Episode 13: Virtue + Leadership = Success w/Lou Judd

by | Mar 4, 2021 | Podcasts, The Virtuous Heros | 0 comments

Podcast episode

About our Guest

Lou Judd is the Executive Director of Virtue = Strength, a  virtue-based formation program for Catholic schools, and the editor of the daily Gospel Reflections at Virtue = Strength’s blog catholicathletes.com.

Inspired by his high school football coach, Lou shares with Chris how important it is to prioritize both virtue and leadership to be successful.  He has shared this lesson with countless youth during 31 years of youth ministry and 16 years with his current organization.

Lou graduated as a Magna Cum Laude from the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome, where he studied Humanities, Theology and earned a PHL in Philosophy. Lou currently resides in Kentucky with his wife Monica of 17 years and six children.


Hannah: Thanks for watching our podcast here at Spirit Consulting, our services include business strategy and human resources consulting. In HR, we offer executive search executive coaching and work psychology consulting. Please visit us at spiritmco.com, where we fulfill our client’s dreams virtuously. 

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Chris: All right. Welcome back to the Leading Virtuously Podcast. 

I’m ridiculously stoked to be able to have the guests that we have on today. Lou Judd, Lou, let’s kick it off by answering the first question, which always is who are you? 

Lou: Who am I? So first off, thanks for having me, Chris. So who am I on the executive director of a nonprofit called Virtue Equals Strength live in Northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati. I’ve been working with the organization for 16 years and married with six kids. 

Chris: Oh yes. I am the fifth of six kids. So I know what that looks like. So thank you for being open to life in that way. I’m sure you guys have a bunch of crazy stories in that regard.

Lou: Yes, many. I work at home, so you may hear some of those stories in the background. 

Chris: So very good. And 16 years into leading this nonprofit that is also phenomenal. Kudos to you for having the perseverance to, to fight through that. I know COVID has not been very kind to a lot of nonprofits, so I can only imagine what that must look like.

Lou: It has been an interesting journey, but but I love it. It’s one that I’m very passionate about. 

Chris: So how did you get to the leadership position that you’re in today Lou? 

Lou: So I would say I was as many men are, I was very influenced by. A few different men in my life, primarily. My head football coach when I was a freshman in high school.

Had a tremendous impact on me. I went to a Catholic high school in New Jersey and I was blessed to be coached by who is now the winningest coach in the history of this state won 20 state championships in 43 seasons. So he obviously knew his football, but he was also a great leader. And he was a great man of God.

And he. Taught us to always put God first. And it really resonated with me and throughout my life that always I’ve always gone back to that. And I’ve had many different conversations with many different men that they’ve had similar stories that they were very impacted in one way, shape or form by a coach or a series of coaches that just motivated them and inspired them in that way.

So that was. That was one more practically, it was networking through a number of different people that I had just known over the years. Especially when I was in the seminary for a number of years. So I met a lot of different priests and business owners and that’s how I got connected with the the organization and got in pretty much at the beginning.

And then we’ve. Working this together. Like we said for 16 years ever since. 

Chris: I’m curious. So were you raised Catholic or was that something that you came into later in life? Or what did that journey look like? 

Lou: Yes, lifelong Catholic. Both of my parents yep. Catholic went to public schools through, through fourth grade and then Catholic school, fifth grade.

Chris: I know you, you talked a little bit Lou about this coach, but what I guess, as you mentioned, 20 state championships and the most winningest coach in the state, that’s crazy.

So what was his was part of his formula that the virtue that you’re working through now? Or what, yeah. What was his secret? 

Lou: Yes. Very much he was definitely a stickler for details. And so I remember, so this is before my freshman year and he had something he dumped captains practices, the men, the seniors who are going to be captains for the upcoming football season would lead us in what was basically conditioning. And I remember at the very first. Session coach saying gentlemen, it’s good that you’re here because you’re either going to suffer now or you’re going to suffer at camp, but suffering will be had.

