Football Coaches and What They Taught Me about God (Hawk Pride)

Disclaimer: This is long, and maybe not even worth your time.

I have been thinking about writing this article since last football season, and given recent events in our community decided I would write it now. I will first address the giant elephant in the room of the arraignment of Bridgeport’s football coach, then we will cover some of my coaches over the years and what I gleaned from my time spent under their tutelage.

Hope Your Sin Sensitive Ears Can Handle Honesty

First and foremost, I have zero personal experience with the man to know anything about him other than what I have read in the newspaper, what happened with Mr. Nicewarner is unfortunate and a black eye to his life story. I have had a lot of black eyes in my thirty-two years. A lot of drinking and drugs, sexual immorality, and pride. I was never addicted to any of the drugs and when I repented, boom my drug use ended. (Sort of, I walked away from God 2 years later for another 2 years of ignorance, but after that it abruptly ended again, whatever) Porn and cigarettes were a different story all together. These were addictions and the deepest rooted being the porn.  This secret sin can grow like a cancer and spread leading to greater and more perverse sins if not confronted.

If you think for one second pornography has any place in the life of a Christian or that God doesn’t mind it let me assure you that you are dead wrong and it can quietly destroy your life out from under you. The whole time you don’t even recognize what is being done. I never had any incidents like Mr. Nicewarner, but knowing the enemy and how he always wants to take  you further and further, I was always afraid of finding myself in some sort of similar situation. When would one type of desire not be enough and what would the next line I would cross be?

The drug addict or junky that everyone wants to let die isn’t much different from the porn/sex addict. One man’s judgements are evident here, the other’s will be evident for all to see at the final judgement and we will find out that most of the folks calling for the addicts to go to jail didn’t really have a bit of moral high ground to be standing on. I said that to remind us to call out sin, but separate that sin from the man. Strongly rebuke, but more strongly love.

With all of that off my chest let us move on to the matter at hand. We have ourselves a failed role model to a lot of kids. I want to go ahead and highlight some men who have been good role models and taught me a lot about God when they probably didn’t even realize they were doing it……With that being said……

Dave Cottrill: 1 Corithians 2:2

Dave was my very first football coach. He is a master teacher. I don’t believe I had a knack for understanding football, I believe I had one of the best guys around as far as putting football into understandable concepts. He took it down to the basic package and built it up from there. All of the mechanics of the game and the necessary knowledge he was able to convey to me in a very short amount of time. That is why Dave gets this scripture from Corinthians, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

When all is lost in your world, and the pressures of your family, job, mental stresses, sickness, any other struggle in life feels like it is just about to crush you; forget it all and remember the basics of your Christian faith. Jesus Christ died on a cross to pay for your sins so that you can know Him, and spend eternity with Him. Take comfort in the basics.

Don Toth: Hebrews 12:29/1 John 4:16

For our God is a consuming fire/ …God is love

Don Toth, or Spider as a lot of folks know him is probably the coach who had the single greatest impact on me over the years. Looking back all these years later he reminds me the most of what God’s character is like. He was deadly intense and powerful, yet at the same time one of the most kindly caring gentle folks I’ve known.

His anger could flash to a high very quickly, and be very intense. This wasn’t like the anger of other men that I see though, this was an anger that was rooted in a love and desire to correct you. It wasn’t to destroy you and make you feel stupid, but it was to shock you into reality and build you up. He also worked us harder than we ever would have imagined we could. If you played football under Don, you were basically a mini Spartan.

The apparent contradiction of these two concepts of an angry/jealous God and an all loving God is a typical misnomer by someone who is just glancing at the bible and not in a relationship with God. That power to rip this world from its hinges and destroy it is to be revered, feared, and respected; the decision to instead lay that power down and take the punishment on yourself is to be adored, loved, praised, and worshipped.

Bobby Kester: Luke 14:31

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?”

Bobby is the chap that dubbed me “Puddin” because I was slow and smooth. Still haven’t ever figured out if that was a compliment or a jab haha. He is the master planner. He would never be found in the middle of a battle without a plan. He would have back up plans for his backup plans. I think as we were playing the first half he had the video reel of the second half playing in his head and then he would explain how it was going to go down to us in the locker room. He was always a step ahead. If we were getting smoked on the field it was the execution part, not the battle plan itself, because he never failed in that department.

