Don't give up, don't ever give up

Posted: Thursday, December 04, 2008 by Travis Cody in

This is Jimmy V week in college basketball. It's a week of great college basketball games, from the Big 10 vs ACC Challenge to the Coaches vs Cancer Classic...nearly 50 games in 10 days across the country. The games give us a chance to watch healthy young men and women play the game with passion and emotion.

The games also help raise awareness about cancer and funds for cancer research.

So join me, if you would, for a little trip in the Wayback Machine. I posted this on 30 Nov 2007. You can find the original post here.

Take the 10 minutes and watch. What's 10 minutes out of your life?

Jim Valvano (1946-1993) died of cancer less than two months after giving this speech. In the 14 years since the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research was established, it has raised more than $60 million for cancer research.

The motto for the foundation is "Don't give up, don't ever give up".

NC State, coached by Jimmy V, beat Houston in the most improbable upset ever to win the 1983 NCAA Basketball Championship. They never gave up. And they created March Madness.

It has now been 15 years since the V Foundation was established. It has raised more than $80m for cancer research. You may click here to read more about the work the V Foundation does, and to make a donation should you choose.

Here is the text of the speech Jim Valvano made at the 1993 Espy Awards.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

That's -- That's the lowest I've ever seen Dick Vitale since the owner of the Detroit Pistons called him in and told him he should go into broadcasting.

I can't tell you what an honor it is to even be mentioned in the same breath with Arthur Ashe. This is something I certainly will treasure forever. But, as it was said on the tape, and I also don't have one of those things going with the cue cards, so I'm going to speak longer than anybody else has spoken tonight. That's the way it goes. Time is very precious to me. I don't know how much I have left, and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I'll have something that will be important to other people too.

But, I can't help it. Now, I'm fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how's your day, and nothing is changed for me. As Dick said, I'm a very emotional, passionate man. I can't help it. That's being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. And when people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.

And so, I can't help -- I rode on the plane up today with Mike Krzyzewski, my good friend and a wonderful coach. People don't realize he's ten times a better person than he is a coach, and we know he's a great coach. He's meant a lot to me in these last five or six months with my battle. But when I look at Mike, I think, we competed against each other as players. I coached against him for fifteen years, and I always have to think about what's important in life to me are these three things. Where you started; where you are; and where you're gonna be. Those are the three things that I try and do every day. And you know when I think about getting up and giving a speech, I can't help it -- I have to remember the first speech I ever gave.

I was coaching at Rutgers University, that was my first job -- oh, that's wonderful [reaction to applause] -- and I was the freshman coach. That's when freshmen played on freshman teams. And I was so fired up about my first job. I see Lou Holtz, Coach Holtz here. What was it like, the very first job you had, right? The very first time you stood in the locker room to give a pep talk. That's a special place, the locker room, for a coach to give a talk. So my idol as a coach was Vince Lombardi, and I read this book called Commitment To Excellence by Vince Lombardi. And in the book, Lombardi talked about the fist time he spoke before his Green Bay Packer team in the locker room -- they were perennial losers. And I'm reading this and Lombardi said he was thinking should it be a long talk? A short talk? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be brief.

And here's what he did. Normally you get in the locker room, I don't know, twenty-five minutes, a half hour before the team takes the field; you do your little X's and 0's, and then you give the great Knute Rockne talk. We all do. Speech number eight-four. You pull them right out, you get ready, get your squad ready. Well, this is the first one I ever gave. And I read this thing -- Lombardi, what he said was he didn't go in. He waited. His team was wondering: Where is he? Where is this great coach? He's not there. Ten minutes -- he's still not there. Three minutes before they could take the field Lombardi comes in, bangs the door open, and I think you all remember what great presence he had, alright, great presence. He walked in and he just walked back and forth, like this, just walked, staring at the players. And he said, "All eyes on me." And I'm reading this in this book. I'm getting this picture of Lombardi before his first game and he said "Gentlemen, we will be successful this year, if you can focus on three things, and three things only: Your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers." And that...And they knocked the walls down and the rest was history. I said, that's beautiful. I'm going to do that. Your family, your religion, and Rutgers basketball.

