Monday, April 14, 2014

Why "The Old Lessons"?

“The old lessons (work, self-discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, fighting to achieve) aren’t being taught by many people other than football coaches these days. The football coach has a captive audience and can teach these lessons because the communication lines between himself and his players are more wide open than between kids and parents. We better teach these lessons or else the country’s future population will be made up of a majority of crooks, drug addicts, or people on relief.” Coach Paul W. Bryant

You can't swing the proverbial dead cat without hitting something about Paul Bryant in the state of Alabama. You can't coach football in Alabama without somebody mentioning him, usually in the sense of "who the hell does this guy think he is--Bear Bryant?". Still, I'll risk the cliche of being a former coach who starts his new blog with a Bryant quote.

"The old lessons" aren't about being "old-fashioned." I'm not really concerned about some outdated sense of Victorian-era morality, and I certainly don't think morality enforced at gunpoint or with a badge is worth a damn. The old lessons are about what works, about what endures, about what's worth fighting for. 

Work, self-discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, fighting to achieve....these are things bigger than the self, but they involve the self. They are neither selfish nor selfless. The individual has value in and of himself (or herself), and the individual brings that value into the associations he or she voluntarily enters.

Sometimes, this blog will be about politics (Alabama or national or international), or policy, or a funny something I saw, or lessons I learned from someone. Sometimes, it will just be a place to share a story. This is my outlet to share what's on my mind, so I really don't know where this might go. And, yes, sometimes it might be about football.

So, back to football: the relationships between me and my players have always been meaningful to me, and I take great pride in the things we have been able to accomplish. The teams I was an assistant with (Marion Military Institute, "Marion Schools", and Marion Academy) never saw a great deal of success as far as wins and losses, but I remember the trips and practices and individual moments with great fondness. Those young men and my coaching buddies taught me more than I ever taught them. More recently, as head coach and principal at Marion Academy, our teams saw more success on the field, but we learned lessons from each other throughout the process of establishing a new program, learning how to win, and also how to try to overcome distractions and obstacles. So, this blog exists to honor them in some small way.

But, the old lessons mean most when I consider what they mean to the most important young man I'll ever have the honor of coaching: my son. I'm proud to say I was his first coach and even prouder to be his father. He is a wonderful young man, and I learn from him every day. "The Child is father of the man," wrote Wordsworth, as Dr. Kevin Elko often quotes, and I think I'm beginning to get it. My memories of the old lessons I learned as a child, the things that made me who I am, are reawakened every day with my awesome son. 


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