One of our authors at Austin Brothers Publishing, Dwight Short, writes a weekly article, always with impactful words of wisdom. I was especially struck with what he sent this week and want to share it with you.
Those words greeted me when my son signed up for a youth football team in Strongsville, Ohio back in the early 80’s. My son loved sports and I had coached some of his teams before so when the organizers of the league asked me to coach, I agreed. I was happy when a father of one of the boys alerted me that we would not only have Brian but his son and two other boys from the championship team of the year before. He even told me how they would be glad to help me call the plays and even knew at sign up which boys should be playing at each position.
When I told him that my philosophy for kids this age (10 and 11 year olds) would include having all the kids play all of the positions so they could appreciate what it takes to make a team, the idea was not met with very much appreciation. He quickly stomped off to find some other fathers who were also outraged at my idea before they even considered its merit. There was even discussion that these fathers would approach the league authorities to see if they could move their boys to another team that would accept all of their “advice” or remove this coach.
As the season started, I could see in practice that the fathers were right about one thing. Brian was a special athlete, and clearly could have carried our team. But I explained on the first day that it was important at this age to learn about playing all the positions because a team cannot be successful unless each player and each position is honored for what they do.
Brian’s father was an interesting and distant bystander thru all of this. He never came to watch us practice, and he always found a faraway spot to watch all of our games. We won our first three games with Brian playing different skill positions, and the rest of the team rotating as well. When we played our fourth game, Brian was scheduled to be a lineman and blocker. Kids and parents told me that Brian was thinking of skipping the game to teach ME a lesson. But he didn’t, and even though he was a lousy lineman and had never blocked for anyone before, he played hard that day. We lost in a close game and risked losing the championship because of this coach’s idea to play all of our players at ALL of the positions at least once.
As we walked off of the field that day, the normally distant figure of Brian’s father, Marty, ran up to me and wanted to tell me something. I was prepared for a tongue lashing for having lost the game. Instead, he thanked me for a great game and for following up on my game plans to teach the kids the importance of all the players and positions on a football team.
The father actually was Marty Schottenheimer (he was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns at that time), and Brian his son, currently the QB coach for Andrew Luck and the Colts, has been an assistant coach for several with other NFL teams. Brian also had a distinguished college career at Kansas and the University of Florida.
Marty’s own words to me were, “My son learned more about what it takes to make a football team today than all the trophies he has ever won!” It appears that the crazy coach’s idea didn’t destroy Brian’s future. Whether it is sports, the church, or any group of people God calls you to be part of, knowing the importance and value of each member of society is God’s way of teaching us to respect and honor all of the people that He places in our lives.
As you encourage your kids and grandkids in sports and team activities, try to bring a Christian witness to the events. That would include acting properly yourself and also teaching both your kids and your coaches how much you value them. Think of how strong we stand as a society when we all tap into the strength of our Savior when we recognize Him as our “vine” and we are His branches. Enjoy the New School Year and remember how fast these years go by! Our kids and grandkids need our prayers of support for the challenges they face in the classrooms and campuses. Blessings to all of you!
John 15:5-6 (NIV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”