So any kind of chuckled and laughed and yes. I suffered both. I suffered during captain’s practice and I suffered in camp as well. But but so it was this combination of hard. He was very strict on some particular rules and he emphasized fundamentals to a degree that was, incredible, but he made you see very quickly how important those fundamentals were if you focused on the very, very important things.

And I’ve seen that play out in many other coaches. My dad was a high school basketball coach, most of my life. So I have a great love for listening to coaches. And I remember reading an interview once of coach Bob Lattice or who was the famous head high school football coach of DeLaSalle high school in California that won 153 games in a row.

And one person asked him what was the. How do you know how to win so often? And he paused and then he basically stated I can basically sum it up in one phrase. If our offensive linemen are planting our second foot before their defensive line is standing up and planting their first, we will always win.

They won a lot. And so that was similar to what but the beauty about the way coach did it and how he was inspiring with me with regard to being Catholic was that he was constantly talking about it. So there’s there’s a lot of men, a lot of coaches that I’ve encountered now or business leaders that well ya know.

My job is to do X and I do X really well, but this whole faith and virtue stuff. No. That’s over there and coach wasn’t like that. He did both. And he talked about both all the time and he really emphasized it and he was very good at it. And I think in the end, Blending the two, because they’re not mutually exclusive.

It’s actually it’s the opposite. The more virtue and faith and love for God and passion you have for the good and the right things. The good, the true, the beautiful, the more successful you’re going to be. And obviously coach did that because he was very successful. So yeah, so just many different stories and examples of how he inspired.


Chris: So Lou, what challenges do you solve for organizations with your organization? 

Lou: So Our primary purpose is working with schools. So we have a a virtue program. So our three pillars are virtue ceremony and Catholic identity. So we primarily work with Catholic schools. We had worked with public schools in the past as well.

And I would love to, to continue working with them, but we don’t shy away from saying that we’re Catholic on our website. And ever since we were a little bit more bold and stating that on the front page, the phone calls stopped. So that’s it’s sad. It shows the extreme atheism that has pervaded our country and pervaded our public education system.

We strive to help schools teach these things a little bit more intentionally. So virtues are taught in schools. Most teachers and coaches do this, but there is. But if you have a system just like anything else and you’re intentional and you’re programmatic, then you’re going to get more done.

You’ll teach virtue, Morial dedicate more time to it. You’ll do it better in essence, and that’s in a nutshell, that’s what we provide for schools. 

Chris: So you’ve been in this now for 16 years. I’m sure you have some great case studies of that working out well for an organization that puts this into practice.

Can you speak to that a little bit? 

Lou: Yeah. So one, one story that immediately comes to mind was there was a high school in Georgia that I went to visit. This was. This was four years ago. And so the football coach wanted nothing to do with this. This is a long story, but it’s, I think it really shows the power on many different levels of what we do.

So this was an old school coach. He wanted no part of what we were bringing to the table. So one of the ceremonies that we have, we call it our father, son, Jersey Ceremony. And it’s meant to be at the beginning of the season. It could be father, son could be father, daughter, there’s many different ways to modify this, but for this story.

So basically you’re inviting all of the dads of the boys on the football team who come together one evening before your first game. And each dad is going to stand up and present the Jersey to their son. And it’s an affirmation ceremony. So you’re going to tell your son that you love him, that you’re proud of him.

What he’s great at. You’re going to brag on your son. You’re going to make him feel like a million bucks. You’re going to bless your son with this tremendous memory. And so coach didn’t want to do it. And he was adamant, but the athletic director was, he stood strong. And basically told him that we’re doing it and you better be there.

If you want a job on Tuesday night, so director organized it. 

Chris: So it’s helpful to be able to have the buy-in from the leadership pushing into things so that if you get pushed back like that. 

Lou: Exactly. So coach shows up coaches red faced he’s in the corner. Is it, all of his body language is I don’t want to be here.

I want to go home as soon as possible. Don’t touch me or talk to me. I’m mad. The ceremony is going on. It’s awesome. It’s going extremely well. But at the very end, there are these two brothers. There’s a freshman and a senior and their dad had passed away very tragically, about five years prior. Now, normally the head coach prepares the ceremony.