That's it. I had it. Listen, I'm twenty-one years old. The kids I'm coaching are nineteen, alright? And I'm going to be the greatest coach in the world, the next Lombardi. And...I'm practicing outside of the locker room and the managers tell me "you got to go in." "Not yet, not yet"... family, religion, Rutgers Basketball. All eyes on me. I got it, I got it. Then finally he said, "three minutes," and I said "fine." True story. I go to knock the doors open just like Lombardi. Boom! They didn't open. I almost broke my arm. I was like...Now I was down, the players were looking. Help the coach out, help him out. And now I did like Lombardi, I walked back and forth, and I was going like that with my arm getting the feeling back in it. Finally I said, "Gentlemen, all eyes on me." These kids wanted to play, they're nineteen. "Let's go," I said. "Gentlemen, we'll be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and three things only: Your family, your religion, and the Green Bay Packers," I told them. I did that. I remember that. I remember...where I came from.

It's so important to know where you are. And I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you wanna be? And I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. And you have to be willing to work for it.

I talked about my family, my family's so important. People think I have courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here, Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom, who's right here too. And...that screen is flashing up there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds, huh?

You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you're emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and [as] Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm" -- to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.

Now, I look at where I am now and I know what I wanna to do. What I would like to be able to do is to spend whatever time I have left and to give, and maybe some hope to others. Alright, Arthur Ashe Foundation is a wonderful thing, and AIDS, the amount of money pouring in for AIDS is not enough, but it is significant. But if I told you it's ten times the amount that goes in for cancer research. I'll also tell you that five hundred thousand people will die this year of cancer. And I'll also tell you that one in every four will be afflicted with this disease, and yet, somehow, we seem to have put it in a little bit of the background. I want to bring it back on the front table. We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children's life. It may save someone you love. And it's very important.

And ESPN has been so kind to support me in this endeavor and allow me to announce tonight, that with ESPN's support, which means what? Their money and their dollars and they're helping me -- we are starting the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And its motto is "Don't give up, don't ever give up." And that's what I'm going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. And if you see me, smile and maybe give me a hug. That's important to me too. But try if you can to support, whether it's AIDS or the cancer foundation, so that someone else might survive, might prosper, and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease. I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing this to happen. And I'm going to work as hard as I can...for cancer research and hopefully, maybe, we'll have some cures and some breakthroughs. I'd like to think I'm going to fight my brains out to be back here again next year for the Arthur Ashe recipient. I want to give it next year!

I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I'm gonna say it again: Cancer can take away all my physical ability. It cannot touch my mind; it cannot touch my heart; and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

I thank you and God bless you all.

Cancer sucks. It is indiscriminate and takes the lives of our friends and loved ones. Some of my blog pals are dealing with cancer in their lives, either their own illness of the illness of a loved one. I feel for each of you, as a person who has lost to cancer and also as a survivor.

Please remember the words of Coach Valvano..."Cancer can take away all my physical ability. It cannot touch my mind; it cannot touch my heart; and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever."

Peace to you all.


  1. Anonymous says:

    wise words...

  1. Anndi says:

    You know how I feel about cancer. Thank you.

  1. good to read this again. thanks.

    cancer sucks.

    boy does it ever.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    Cancer has broken so many hearts.

    This is a great cause, thankyou for posting about it Trav.

  1. Great post. I don't have time to watch the vid right now. I'm at work, but I'll try to check back.

  1. Jeff B says:

    Glad you posted this again Travis. The world lost a great man when Jimmy V passed last year.

    On a side note, glad you had a nice Thanksgiving. Sounds like a good time was had by all.

  1. Julie says:

    So I thought 10 minutes! A 10 minute video about some sports guy? Nope. Not gonna watch it. After all I could visit maybe 10 bloggers in those 10 minutes.

