Daughter, as he is locked in on the play book of the moment, her homework.

Dad is focused in and using the same skills he uses in practice, encouraging her to think, come up with answers and stepping in when needed to untie the knot when necessary.

I remember watching this and observing, as I often do when Bales is “working” and thinking to myself, I wish I could have learned from this guy as I was trying to navigate my own way through Fatherhood.  

Holly Daniels, a parent of a Franklin Wildcat remembers a moment that resonates with her. "The night of the Bellbrook game Coach Bales was in full parent -husband mode as he and his wife had just returned from a death in their family out of state. I watched him help his daughter with her homework during the JV game. A sign of a good coach shows on the court. A sign of a GREAT coach is what they do off the court. Coach Bales taught my son that week that his wife and kids are more important than basketball”
As someone who speaks on topics of leadership, teamwork and purpose, one of my beliefs is that leadership, good or bad, is a contagion.
Leadership is never about the leader but about the betterment of those you serve. It's a privilege and therefore a burden of the highest responsibility.
It's when leaders begin valuing optics over ethics, profit over purpose or position over principal, that leaders, organizations...and teams, begin to lose their way.
Nothing is more dangerous to the culture of an organization or team, than leaders who lose sight of their real purpose...to serve something greater than themselves.

The thing that separates great from average, lies in what they do when no one is looking. It’s not a skill that one turns on and off on demand, it’s character, that causes a winner to lead by example

I had the opportunity to attend one of Duke University’s pre-season closed practices, ran by Coach Mike Krzyzewskski. 

After practice, I introduce myself and mention to Coach K that I am friends with Brain Bales. Coach K lights up and proceeds to edify Bales for the next few minutes. 

Coach K had gotten to know Brian during the recruiting process of Franklin’s Luke Kennard. “Brian Bales is everything you want in a high school basketball Coach. He’s is exactly the type of leader you want your own Son to play for. I think the world of him” 

Coach K wasn’t just giving me lip service simply because Brian and I are friends. During the bus ride back to Franklin in 2015, after the Wildcats had seen their magical season come to an end against Dayton Dunbar in the OHSAA playoffs, Coach K called Brian on his cell phone offering him encouragement and praise on a great season.

This was not a sales call. Kennard was already signed, sealed and well on his way to Cameron Arena in the Spring.

It just so happens that Coach K was on a bus of his own, headed to Dukes matchup in the second round of their NCAA tournament game.

I’ve had the opportunity to be around a lot of individuals of great accomplishment in my life, both through my career in Amway and my sports photography background. One of the things I have always taken time to do, is to study how successful people treat other people. It’s not a secret why Coach K is where he is.

In life, not matter what stage an individual may be in, you are where you are...because of WHO you are.

Brian Bales, who is possibly one of the best kept secrets in the high school coaching arena, serves as Athletic Director, Head Coach, Counselor, Husband and Father. His relentless work ethic and his commitment to his profession reminds me of a conversation I had with University or Kentucky Wildcats Coach, John Calipari. 

I asked Coach Cal what was the most important piece of advice he gives his players as they prepare to leave college, on their way to the NBA.

He said, “That’s easy! Money has wings. If you pursue money, it will always prove to be elusive. But if you pursue excellence, in all your endeavors, money and recognition will hunt you down and attach itself to all your endeavors.”

It’s only a matter of time before a large Division 1 high school of college program comes knocking on Bales door. His commitment to character, dedication to his profession and knowledge of the game make him an idea candidate for any school that would want to infuse their program with a high octane shot of energy. 

But it goes beyond that. Bales is exactly the kind of leader you want if your true North is building and developing champions in the game of life beyond the court.

As Coach K stated, he’s EXACTLY the type of leader that you would want your kid to play for and to learn from. It's about significance before success, next play, next game, all in…all the time….WTNO!f the people on their team and maximize their potential. They are good at taking people to places they have never been before. While Bales is tough and demanding, it's based in love and caring. The team is always a reflection of it's leader. The young Cats are tough, relentless and demanding of each other. But spend anytime around them and you realize that they are polite, well mannered and a family. That "Family" is part of the culture of Franklin that starts at the youngest stages of the youth programs.

Adversity does not build character, contrary to the often-quoted cliché, but rather it reveals it. The teams that figured the Wildcats would roll over and curl up into the fetal position once Luke Kennard left for the bright lights of the ACC, underestimated the character instilled into them under Brian Bales leadership.

There are great players, there are great teams and then there are simply great programs. And all great programs begin with great leadership.

But Bales leadership doesn’t merely exist on the confines of a basketball floor or in a pre-game locker room speech.

Bales exemplifies all the qualities that you want in your Athletic Director / Coach / Counselor and Father. He is the kind of leader worth following. He's exactly the type of head basketball Coach that you would want your kid to go play college ball for because you know that  no matter how great your Son or Daughter was as a person, they would be returned to you a magnification of all that was good.

It’s past 9 pm Wednesday night in September of 2016. A solitary figure pushes a broom up and down the length of the brand-new hardwood that has just been set in the Franklin high school gym. 

After a day that began before dark and has seen the man help his wife Jayme, with getting the kids off to school, then dealing with the typical job demands of an Athletic Director, then attending numerous after school sporting events, helping with the kid’s homework and probably a dozen other things that went un-noticed, Bales quietly sweeps the floors and contemplates the upcoming season.

Servant Leadership

Posted by professional Ohio photographer Vincent Rush of Cincinnati Sports Photography and Dayton Sports Photography. Vince Rush can be contacted by phone at (513) 702-0495 or by email at vrush@rushintl.com or visit http://CincinnatiSportsPhotography.com

Vincent Rush is a an Ohio based professional sports and special event photographer that primarily serves as a Dayton Sports Photographer and Cincinnati Sports photographer.

1 comment:

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