We have lots of different steps that you do to avoid what ha what happened. So no one knows who’s going to present the Jersey to these two boys, but then all of a sudden, the two boys stand up and the freshmen starts presenting to the senior and he’s doing an incredible job. He’s like the best dad of the night.

He’s 14. And then all of a sudden coach stands up, walks to the front. The athletic director is like hyperventilating. What’s he going to do? He gets the front, takes the Jersey from the freshmen. He presents both jerseys to the boys, does an incredible job. And then he goes, okay, I want everybody to come up front.

It was picture this. There’s like probably 70 guys between dads and players in this room and he’s inviting them all up front. I want you all to come up front and I want you to put your hands on the heads and shoulders of these two boys. And we’re going to pray that God gives them the strength to carry the cross of having lost their father. And so they do.

There isn’t a dry eye in the room at this point. And then he goes, now we’re going to pray for the repose of the soul of their dad. And so they do. And so now that the event is over, everybody’s leaving, the athletic director is just he’s dying to talk to coach at this point is what happened. But right before he can get there, the senior in question who had lost his dad.

He’s waiting behind and he goes up to coach. He goes coach I really want to thank you for doing this tonight. I didn’t know whether I wanted to come or not, but I’m really glad that I did because he just breaks down. He just starts sobbing. He’s like coach, I miss my dad so much. And what really stinks.

Is, I can never talk with anybody about it becomes, everybody’s always afraid that they’re going to make me feel worse for bringing up my dad. And so I don’t think I’ve ever had any closure. I don’t even know if I know what closure is, but I’ve had, this is hole in my heart for the past five years. But when you had everyone come up tonight and pray over us like that, I feel different.

I feel a peace that I have never felt before. And I’m I’m so grateful and coach just like engulfs him, some huge hug. And then he goes, do you know why I came here? No, sir. I don’t. Here’s where it is. I lost my dad when I went to school, that hole in your heart that you’ve been feeling I’ve been feeling for 25 years.

That’s why I didn’t want to do this ceremony. Cause I thought it was going to tear you to up. But then when I saw what your brother was doing, I saw that this was an opportunity for healing that I never had. And I just, I didn’t hear a voice. I didn’t see anything, but I just felt God, tell me, get up and go to the front.

And so I got up and I walked up front and I swear I had no idea what I was going to say or do. And it just just got to happened. So they hug again, athletic director can finally get to coach. And right before he can say anything. Coach turns around and goes, Ricky, I owe you an apology. I was totally wrong about this.

This was one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of in my football life. Anything else Sports leader or Virtue Equal sSrength has I’ll do it. Any. So this particular team is extremely talented. This is probably the most talent wise football. They have 11 major division, one scholarship guys on their team.

This is the most talent they’ve had in school history. And it’s game three, I think. And they’ve already lost like 2 games. And everybody’s what is going on? We’re losing to teams we shouldn’t be losing to, so athletic director pulls the coach aside and he goes, I don’t know what there’s something here that we’re missing because we’re getting all sorts of unsportsmanlike penalties.

The guys are arguing. I don’t think we’re doing the virtue of the week. Like we’re supposed to, I have a teacher who’s willing to help. I want all the guys in his room, afterschool every Monday, rest of the season for 20 minutes. You good? I’m good. So Monday they went in to this particular teacher’s room and he gives all of the players an index card and he goes, gentlemen, you all are the most talented football team the school has ever had.

You’re a 10, as far as talent-wise, but you’re not playing like a 10 and nobody seems to know why I want you to write down what number you think we’re playing at. And I want you to write down why don’t put your name on this will be anonymous. So everybody does. He collects the cards, basically looks through the cards and the average number is a four we’re playing like a four or nobody wrote down a reason.

