Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     Some people say our good times are all gone now.  Just the other day, a fellow I taught school with told me, “It will never be like it was…and there’s nothing we can do about it.”  Then he said, “That’s why I quit.”  Hmmm.  I hear statements like that frequently these days.  So should we all just throw in the towel?  I’ve been watching someone recently who is facing that particular question.  He is the new Athletic Director here at the university where my wife and I live.  When he arrived to assume that new position, he faced a good number of formidable challenges…
     In terms of athletic accomplishments, our past shows a storied history.  Graduates from our school include many NFL greats, legendary track stars, competitors who made Olympic teams, women athletes who dominated their college event, and coaches who became household names across the South.  In addition to our sports prowess, we produced graduates of high caliber; we had a reputation for requiring student athletes to study and pass, and to graduate.  Further, our legacy was to encourage young men and women to become an asset to the world by doing something of additional value; to help others succeed by becoming school administrators, teachers, and coaches.  “To do for others what was done for you.”  But when the new AD arrived, all that history – so much of that past glory - seemed to have floated down the river in the past decade or so, and was now somewhere around the bend.  That past had slipped away. 
     There were a number of reasons for our “fall” of course, and you can hear them all every morning at the local coffee shop where the old guys gather.  “Impossible to recruit in an isolated area,” is a favorite.  “Money has ruined college sports,” often makes the list.  The “general decline of America” is a popular choice.  “People at the college don’t care anymore like they did in the old days,” is in the top three.  And most of all – the real reason for no more good tomorrows –  “These kids are not like they used to be.”  And finally, “Nothing we can do about it.  That’s just the way it is.” 
     In the last few years I noticed players on our team almost never patted each other on the back, high fives never occurred, nor did blocking for a teammate with the ball.  There was definitely something wrong. 
     Couldn’t have been the coaches…couldn’t have been.  We had lots of different coaches – new ones every year, it seems.  And at the season’s end, no matter what anyone did, somehow we always ended up…1-9.  Just unlucky, I guess.  Then, this new guy comes in - the new AD…
     He hired a coach like him.  The new coach hired coaches like both of them.  They looked at you, talked to you, and all seemed possessed of a positive enthusiasm.  They said, “This place has a great history!  This place is a sleeping giant – just look at all the surrounding towns we can recruit from.”  Then at his first press conference, the new coach says this…
We will win.  Winning is about caring, relationships, discipline, about believing, and about faith and love.  We will recruit…(get this – he actually said this) we will recruit good, young, Christian men who care about doing the right thingand we will win.”  Hmmmm.  When I heard that, I had to sit down.  I didn’t know coaches still said things like that.  A number of people told me, “He can’t do that.  He won’t win a single game.”
     Will it work?  Will they win?  I don’t know.  It’s too early to tell.  But I do know this…in everything we do, we have the same choice that new AD and new coach have.  Whether we are involved in a school system, a new hospital, taking over a failing church, being on a school board, running a Rural Water system, or training a horse, we can say, “There’s no point in trying.”  And then our work is done.  Then all we have to do is sit at the coffee shop and talk about how bad everything is.  Or we can do something else.  We can try to make things better.
     We could decide to do everything in our power to “make it like it once was.”  To bring people together, to elicit high cooperation, to create a feeling in those we lead that they can do more than they knew…to spread hope!  And to rejoice with those we love when they fly.
     Will the new guys do it?  I don’t know.  Too early to tell.
     All I know is we just had our first game…we won. 
     We won 51 to 6.

-- Michael Johnson                      


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