When Gen. Douglas MacArthur articulated the phrase “Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields, will bear the fruits of victory,” it fundamentally gets to the heart of being a competitor, through character, that goes beyond winning and losing, and the lessons learned through athletics leads to a confident, competent officer who has the mental and moral qualities to be a great leader on the battlefield.
The U.S. Military Academy and the Department of Physical Education recognized the qualities of outstanding character attributes and commitment to excellence exhibited by athletic leaders in the Corps of Cadets and within the USMA staff, faculty and coaches through the annual Coach Mike Krzyzewski Teaching Character Through Sport Award May 6 in a combined virtual, via Microsoft Teams, and in-person ceremony at the Cadet Mess Hall.
The 15th annual Coach K Awards, which honors the namesake and distinguished graduate of the USMA Class of 1969, recognizes cadet-athletes for their outstanding commitment to the development of noble character through athletic participation and leadership.
“The award recognizes cadets who exemplify the Army values both on and off the fields of friendly strife,” said Col. Nicholas Gist, the director of DPE.
The award also recognizes the coaches, officers-in-charge and the sport educators who are the exceptional leaders who exemplify these Army values in educating, training and inspiring their teams every day.
“These individuals do much more than win games, they model honorable living,” Gist said. “They earn the respect and trust of their teammates and make a profound positive impact on (cadets) as athletes and leaders.”
The 74-year-old Duke University men’s basketball coach has an impressive history of success to include five NCAA national championships, 12 Final Fours, three Olympic Gold Medals, including as an assistant coach with the 1992 Dream Team squad. He is also the all-time winningest head coach in collegiate basketball history with 1,170 wins. Through all his successful accomplishments, including being named to the Army West Point Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, Krzyzewski has been an incredible advocate and credit the academy through the motto, “Duty, Honor, Country.”
“He is a winner who builds cohesive teams and continues to set the standard for programmatic excellence through the commitment of impeccable character and principled leadership,” Gist said. “He has created a legacy through positive and passionate communication, a steadfast commitment to teamwork and establishment of trusting relationships.”
Krzyzewski’s leadership through character has transcended time and job title since graduating from the academy 52 years ago. He has been a coach, teacher, mentor and leader as an Army officer, a head coach of the Army men’s basketball team and then his current head coaching job at Duke since 1980.
“His inspiration … echoes well beyond Cameron Indoor Stadium, across collegiate and international basketball and back to his alma mater in Washington Hall,” Gist said. “He truly embodies our current West Point Leader Development System outcomes to live honorably, lead honorably and demonstrate excellence.”
Gist said that by recognizing the strong character attributes of this year’s Coach K awardees, it highlights those who have had a significant impact on others through their demonstration of honorable living in competitive sport, much like Krzyzewski has exhibited over five decades.
The selection process of the Coach Mike Krzyzewski Teaching Character Through Sport Award is a year-round observation that requires nominations to be submitted by the end of March. The DPE Competitive Sports Office screens the nominees, in conjunction with the Brigade Tactical Department, to ultimately select the two finalists in each category of Company Athletics, Competitive Club Athletics and Corps Squad.
A panel, which includes Gist and a handful of other people, interviewed the finalists and selected the winners for each category, who this year were notified on April 14.
This year’s cadet recipients of the Coach Mike Krzyzewski Teaching Character Through Sport Award were Class of 2022 Cadet Stephanie Dolehide (Corps Squad/women’s tennis), Class of 2021 Cadet Garrett Burnett (Competitive Club Athletics/marathon team) and Class of 2021 Cadet David Hazelton (Company Athletics/men’s team handball). The coach, sport educator or officers-in-charge awardees were Mike Viti (Corps Squad/football), Maj. Sarah Ferreira (Competitive Club Athletics/climbing OIC) and Maj. Cleveland Richard (Company Athletics/volleyball and basketball OIC).
Also recognized were the finalists in each category to include Class of 2021 Cadets Tyrese Bender (CS/men’s track and field) and Emmanuel Ahoua (CCA/men’s boxing) and Class of 2022 Cadet Andre Pincot (CA/functional fitness), and the coaches, OICs and sport educator finalists were Zach McKelvie (CS/hockey), Sensei Emilio “Reno” Claudio (CCA/ judo team) and Maj. Jake Donaldson (CA/team handball).
