GAMEDAY

PRACTICE

During any given practice, there are those moments when a player needs to be corrected for making a mistake in carrying out his or her assignment. However, it is much more often the case when the player could not be made to feel any worse for having committed the error.

Players caught in such a moment would likely be seen slapping themselves upside the head and heard muttering something to the effect of, “Dangit…that was stupid…sorry coach.”

As a football coach (it all comes back to football), my standard response would be to place a hand on the shoulder of the player and then speak in a tone that insinuated I was letting him in on one of life’s greatest secrets. “Relax,” I would say, “that’s why we aren’t playing the game today. We are practicing so that YOU WILL get it right on gameday.”

I was reminded of that coaching point during a recent sermon.

The church I attend has recently had a great focus on how to truly love in the Christian sense. And just like that player described hitting himself upside the head, I have been beating myself up over what I have been perceiving as mistake after mistake after mistake…

Unfortunately, the conviction on my heart was far beyond my simply being able to raise my hand with the admission of “my bad” and then moving on to the next play. But after being better coached on the lessons found within our Christian Bible (Ephesians 4:20-27), I am starting to feel a hand upon my shoulder and the whispers of reassurance. Let me explain:

HATE

I would be watching a news broadcast of riots, and…

Hate.

I would be witnessing the persecution of Christians by Islamic fundamentalists, and…

Hate.

I would see the further persecution of Christians by the United States government or by citizens of our country, and…

Hate.

Someone would mistreat my kids and…

Whoa…now you know how that one ends. Mess with me all you want, but mess with my kids and…

Hate with action, and as a former marine I felt that I would be more than able and willing to take the action.

That is what I would PRACTICE in my mind, but then…

TIME TO SCRIMMAGE

1 Peter 1:17

Just as a coach hopes to see practice performance improved when putting a player into a scrimmage situation,…

I would wish a blessed day upon a person that resembled those who chose to riot.

Instead of taking the action I practiced in my mind, I would hold the door open and warmly greet individuals wearing long flowing clothes and head scarves.

I would shake my head in disbelief as I walked away from having a polite conversation with that very same person that did my kids wrong.

Was I getting too old? Too soft? Too weak?

Or, was I taking that which was being taught to me on the “practice field” and finally performing at a more spiritually mature level when placed in a “scrimmage” situation?

I’ll probably need a few more scrimmages before I know for sure.

Phillipians 3:12

GAMEDAY

A good coach always works to get his players ready to perform at their peaks on gameday. Peak too early, and your players waste a whole lot of good plays on the practice field. Too late, and your players are going to lose–big.

As an old ball coach, I have come to realize that it is better to prepare to win. So, excuse me as I go back to reading that Great Playbook. Today isn’t gameday, but tomorrow just might be.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5

How Can I Be Rooting For the Clemson Tigers?

How Can I Root for Clemson?
Clemson University

A great many of my friends have come up to me the last few days offering a pat on the back and their (sometime) sincere condolences. The interaction almost invariably proceeds something like this:

Them: “Man, it’s too bad what happened to your Buckeyes in the playoffs.”

Me: “Oh, I am fine. I have been pulling for the Clemson Tigers all season long.”

Them: “Yeah, right. Sure you have. But you’ve got ‘Bama in the championship, right?”

Me: “Nope. I will be rooting for Clemson next Monday night as well.”

Them: “What? How can you be rooting for the Clemson Tigers?”

The Rematch

One week from tonight, the undefeated Crimson Tide of Alabama will be going for their gazillionth college football national championship against Clemson University.

The Tigers of Clemson come into the contest with a blemish on their season record. Coach Swinney’s Tigers lost this past November to a team that does not rank in the top-twenty nor was that team capable of winning one of those other bowl games.

And, oh yeah, Alabama beat Clemson last year for the 2016 title.

So, how can I be rooting for the Clemson Tigers?

‘Bama v. Clemson OR ‘How’ v. ‘Why’

According to his bio on the Clemson Tiger website, Coach Swinney has coached football at two universities.