    Then I thought...wait a minute...put on the brakes...sit your lunch like a good little girl and WATCH THIS VIDEO.

    I did. It helped me understand why you are the way you are. It's not about sports and all the stinky testosterone involved. It's about making the best of the hand I've been dealt. It's about slowing down and regenerating. It's about thinking beyond my little pea brain and into the big picture.

    Thanks for the dose of common sense my dear friend.


  1. Dana says:

    Thanks Trav. Great words.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I knew there was good reason to blogroll you, Trav. xo~ hope

  1. Every time I watch this, I cry. Very moving. Cancer. Where in the world is the cure? I think, sometimes, that there is one...and all the insurance company money makers are hiding that fact. It just doesn't make sense. We've had too many close "breakthroughs" and " discoveries"....What is the problem?

  1. Well done post, Trav =)

  1. Travis says:

    Lois: Indeed.

    Ann: I do.

    Katherine: Hugs to you.

    Akelamalu: I love the hoops, and I love that it brings hope.

    Charles: Hopefully you can check out the video. It's a great speech.

    Jeff: I watch this speech often.

    Julie: I think you got the point very well.

    Dana: He was a flawed person, but he was also inspiring.

    Hope: I have my moments.

    Mimi: I think we are close. So many cancers, like Hodgkins and prostate cancer, are survivable when caught early.

    Starr: Thanks.

  1. Bond says:

    I forgot it was this week, but once again you reminded us all.

    You do Coach V a huge honor with your words Sir.

    Thank you again.

  1. DrillerAA says:

    Great post Trav. There a multitude of diseases that are so painful for everyone than knows the victim and cancer is one of them.
    My mother died of Alzheimer's. A good friend of mine recently lost the battle with MLS (Lou Gehrig disease). Another friend has a disease that will take him as well, and I don't even know the name of it. All in all, these people had one thing that sustained them, their faith. I think Jimmy V would agree, faith can see you through anything that comes your way.

  1. JohnH985 says:

    Thank you for the post. My Dad died just about a year and half ago from cancer and it's not a pretty ending.

  1. I can't hear Jimmy V's words without choking up.

  1. Anndi says:

    You do realize Julie said "pea".

  1. a humble request...(for anyone not allowing this post through--not spam--)

    Anyone happen to know who Secret Dubai (the blogger: is?

  1. Travis says:

    V: It's a small thing next to the great work that so many people do.

    Drilleraa: I think it's important for us all to share whatever strength and courage belongs to us.

    John: I remember.

    Songbird: Me too.

    Ann: GACK.

  1. What a beautiful tribute, Travis! You are a very thooughtful guy! Love you! :)

  1. Jeni says:

    Ok, Trav -when I first started to read this post I thought, "Oh no! It's basketball time again and Trav's gonna be expounding about a sport I don't follow AT ALL! But boy, am I glad I finished reading this post and that you put the speech in there. Great post, great speech! Wish I could send the speech to my former next-door-neighbor, kid I grew up with, who is engaged in a battle now with cancer. Mike -or "Uncle Mike" as my kids and I refer to him (although he is of no relation to us) has esophagil and liver cancer which he already has been told is terminal but they haven't put any "time left" on him, not as yet. I'm thinking this speech would really be inspirational to him. But since I can't send it to him, I'll take it to heart and use it in my prayers for him, to "Never give up!"
    Thanks Trav. This made my day.
    Also, learning that you had over 400 posts looming in your reader, as compared to the just over 200 that are waiting in mine made me see mine are actually a bit more manageable than I thought! LOL

  1. Travis says:

    Mary: Thanks!

    Jeni: Sports is so much more than winning and losing.

  1. Me Maw says:

    Having only recently become a sports fanatic, I had not seen this happy to have passed through your blog tonight.

    I happen to be a cancer survivor 18years now, this video was a blessing to me, thanks for posting it.