Before the awards were presented at the ceremony, Krzyzewski, who was in attendance virtually through Microsoft Teams for the second straight year due to COVID-19 restrictions, spoke to the awardees and Corps of Cadets about a few items during his 15-minute speech. The biggest point he made during his address was the importance of the cadets to the future of the United States.
“We’re a country that has more division than we’ve seen in decades,” Krzyzewski said about the political and social turmoil around a pandemic in the past 15 months. “Right now, we’re deficient in leadership and in character, but West Point is a beacon of hope for our country, and you are really the stewards of that hope as you study at the academy and as you go forward.”
Krzyzewski reminded cadets that they are not only at the best school in the world in teaching leadership but the best in teaching character.
“You are being immersed in a system of amazing character,” he said. “I’ve benefited from it for over a half a century while being an Army officer and being a coach. The values that were taught to me as a cadet are things that I have taught my teams for the 46 years that I’ve been a head coach and the 11 years that I’ve been the U.S. National coach.”
In conveying his experiences, he said through the character education learned at West Point that the cadets can embrace the diverse nature their units will reflect once they are officers in the military regarding the different backgrounds, genders, races, languages and nationalities. While it will be daunting at times, Krzyzewski said leaning on their values learned and developed at West Point will provide the blueprint toward success as leaders of character.
“I encourage you to spend much time developing the culture of your unit and make sure that your unit is not only mission oriented, but it’s also culturally driven,” Krzyzewski said. “Keep learning about people as much as you learn about artillery, infantry, all the combat arms and branches you will be doing. Be a lifelong learner of people and be able to adapt to the culture that you’re serving in.”
Before and after his speech, Krzyzewski offered his congratulations to the finalists and winners of the Coach K Awards.
Gist spoke kindly of Krzyzewski for finding time in his schedule to make the ceremony, which models one of Coach K’s keys to effective teamwork — caring. At the leadership roundtable preceding the awards ceremony, Gist said Krzyzewski spoke about four steps to bouncing back from failure to the awardees to include attitude, belief, preparation and execution, which all put together will lead to success.
Gist was grateful to Krzyzewski for sharing his time and wisdom with everyone as his impact still resonates with the Corps of Cadets and staff and faculty. That impact showed with this year’s awardees as four of them took time to reflect on the award that embodies Krzyzewski and them as leaders of character at West Point. They demonstrated their commitment to the academy’s values, which is critical to its leader development model and a responsibility shared by all at the academy.
Class of 2022 Cadet Stephanie Dolehide
Dolehide is a talented contributor to the Army West Point women’s tennis team as she is a part of the team’s No. 1 doubles pairing and the No. 2 singles player. Dolehide grew up in a sports-oriented family as one older sister played tennis at UCLA and is now a collegiate coach while another older sister plays tennis professionally in the Women’s Tennis Association. Her older brother played golf at Florida Atlantic University and is now a collegiate coach.
Having all that synergy with her older siblings playing and coaching sports, she said it’s been “astonishing” at how much they have instilled character in her from how they acted and produced in their sports and on their teams.
Dolehide is honored to have been chosen for the Coach K Award as she has looked up to Krzyzewski as a role model since she arrived at West Point after her head coach, Paul Peck, took her to the Army Sports Hall of Fame and showed her his photo.
“I have looked up to his leadership and the impact that he has had on so many individuals, from his time in the Army to coaching Army basketball, Duke basketball and USA basketball,” Dolehide said. “Coach K has led exceptional teams through instilling culture, cohesion, respect, dignity, selfless service, loyalty and character into his leadership philosophy.
“He has been able to teach his players and form successful teams,” she added. “I hope to continue to learn from his leadership and impact individuals on my own teams.”
Dolehide said no matter the role a player has on a team, whether it is the No. 1 player, No. 6 player or the last option on the bench on a squad, everyone has value and can follow and lead with character.
“Leading with character, it helps shine a light on every individual with providing respect to each player and giving them each a voice,” Dolehide, who received some of the loudest cheers from her teammates while receiving her award, said. “Each player committing to a high standard of character, it improves integrity which directly links to the culture of the team. As Coach K said, ‘Culture plus talent brings in wins,’ and it also leads to a rewarding journey.”
