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 thing – and 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
All I know is we just had our first game…we won.
We won 51 to 6.
-- Michael Johnson
Sharon and Rowdy