Coach Dabo Swinney began his college coaching career in 1993 at Alabama which just so happens to be where he gained his playing experience and college degree. He then made his way to Clemson University where he has remained for the past 13 football seasons rising up to the rank of head coach for the past six of those seasons.

Two universities in twenty-six plus seasons of college coaching. My friends, that harkens back to a mostly bygone era of college coaching when integrity was the rule and not the vast exception.

I, myself, was guilty of too often looking for greener pastures as opposed to focusing on the moment and the blessing I had in being able to coach football and shape the lives of young men.

Coach Swinney has a laser sharp focus on both those things.

Consider the Following

Clemson University Football, according to a December TIME Magazine article, is #2 nationally in the annual academic rankings.

Empirically, Coach Dabo Swinney is one of the best in the country at providing the academic environment which allows for the shaping of scholars.

And if you review the clip below, then I think you would agree that there is no better example of a major college football coach leading his student-athletes into manhood.

(Background: The YouTube clip is a 4min. snippet of Coach Swinney’s response to a question regarding Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem.)

Here is a person of Christian values. Here is a coach who is man enough to profess and share those values. And not only that, he is willing to speak the name of Jesus while representing his public university employer. There are not many universities that would back such actions from their football coach; and for that reason (among others), there are even fewer coaches today whom are willing to openly speak what they truly believe.

That is courage. That is leading from the front. That is a man you want mentoring your son.

 So, how is it that I can be rooting for the Clemson Tigers you ask.

Easy. My ‘Why’ is big enough.


 

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They Do Not Care How Much You Know

“It all comes back to football.”

That was the catchphrase that I used probably too many times with a certain assistant coach. It became sort of a running joke. We could be talking about anything outside the realm of football –  a conversation on faith, marriage, teaching, child-rearing, or even the dreaded politics of the day – and invariably we would be able to identify a potential life-lesson that could be related back to a gridiron coaching point.

I thought our banter to be only witty and humorous. That is until I came to the realization of how an old coach’s saying was influencing my marriage for the better.

“They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I first saw that phrase posted next to the door of the coaches’ dressing room at Youngstown State University. The poignant thought was attributed to a former Ohio high school and Baldwin Wallace University head football coach – the late Lee Tressel. I have seen and heard variants of the phrase many times since, but I will always attribute that bit of advice to Coach Tressel.

From football to marriage.

My wife and I have survived that rollercoaster of a ride known as the first year of marriage. And when I say rollercoaster ride, I really mean a rickety wobbly carriage ride through a minefield (or some mental image similar to that).

Our survival has led several other couples to the false conclusion that we have some super secret method of achieving wedded bliss. Despite my many arguments to the contrary, my bride assures those other couples that being married to me is not always joyful. Yet, hand-in-hand we continue our walk together into that final sunset while at the same time so many other couples choose to take a path separate than that of their spouse (or former spouse as the case may be).

How is it that my bride and I remain so much in love? How are we able to see through the hard times that the enemy will invariably try to present? Is it true that I am just that much of a joy to be around, or is it that my wife is so much more mature (see the term COUGAR)?

When a man would ask me, I would give some coaching snippets such as “Man-up and do the right thing,” or “It’s not about you, it’s about the team,” or “Just G.I.D. (Get It Done).”

I once heard the advice my wife gives to her friends, and without a doubt she does a much better job at counseling. When asked how we are able to maintain our marriage, my wife tells those that will listen that she focuses on the only thing that really matters: “I know, at the end of the day, that my husband loves me. I know in my heart that he would never purposely do anything to belittle, degrade, or endanger me.”

My wife does not care that I know that I am always right, or that I know that I never make mistakes, or that I know how to act like a bear when I am tired, or that I know how much she spent on a mirror for our front door breezeway. She knows how much I love her, and love never fails (1 COR 13:8).

I am blessed to have such a wise wife.

So, I suppose I will be changing my advice to my guy friends and be telling them to make sure their wives know how much they care.

Which reminds me of something I heard the great coach Lou Holtz once say, “Remember men, the greatest thing you could ever do for your kids is show them how much you love their mother.”

It all comes back to football.