It's How You Play the Game

Courtesy George Selleck

George Selleck could have gone straight to the pros. A starting point guard, team captain and All-American, he scored 1,004 points during his Stanford career, becoming the third Cardinal basketball player ever to hit the 1,000 mark. When the Philadelphia Warriors drafted him at the end of his senior year, his future seemed clear.

But Selleck, concerned that his identity was "all wrapped up in basketball," opted for graduate studies in educational psychology, then headed to Princeton Seminary to become a Presbyterian minister. He led a series of Southwestern congregations in the 1960s, picking up a PhD in counseling psychology at UCLA along the way. In 1972, he became a full-time psychologist.

Basketball stayed in his life -- he did stints as a college referee and high school coach -- but it wasn't until the mid-1990s that his professional focus shifted to sports. This time, the former star had a different strategy: helping young athletes avoid an obsession with winning.

Selleck knew how it felt to be a kid preoccupied with sports. After a broken knee in high school led to five operations and the loss of a kneecap, doctors advised him to pursue other interests. "I didn't have any other interests," Selleck recalls.

These days, he wants kids to understand that "sports is not a destination but a journey." In 1997, he founded Sports for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to using athletics to teach about life. Learning not to fume over a bad call, for example, can help a child handle bigger setbacks later on. And Selleck insists that sports should be fun. In school, he says, he was so intent on winning that he never enjoyed the game.

Selleck now leads seminars for coaches and parents and has written three books -- most recently From the Bleachers with Love (Alliance Publications, 1999), co-authored with Cardinal teammate Dave C. Epperson, '54. "George has found a very effective way of talking to readers, knowing that they're focusing on the court while he focuses on development," says Pete Likins, '57, PhD '65, a fraternity brother of Selleck's who is now president of the University of Arizona.

Selleck and his wife, Randie, live in Fallbrook, Calif. When he's not busy directing Sports for Life or playing with their five grandchildren, you'll probably find him on the basketball court. He's training to compete in the Senior Olympics -- and this time, win or lose, he intends to have fun.

-- Jennie Berry, '01