More than a game: Sports built up executive's confidence

Published: Monday, July 9 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Brian Deaver poses for a portrait at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Friday, June 29, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of weekly stories that examine the influence of participating in youth and high school sports had on the lives of successful people.

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn't anything Brian Deaver could glue in a scrapbook, put in a frame, or show to his family.

It was just a moment in time.

Twenty years ago, the father of four stood in a locker room at Sanderson High School in North Carolina, an undersized, teenage lineman being praised for a Herculean effort.

"I remember Coach really calling me out in a good way," said Deaver, executive creative director at McCann Erickson, "saying it was because of my blocking that we were able to run the ball. I was going against a guy who was about 6 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier, and just kept running the ball on my outside hip. For some reason, on that night, I was winning each battle. I think kids all build on moments like that — when they're praised in public, criticized in private. When kids receive praise in front of others, it bolsters them up, and it gives them that confidence that 'I can do this. And I can take this and do better.' "

Football is where Deaver, 38, found the most success as a high school athlete, but growing up in North Carolina, it was basketball that was in his blood.

"Basketball has always been my passion," the BYU graduate said, admitting he still keeps a basketball in his car — just in case. "You can't grow up there and not have basketball as a passion. It's always been my refuge. If I'm ever having a down day or just frustrated, I can pick up a basketball and go to a park, find a pickup game and when I'm done, I think more clearly."

His home state's cultural affection for the game of basketball made it accessible to anyone and everyone.

"I could go to a half-dozen parks within just a few miles of my house and find pickup games pretty much going at any time during the day," he said, grinning. "It's one of those sports where you can just show up and get a game going. You don't need a lot of equipment. It's also an individual sport where you can just go in the backyard and spend hours shooting hoops by yourself or practice dribbling, things like that."

He played basketball, football and baseball from a very young age and it gave him opportunities to learn how to deal with disappointment, difficulties and, most importantly, success. He recounted how a college player took an interest in him at a camp and how that built his self-esteem — on and off the court.

"I was probably 12 or 13, at that age when having somebody who was not family, not a friend of the family, somebody who really just took an interest in you and saw potential in you and that really did build a lot of confidence in me," Deaver said.

Basketball also provided him with some of his best childhood memories.

"One house we lived in was about a block and a half away from the junior high," he said. "Some of my friends lived farther away from the school and the bus that took them to their neighborhood didn't come until about 5:30. So for a couple of hours, about eight of us just played hoops every day after school. Those were some of my fondest memories definitely growing up — just the spontaneous basketball games that we'd constantly have. Basketball and music have kind of been my constants; they've always been a vital part of who I am."

Deaver has led a department of about 50 people at McCann Erickson for 13 years. Their job is to come up with advertising that helps their clients communicate a message or sell goods or services.

When he approaches a project with members of his team, he can't help but recall a sign that hung on the desk of his football coach.

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