Coach Ken Carter strode out onto the stage at ASI Orlando on Thursday, looked out over a waiting crowd of attendees – and then, he did nothing. He didn’t speak. He waited. And waited. The crowd murmured, wondering what was up. Suddenly, a voice called out “Put me in, coach!” And, boom, Carter was off and running. All he needed was a little motivation.
“There’s gonna be one great speech here today and, boy, aren’t you lucky you get to hear it,” he said, with his unique mix of humor and bravado. Over the next hour, the high school basketball coach who launched a new career as an in-demand motivational speaker after his improbable life story was turned into a movie starring Samuel L. Jackson amused, stunned, invigorated and, yes, smacked his enraptured audience.
Throughout the breakfast keynote Carter walked out into the crowd, pulling people to their feet, demanding they do push-ups, show pics of their kids – anything to jolt them awake. Within minutes, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand.
“It was all good,” said William Halchuk, of Pakmark (asi/289929), afterward. “He had a whole lotta energy.”
As if urging on a struggling basketball team, Carter dished up one homespun homily after another to spur his audience to greatness: “How’d I get Samuel L. Jackson to play me in a movie? I wrote it down. When you write it down you’re more likely to make it happen,” Carter said. “The great thing about life is you gotta live it. You gotta have passion. You gotta get it done. You can’t be analog in a digital world. I don’t care how old you are, if you don’t catch up, you’ll get left behind. Never stop learning.”
After he’d pumped the umpteenth hand, Carter said, “That’s how you get more business. It takes a little gas to get it done.”
Before coaching, Carter was, like many in the audience, a struggling entrepreneur, running a small T-shirt shop. By applying his own motivational messages to his life, he eventually bought the entire block that housed his shop.
He made national news as head basketball coach for California’s Richmond High School in the 1990s, when he locked out the undefeated varsity team (including his own son) to push them to improve their grades. The inner-city kids returned to the court with a new view on winning, motivated to pursue college educations and brighter futures.
“There’s a difference between a career and a job,” Carter said. “If you have to hit the snooze alarm 3-4 times, you have a job. If you leap out of bed before the alarm, ready to go, you have a career. You have passion.”
To illustrate what it takes to win, Carter asked an attendee to stand. At least 6-foot-4, the man dwarfed the coach. So Carter climbed on top of a chair, making himself taller. “There’s always a solution,” he said.
As he closed, Carter had everyone in the room get up, demanding that they mingle and meet 10 new people. “These people are your family,” he said. “You have a problem, there’s probably someone in his room with a solution. You have to seek, to ask. In this thing called life, that’s what we do.”