“He would butt heads, and it would bleed a little bit. I always say, ‘Players like to see the coaches bleed.’ So they’d play hard for him.” – The late Georgia football coach, Vince Dooley commenting on his defensive coordinator, Erk Russell. –
1989 – Riverside Military Academy – I am undisciplined, stubborn, and angry. My parents decide to send me to military school. Even though I hated it at the time, they made a good decision.
Riverside was discipline; particularly in the area of sports. At the time, I just wanted to be like one of the football players in my family. I soon discovered that I would not be one of those men. While I was a decent wide receiver with good hands, I was not as gifted with the athletic skills that others were given. The dream vanished, but the desire to play and the love of the game kept me on the field.
Playing football would provide me with more life skills than any another activity I can think of.
I use the example of football in this column because I played the sport. However, these principles apply to other sports like baseball, track, etc. Young people involved in sports develop a work ethic, participate as a team member, and overcome adversity.
October 2, 2023 – 530pm – Trojan Practice Field – I am watching the 7th grade team and my son practice before the next game. The coaches are tough and do not accept excuses.
However, this tough discipline is making the boys better after every practice.
In football, you play one game a week, but you practice just about every day. During practice, you learn how to improve your skills. Football practice is not like piano practice. You must do it in varying, sometimes brutal, weather conditions like extreme heat, driving rain, and strong winds.
Additionally, your physical and mental toughness is tested on a daily basis. It is not uncommon to finish practice with bruises on your body and blood on your jersey.
Sometimes, a player may feel that practices and games are unfair. Some examples are not being thrown the ball enough, not getting a handoff enough, mistakes by other players, and mistakes made by the player.
However, life can be unfair, unjust, and challenging. Football forges the character that is required to be strong and face adversity with confidence and bravery in life. Football and other sports prepare young people for these challenges and trials that will eventually arrive when they are least expected.
It is not how you start, but how you finish. Falling behind by two touchdowns is one thing. More important is finding a way to come back by exercising perseverance and refusing to quit on yourself or your team. This is important in life because it provides the courage to get in the “foxhole” with others and fight as a team.
In life, circumstances change, even if you have a good game plan. You have to adjust. You learn how to overcome challenges, disappointments, and the piercing pain of defeat. Quitting on yourself or others is never an option.
Football also teaches players to summon the ability to have confidence and trust in others who are worthy. This is teamwork.
For example, no matter how good a quarterback may be, he will never throw for 300 yards, let alone complete one pass, without protection from the offensive line and talented wide receivers who can find the open pockets on the defense and catch the ball.
The best defensive back cannot intercept a pass without relying on the linebackers and defensive line to pressure the quarterback.
The best running back cannot rush for 100 yards without his team blocking for him.
October 15, 2023 – West Georgia – I will be 50 years old in 12 days. I often look back at my experience playing sports and how that experience, particularly during times of adversity on the field, developed the skills to deal with real adversity in life.
I learned all of these life skills on the football field. That is why, to this day, I believe playing football is one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.
Is football a brutal game? Yes sir. But, life can be much more brutal.
Football enhances a man’s ability to weather life’s challenges and provides him the ability to refuse to quit when the Enemy tells him that quitting is the best and easiest option.
The trials on the gridiron, in the batter’s box, and on the track forge the character of a strong and faithful man.