Her time at West Point has been extremely satisfying due to her coaches, teammates, officer representatives and trainers. Their ability to incorporate mentorship, care, vision, empathy on and off the court to help Dolehide and her teammates fulfill their academic and military requirements while accomplishing their goals in everything they do has been amazing.
“For the most part, tennis is an ‘individual’ sport until college, and it has been a privilege working with such an amazing team rather than playing for yourself on court,” Dolehide said. “My collegiate experience has extended beyond my team and I have been impacted by the institution.”
Her two biggest influential mentors, Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb and Associate Dean for Policy and Communication Maj. Elizabeth Lazzari, showed her the importance of leading teams through character — loyalty, empathy and genuine care.
“It has been a learning experience for me to understand that competition goes way beyond the court to your support staff to all members in your organization,” she said.
Dolehide, who credits her parents as her biggest inspiration and mentors, said the most memorable part of the evening was how genuine, candid and impactful Coach K’s answers were to the finalists’ questions during the leader roundtable.
His answers “shined his raw and inspiring personality,” Dolehide said. “The discussions showed his value of people and how that has made his life so rewarding. It was serendipitous.”
Her lasting memory of the evening was sitting next to Maj. Sarah Ferreira, the Club Athletics OIC winner, during the leader roundtable and ceremony. It made Dolehide reflect on the fact that her biggest obstacle at West Point was her Military Movement class in her plebe year, which Krzyzewski said he also struggled with, and her instructor was Ferreira. She ended up passing by one point.
“From so many ‘high zeros’ in Military Movement my plebe year to exceeding my goals on the IOCT my cow year,” Dolehide said, “sitting in this room with my Military Movement instructor exemplifies the importance of strong-coaching and the will to continue trying and believing in yourself.”
Class of 2021 Cadet David Hazelton
Hazelton, a member of the Company I-4 team handball squad, was tremendously honored to receive the Coach K Award.
“Having your name attached to someone like Coach K, whatever the circumstance, it’s humbling,” Hazelton said. “But, on a more personal level, it’s very meaningful knowing all the other great athletes I have played with and against who were also very deserving of this award. To win this award, it let’s me know that the extra things I did do, both as a player and a coach, did not go unnoticed and is a reminder that someone is always watching.”
He spoke about how winning is, without question, extremely important, but winning should not define you as a person as much a character should.
“What I love about sports is how you are put in a hectic environment where you have to overcome fear, process an abundance of information, deal with adversity and lead all at once,” Hazelton said. “Without high-character team members, teams will fail. However, doing things the right way inspires others and, most notably, when things do become difficult, it motivates individuals to continue and overcome challenges.”
Hazelton is a player and coach but finds the most satisfaction in coaching his friends and teammates.
“Being a player-coach meant I had to truly embrace a stoic sort of philosophy to understand and attempt to control not only my own, but others’ emotions,” Hazelton said. “Having a conversation with (teammates) when they were down or frustrated and return them to a confident state is a true thrill. When you see the results, it’s an amazing feat. Winning a championship in such a way was the perfect culminating event.”
He credits his father for inspiring him to be the best version of himself, whether it is academics, sports or anything in life.
“He’s the one who helped make me as competitive as I am and stressed the importance of winning in the right way,” Hazelton said.
From the roundtable and the ceremony, Hazelton said the most noteworthy thing he came away with was Krzyzewski’s emphasis on culture. From his 40-plus years as the Duke basketball coach, he relayed the importance of understanding the environment you want to see from day one as a leader.
“Simply, there is no time to waste because you only have so long as a PL or company commander to completely define and shape your unit’s culture,” Hazelton said.
Hazelton was thankful to not only have won the award but happy to have gotten a chance to join Company I-4 team handball.
“Coach K would be proud of it, for having a pretty defined culture, even if it is ‘only’ company athletics,” Hazelton said. “Furthermore, my teammates were excellent and a large portion of why I was able to win this award, so I want to thank them, too.”
Majs. Sarah Ferreira and Cleveland Richard
Majs. Sarah Ferreira, DPE instructor and climbing team OIC, and Cleveland Richard, DPE instructor and Company Athletics basketball and volleyball OIC, have both been positive influences in their respective OIC jobs.
