The Sunday Sermon

This morning I think about all the people who have been my teammates. Those that I played with. The ones that coached me. Rich who when I was ready to walk away from my college scholarship, talked me into staying. The multitude of other mates.

Joe who told me to lose weight or I would die 25 years after the last time I had seen him. He really said that.. WTF? I instantly dropped like 30 or 40.

The mentors of coaches who raised me up. To be more. So that when I was to coach, I recognized the holy process I was to embark.

That when we walk onto our field, I told my players, you are in church. Respect it. Some probably thought it was another one of my overzealous coaching metaphors.

On a more important level it WAS Church. It was where I stood on the shoulders of the great coaches that have mentored me.

“When you are done with all the scholarship trips and recruiting. Get your football done, get your schooling done. Then GIVE BACK.”~Tyrone Sperling, ex USC NoseGuard, El Camino Coach, Father and great mentor.

Give Back...Ty Sperling

Coach Sperling when at USC

Indeed there was a responsibility that our forefathers carried with them that this generation of coaches have lost somehow. We  of course grew up with the parallel mantras of “Just Win Baby”. The coliseums arrest record during Raider games would indicate the folly of that as a personal mission statement.

We heard Charles Barkley declare with conviction, “I am no role model”, and think that was an open ticket to walk away from anything other than Just Win. This is a TV commercial as is the Raider slogan. Which ironically hasn’t done much to help them win since the slogan came into fame.

John Wooden who was a walking mentor and he liked to quote his heroes. One of which was the winningest football coach ever until Bear Bryant broke the record. Amos Alonzo Stagg when asked about what he though about his players success one season would reply, “I won’t know for another 20 years”. john

Somehow our generation has been a horrible steward of our game. Opting for symbolism over substance. Just Win Baby as the thin religion of sport. While forgetting the deeper, richer substance of sport.

I am not talking about over religiousity as that is as much of a turn off to me as win at all costs.

What I am saying is be a Wooden. He oozed his values and beliefs. His missions was not to just win games, that was just part of a bigger picture. It was to change lives. And most every word he spoke was with the responsibility of a hero.

And that is the point of this tale. We are all heroes. If we are an adult, we all have an opportunity to mentor. We all get teachable moments that we will embrace and teach, or we will screw it up. And if missed it is a moment that dies along with our game.

Church is not Sunday morning to me. It instead is handing over some change to that kid that doesn’t have enough to buy his candy at the local Mini Mart.

The proverbial “helping the old lady across the street” scenario. Secretly mentoring or paying a child’s tuition (as many of my coaching friends have done over the years).    And when we do that.

We pay it forward. We pay back, and we get paid back.

I recently asked a young man to put out his cigarette at the local skatepark. I told him how I had just lost my mom to cancer and she started smoking at a very young age. He turned ever so slowly to me, with way too much pain in his eyes for one so young.
He empathetically whispered, “Mister, I am so sorry for your loss. My mom died two years ago and it is very painful I know.”

My heart sank so deep I could not speak.

When we take on our responsibility, our mandate, we get to connect, we get to be human. And we get to be mentored back. In this case from the most unlikely of people.

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