What Team Are You On?

In recent weeks, I’ve been receiving lots of emails from a copywriting client down in Abbeville. The Jimmy Rane Foundation is having its 18th annual charity golf tournament and banquet this week, during which the foundation will award 36 college scholarships to deserving students while raising funds for another round of recipients next year. A lot of sports celebrities – well-known coaches and players, especially from the SEC – will be in attendance.

My work is here, and it’s focused on these areas: I’ve been proofreading the series of promotional emails, the sign for the podium, the posters for the silent auction and things like that, plus I edited the speaker bios for the program. There will be some projects after the event too.

Last year, for example, I transcribed the guest speaker’s banquet speech. This is not a common request, but it turned out to be an interesting assignment.

Dabo Swinney was a few months past leading the Clemson Tigers to a National Championship for the first time in many years. His life story is inspiring, and his remarks were as well. As he was getting into his speech, he mentioned that a lot of people ask him, “Why’d you start coaching?”

It seems that when he enrolled at the University of Alabama, his original plan was to be a pediatrician, but he had second thoughts about going to school for ten more years. So he switched to the business school with plans to become a hospital administrator. He had also walked on as a football player, and his playing experiences culminated with a National Championship season in his senior year.

Soon enough, he noticed something was missing. He’d been playing football since fifth grade, and when spring ball kicked up again, he was no longer part of a team. He wasn’t good enough to continue at a professional level, and his playing days were over.

“I just wanted to stay a part of the team,” Swinney said. “I had played three sports my whole life. I’d always been on a team. And now all of a sudden I was like a man without a country. I wasn’t on a team, and it bothered me.”

Doesn’t everybody, in some way, long to be part of a team? This need may have been felt even deeper for a man who grew up with some of the circumstances that Swinney knew.

“I come from a kind of dysfunctional home growing up,” he said. “My father was an alcoholic, parents divorced. Tough times with my family. But my coaches were the ones who shaped me. Shaped me and encouraged me and lifted me up. Disciplined me, loved me, challenged me. Believed in me. And I wanted to be the same thing for my players. And so I got into coaching.”

At first, Swinney wasn’t sure how he would do or how this would go, but he said, “When I started coaching, I immediately had a clarity of life, if you will. In that everything that I had experienced in my life for the first 22 years of my life – all of the sudden it was crystal clear to me why. God was preparing me to do what He had called me to do. And that was to be a football coach.”

Doesn’t everyone, in some way, long for clarity of life and purpose? Swinney is the kind of speaker where you could listen to him 30 years past college, having never been in a football uniform, and feel that exhale of breath as you say, “I want that too.”

He also said, “The reason that I coach more than anything is that I really wanted to teach. I felt like I had some knowledge. I felt that I had the ability to teach. And I wanted to impact my players’ lives like I had been impacted. That’s why I coach.”

And he did teach that room. There was a lot of meat in his remarks, and as he concluded, he made one more point that reflected his personal faith: “So know this, know this. We never lose our value to God, so keep on keeping on. Forgive yourself, forgive others. We’re all first team. We’re all five stars.”

Doesn’t everybody, in some way, long for that kind of assurance? To not just be on a team – but to be someone who is recognized for the value you bring?

Good words from a coach who teaches and inspires. So how can we apply these ideas? How about this for reassurance:  By the authority vested in me, I hereby hand out participation awards to everyone reading this today.

Even if you don’t hear the roar of a cheering crowd celebrating your success, listen instead to that whisper from Above and that nudge from within that says you are dearly loved, you have great worth and value, and there’s a spot just for you as a star player on a winning team.

Enjoy your magnificent journey.

– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 18