Ferreira was humbled to win the Coach K Award and enjoys teaching the outstanding young leaders on the climbing team.
With that, she said that character is the most important aspect of leadership development at West Point.
“I believe that sport and competitive athletics is one of the best settings where our cadet athletes get the opportunity to learn, grow and showcase their commitment to character,” Ferreira, who has been the OIC of the climbing team for three years, said. “On the climbing team, physical excellence and winning is important, but those things can only be accomplished when the values, ethics and standards of the team are the top priority.”
One of the most satisfying aspects of her position as climbing team OIC is seeing the development of the cadets, both inside and outside of the gym.
“As a coach, I love seeing their progress on the climbing wall, accomplishing a hard route or solving a boulder problem that once seemed impossible,” Ferreira said. “As an officer, I love seeing them grow as leaders in their companies and in the Corps of Cadets while taking on positions of increased responsibility, like cadet first sergeant or cadet company commander.”
Ferreira said her cadet experience in company athletics was very impactful to her, which she was grateful for with the access she had to tremendous coaches and mentors.
“I hope that I am able to impart some of the lessons I learned as a cadet and then later as an officer to the members of the climbing team,” Ferreira said.
While inspired each day by the cadets on the climbing team, her peers and teammates in DPE and her family, she credits the numerous leaders who invested countless hours in her personal and professional development to get her to where she is today.
“I learned a phrase while I was a cadet and I’ve always strived to live up to it, ‘Be the leader you want to be led by,’” Ferreira said.
Richard views his receiving the Coach K Award as monumental because he’s always felt a connection to Krzyzewski’s journey as a representative and ambassador for the Army men’s basketball team.
“While I was a player on the team, I had the opportunity to meet Coach K toward the end of my basketball career,” Richard, who played four years on the Army West Point men’s basketball team, said. “Although virtual, this motivates me to become a better leader and instructor every day.”
Richard took some of Krzyzewski’s words to heart during his speech about character and that in order to positively affect the future of the nation and cadets that “we must show these values and live these values consistently.”
“Sports gives us real-time feedback,” Richard said. “With this stage, we should always use it for good. If we are teaching and coaching, we must live and teach positive values and habits.”
Richard is in his seventh year at West Point when you include his four as a cadet, one as a graduate assistant and two as an instructor. The most satisfying experience in all those years has been the number of cadets that “I have had the opportunity of helping in classrooms or with leadership challenges.”
Richard recognizes his cadet experience in helping him as an educator today.
“As an executive officer or company commander, I used the principles learned from coach Jim Crews, some derived from his coach, Bobby Knight, consistently,” Richard said. “As an instructor, I use them every day when addressing standards, discipline, performance, etc.”
Richard, who credits his parents and grandparents as his best examples of how he wants to carry himself, said the most noteworthy thing from Coach K’s roundtable talk was the four steps to overcoming failure and building a winning team.
“The first two steps (attitude and belief) stood out the most because you have to have individuals in your organization who have positive attitudes and believe the goals are attainable before you can execute the other steps (prepare to win and execute),” Richard said.
As for the most important takeaway from the evening, Ferreira said the most important thing for her was during Coach K’s speech when he stated to the cadets and officers that “the nation needs you.”
“I hope every cadet in the mess hall heard that and takes those words to heart,” Ferreira said. “Whether leading on the battlefield, in the classroom, in civil service, in corporate America or wherever life takes them, those cadets are our nation’s future leaders and America is relying on them to lead from the front.”
Ferreira and Richard both had personal thoughts that concluded their views of the evening. Ferreira was glad to see the entire Corps of Cadets back together in the Cadet Mess Hall for dinner, which hasn’t been a common occurrence since the pandemic started.
“I think these ceremonies are an important aspect of cadet life and I’m hoping they can become a more common event soon,” Ferreira said.
Richard then summed up his reflection on how personally satisfying and wonderful it meant to receive the Coach K Award.
“Both my wife, Margaree, and I played basketball at West Point,” Richard said. “This award is cherished by us both. We look forward to continue to educate, motivate and inspire the cadets at every possible opportunity.”