Why are we playing like a 4. Crickets. Nobody will talk. He kinda sits down, crosses his legs gets comfortable. Gentlemen. I have all day we’re going to have this conversation. So seniors stand up, tells the seniors stand up. Okay. W why are we playing like a four? What happened? There’s this long pause, but finally one kid says racism, coaches, everybody in the room goes Racism.

Racism what are you talking about again? Long, awkward pause. Nobody wants to talk, but the kid says, how two weeks ago? For the coaches got to the weight room on Monday, white offensive lineman and black running back said this, that, and the other thing. And they got into a fight. But there was somebody in the hallway and we shut it down before any of the coaches came in and ever since then, I’m pretty sure all the whites hate the blacks and all the blacks hate the whites.

And so then the teacher goes, gentlemen, is this true?

Majority of the room shaking their heads? No. So then they start talking through it, they start talking through it and finally he goes, all right. One of the ceremonies is a forgiveness exercise and that we need some forgiveness. You two willing to forgive one another. He’s talking to the offensive lineman and the running back, the offensive lineman says he stood up and he goes, yes, I need to apologize.

He turns around to his teammate and he apologizes. And the running back does the same. This probably goes on there’s 20 or 30 different guys that start, they all start apologizing to one another. And so long, longer story, much shorter. This gels, the team, they won three state championships in a row. Like they didn’t lose for like almost four years.

Wow. Yeah. Granted, it’s not just because of this. Like I said, very talented football team, outstanding players, lots of skill, et cetera, but just having the skill and the talent and all of that, wasn’t getting it done. It, wasn’t creating a team. This is an example of how, whatever through prayer, through ceremony, through virtue, through leadership, communication relationship building, you can take a situation that is good and you can make it a lot better.

Chris: That’s a beautiful story. So thank you for sharing that Lou. Yeah, I, as the typical format is that I would ask you a question about where business and virtue intersects for you. And that’s everyday life. And I guess the question that keeps just resounding them ahead is about what you feel is like the future.

Of your program and then also like how virtue has an opportunity to play itself out in both society. And then also in, in the Catholic school system, which as you mentioned as like where your vein of the work that you do is. 

Lou: Well. And it’s a very good question. I hope that there is a promising future for it.

It’s something that’s, we can all see it’s definitely needed. I loved when you reached out. I loved even the name of the podcast, virtue leadership and the two together. The lack of those things are what is tearing our country apart. We’re literally imploding because the adults in our country have the absolute incapacity.

To talk with one another, to relate to someone in a respectful and charitable and humble way with someone who may be, you have a difference of opinion on to be able to amiably disagree on something without it rising to name-calling violence, threats, canceling, but just respectfully recognizing. All right.

You like the color? I like the color green and you don’t, it’s okay. We don’t, but we don’t have this anymore. So it just, it shows that it really hasn’t intentionally been taught for a long time in school. Where you really get after it and you name it. Okay. This is.

This is humility. This is respect. Okay. This person is reacting in this way because they felt like they were disrespected. You hurt their pride. You were not humble or forgiving or sacrificial. They’re reacting like this because of that, if you would have reacted in this way. And if so, if we teach kids this, help them to see this help the parents.

Okay. We all need to discuss these things at home, react to it better just don’t consume everything, media games, commercials, movies, all of those things. Okay. Analyze, reflect on it. What’s going on there? What are the pros and the cons and learn how to deal and treat one another more respectfully. Because ultimately, the golden rule, Treat others the way you want to be treated, Hey, we’re not doing it because we’re not doing it.

We’re imploding. And the further we go down this road, it just leads to more violence which no one wants a more violent, less peaceful society. So if we don’t want to keep going down there, then these are opportunities that we have. And so at times, sacrifices need to be made that you need to maybe.

Okay. Cause no one has time. No one has time. No one has time. Just you have to make time. You make time to do this right then. Better things happen.

Chris: Yeah. I wonder also if. There’s a component of wounding that’s in there too. For instance, even your own story about the coach and his misguided response to the opportunity that was in front of him that, like we just get pounded upon when you have some form of wounding going on at home, and it’s hard to, it’s hard to break through that and.

