DeShazo deepens leadership conversation with OBU athletics

 Courtesy Photo/ The Bison Kevin DeSazo 

 Payne Moses

Assistant Sports Editor 

Monday Oct. 19 keynote speaker, author and consultant Kevin DeShazo spoke in front of all Oklahoma Baptist University athletes.

DeShazo is a current resident of Oklahoma City and is married to his wife Megan with three boys Gabe, Noah and Asher, according to his personal webpage 

For the past nine years, DeShazo has spoken to universities and professional sports organizations about how “to create championship culture,” per DeShazo.

Partnering with Culture Wins, a division of GiANT Worldwide, DeShazo directs his messages to athletic programs specifically on how to curate social media to amplify their institution in addition to instructing athletes and coaches on how to develop into leaders.

In his keynote speech to the OBU athletes Monday, DeShazo based all of his topical points on his most recent book entitled “Keep Chopping Wood,” which was published May 19, 2020.

A short synopsis of the book states: “Keep Chopping Wood is a short story and field guide about what it takes for ordinary people to live extraordinary lives” (per 

While DeShazo only touched directly on his newly published book in the initial stages of his message, his beginning analogy of chopping wood is worth noting.

“If you don’t put wood in your fireplace that was chopped that day, it’s not useful, it’s not ready, it’s not prepared,” DeShazo said. 

“That wood is wet, so you throw it in your fireplace and it’s just going to flare your house with smoke. The fire could potentially just burn your house down because it wasn’t ready. It wasn’t prepared to do what it was made to do.”

By utilizing this analogical comparison, DeShazo related it to how athletes respond to pressure situations, prepared or lacking so.

“In a pressure-packed situation, you don’t head into those moments to not be useful,” DeShazo said.

“You don’t play into those moments like ‘Man, I wish I would have done the work.’ So, do you have the kind of mindset to show up today and do the work, when nobody’s watching, when its inconvenient?”

Through the speech holistically, DeShazo hammered the fact of living life not to stay in the comfortable, the convenient, but instead to strive in uncomfortable and purpose-driven living.

In this way, DeShazo pinpointed having a vision and belief as the most important aspect of an athletes’ reason for competing.

“That’s where a lot of people are, right,” he said.

“They’re really frustrated with where they are in life, but they have no vision for where they want to be. So, all they know is they’re frustrated, but they don’t know why because they have nothing that they are striving for, nothing that they’re running toward. It’s in the ratio to drive you toward that vision, ‘I want to run a marathon’ but I can’t right now. That’s okay because I have a vision to be a marathon runner.”

However, DeShazo rightly provided the understanding that many people are overwhelmed by such large visions and hoped to dispel such concerns by consoling words.

“I’m not being overwhelmed by the bigness of the vision, by the bigness of the goal,” he said.

 “I’m just doing the natural next step. And the key factor, you need to have allies walk alongside you. It’s really hard to get better alone. You have to have people who are committed to the same standard that you are committed to.”

More than merely breaking visions into daily goals, DeShazo spoke to how dealing with our internal mindsets is the simplest, yet hardest barrier to overcome.

“There’s one thing we can control: you,” he said. “There a billion things you can’t control, but focus on the one thing, the one thing you can control is you and your perspective. Your perspective determines your reality. Nothing is good about a bad experience, except for how you find it. You lose a game, you get down, you get overwhelmed, you get negative, you take yourself out of it. You can say ‘Hey, we didn’t do our best, but here’s what I can do to grow’.” 

Whereas DeShazo stressed this concept of owning your inner mindset, he then revisited the idea of reaching a vision with teammates, however with habits as the focus.

“If you want better habits, create a group of people around you that embrace and embody those habits and hold each other accountable for those habits,” he said.

“That’s why I talk about if you show me your friends, I’ll show you your future. If the people you’re closest to aren’t committed to the same standards as you are, you are always going to fall back to them. It’s really hard to pull the people behind you. But if you want better habits, you have to have a better culture period.”

Having just introduced culture, DeShazo explained how leaders, either team captains or otherwise, have the greatest influence on their team atmosphere.

“Leaders define culture,” he said. “If you want a better organization, if you want better teams, you got to have better leaders. Leaders define culture. If you are leader and you are in this room, you are a leader. Not your coach, not a professor, it’s not the A.D. You are the leader. If you don’t like the culture on your team, look at your leadership.”

In his closing minutes, DeShazo investigated how the model of belief is like the glue that holds leadership, culture and habits together. He especially made his message clear by using an unmistakably familiar biblical story.

“Peter commanded,” DeShazo said. “Peter is us. He [Jesus] says ‘Walk out’ and he [Peter] starts walking on water. Man walking on water, man walking on water because of belief. They looked around and saw the waves, and as soon as he saw that, the belief sank, and he sank. You either rise to your level of belief or fall to level of your unbelief. Belief drives behavior.”

Maintaining a spiritually driven final statement, DeShazo left OBU athletes encouraged in knowing why belief truly matters based on Jesus’ ministry.

“You weren’t made average, you weren’t made mediocre,” he said. “You were made on purpose and for a purpose. When you wake up into that, and believe that, things change. The crazy thing in the Bible it says you have to believe it’s going to be better for you spiritually, and that means you’re going to do greater things than I [Jesus] did. I have no clue what that means, but I can’t fathom that we’re going to do greater things than He did. That means we have power and authority if you believe you were made for that.”

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