Do the most loving and virtuous thing that cause you feel like, your you’re like you’re in essence, like your own journey and how you feel almost like dirty in a sense, or, in the Catholic term, sinful. That is stopping you from being able to make that shift and make that transition.

But as you’ve, beautifully communicated today, Lou like when you start to put virtues at the center of your operating system, life just becomes so much more blessed in such an easier way and your relationships start to take off and you can have. More dynamic relationships that only bring more fruit into your life, which is not the only reason to do it.

But in essence, by having these better relationships, while having more virtuous and loving relationships in your life becomes that much easier and more fulfilling and joyful. So Lou, ultimately though I do feel like sometimes people may look. The two of us in  and be like oh, whatever those two Catholic boys, whatever, like they think they’re so pious, et cetera.

And I’m just curious if in your own life, cause the opposite of virtue is vice and I’m just curious if in your own life you had, what vices have you had to overcome in order to be the man that you are today? 

Lou: There’s plenty. Yeah, there’s Lack of forgiveness at at times holding grudges there’s pride and inability to see things from the other side, from a from another’s perspective. So there is we all have them and like you said, we all have the wounds. We’ve all been hurt in one way, shape or form or misled. And I think it’s just at the end of the day, we just have to make it a priority to all right.

Let’s stop blaming criticizing complaining about A, B and C that happened to me in the past. Because I’m sure you have A, B and C that happened to you in your past. It’s let’s stop there. Okay. How can we make this better? Some situations you can’t make better, but you can move on from them and not let them control your life.

Or let them let your past rule you, you past doesn’t rule you, you can lead your future. So if you take, so if you’re a leader in a leadership position of a school of a business and you know what the priorities are then get the priorities done. So I talked to one school once. Oh no, we just don’t have the money and this, that, and the other thing, and it’s this is, the school had more money than 90.

They’re one of the wealthiest schools in the country, but they don’t have the money. Wasn’t the fact that they didn’t have the money. They don’t have the priority. They have 27 AP classes at their high school and they probably want three, four or five more. It was just like your priorities are wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with having, adding those other AP classes, but it’s just you’re not getting done the purpose of why your school exists. So until you get that solved, forget about adding three more AP classes, just like you’d go back to the fundamentals to the purpose, the objective of what your school or what your company was built around, what you’re there for.

And if you solve that and you do that well then more things will come into place and you’ll feel a whole lot better about it because most like that’s why you got in to it. In the first place. 

Chris: Yeah. The the scripture verse comes to mind about building your house on sand. That in essence, if you try to build up these kids into you, build up kids, build up society, build up anyone.If you’re a business owner, et cetera, and your fundamental core principles are wrong. 

And the reason why you’re doing it wrong, then no matter how much you try to build up at some point, it’s going to self implode. So I think that the more that you can specifically choose your mission and vision statement and values of the organization.

And really lock those in and make a commitment to it. The more that you’re only going to be able to keep building upon that as your program expands as well. So thank you for being vulnerable and candid and sharing in that way. Lou. And I think that I love the fact that you’re just honest and brutally honest about the fact that, it is a journey and that you don’t have all the answers.

There is still a lot of stuff that you have to work out as well. And yeah, so that was a very humble response. It was yeah, I enjoyed it. So Lou, how can people get ahold of the work that you’re doing in, in your organization? 

Lou: Our website right now is a sportsleader.org. And if you [email protected] is a good email.

So if you visited. And you sent an email. I think that would be the easiest ways to get ahold of us.

Chris: Great. We’ll really enjoyed having you on the Leading Virtuously Podcasts today and look forward to continuing the dialogue with you as well there. 

Lou: Thank you, Chris. God bless you. Thanks for all your work.

Chris: Absolutely. 

Hey, Chris here. Hope you enjoyed the episode where we discussed all things going bald, just joking, the LeadingVirtuously Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode and the podcast, will you please subscribe on YouTube or apple podcasts or Spotify, or you can also share it with a friend that would be tubular.

I hope you have an awesome day.

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