The Lord has given us His word. If like Mr. Kester we can take that battle plan for life and put it to work in our own lives it will never fail. We fail on the execution end, but the plan is simple. Not easy, but very simple….obey and be blessed, disobey and be cursed. Now we need the Lord’s help obviously to obey, but we will never get going anywhere in life as long as we keep a stiff neck and hard heart towards God. Fight the wind if you want, that’s just the way it is.

Ron Fisher: Proverbs 4:7

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Fish. This guy was amazing. He just seemed to make every situation better. No matter what we were doing or what was going on, if Fish was there or involved it just seemed a little less….hard. He was absolutely hilarious too. A quality I tend to admire in folks, love me some joking around. I realized through Fish though that you could be both the funniest guy in the room and the most profound, it didn’t have to be one or the other.

We could go from laughing about somebody’s girlfriend woes or bad haircut, to hearing some valuable life lesson. It was like a switch. He could be telling a joke one second and then the very next you are hearing something that you know is just dripping with life changing wisdom. I don’t know if it was just the manner he spoke, but his words just seemed larger than life and impactful. As mentioned earlier I made a lot of less than wise decisions that may be key in my inability to recall any direct Fish quotes, but just the way in which he spoke and presented his words was impact enough. (Sorry Fish, I’ll let you go over it all again when I get to where you are)

Brad Jett: Nehemiah 1:8-9

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations; But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Of all my coaches, Coach Jett took the most flack from me. He had the unfortunate luck of having to deal with me at those wonderous teenage years of 15-18. I still remember making a really nice defensive play against Ben Hall as a freshman in a practice that got me noticed by the Coach and I was so grateful that it did, and he would give me the opportunity to go into ball games. My attitude had changed by the time I was a senior. I had become arrogant and figured I probably knew better than the coach a lot of the time.

I respected him and listened to his instruction, but I still assumed I could probably do things better if I was the one calling the shots. Typical I’m a boy, but think I’m a man scenario. Coach Jett was pretty fiercely loyal and protective over his guys. If we did poorly he took the blame, if we did well we got the credit. If anyone had anything bad to say about us he had our backs, but then when we were away from the eyes of everyone else he would teach us to act like we had some sense.

Two things stand out to me about Coach Jett that really stuck with me. The first being that he was able to see the enjoyment and bond of high school football beyond just winning ball games. I recall suggesting a younger player in place of one of my teammates who in my eyes was our weakest link. Now he very well may have been our weakest link (every chain has one), but he wasn’t about to be replaced by someone who hadn’t put in four years of faithfully showing up and trying. I wasn’t able to value that as a younger man, I can now, and I’m glad that he did then.

Secondly, I grew further apart from Coach Jett as my senior year went on. Especially when football season was over. This is real easy to sum up now; I started partying, drinking, and doing drugs almost daily (During football I wouldn’t do any drugs because I cared too much about winning, I would drink on the weekends after the games though) and he didn’t approve. He went from being my pal that had my back to a thorn in my side and an obstacle to me getting to do the things I wanted to do.

 

This is much the case with God. When we are submitted to Him, there is nothing we have to fear and doors just open up. When we rebel against Him, He is a mighty foe and will not relent nor acquiesce to our sinful desires. He loves us enough to confront our faults. He is definitely not an enabler, and neither was Coach Jett. I can see looking back he had and still has the best intentions for each and every one of the boys he coaches; not only on the football field, but in the field of life.

Wrap It Up Long Wind

Longest post I’ve ever wrote, if you made it this far congratulations, you  have proven you can read 🙂 I want to say thank you to these men and a few others I didn’t write about, but who I could say kind words about and share similar stories of (Frank Tate, Mark Clayton, Jeff Richards (let them big dogs eat!), but I figure I’ve said enough already.

I simply want to point out that, there are good men in our community and that coaches do have an impact on the children they coach. Children are impressionable, so when you hold a position of authority or a platform to speak from, be wary of what you do and how you influence those around you. Jesus said it would be better to tie a mill stone around your neck and cast yourself into the sea than to offend one of the little ones that believe in him.

This season, instead of complaining about whose kids playing more or the fact that this or that was a terrible call; how about you go up and shake the hand of somebody who is taking time out of their life to build and form your children into better citizens and in a small town where it’s still allowed, hopefully better Christians.

Why does Hell Fire and Brimstone Preaching Bother You?

Over the years I have heard people reference “hell fire and brimstone” preaching as a bad thing. A dirty word that you wouldn’t want to be associated with. Often times also followed up with a stern warning not to be a bible thumper. Is that really the best advice? How does that instruction match up with the bible? Lets have a little looksy. (Don’t underline my West Virginian vernacular spell check, ughhh.)

Cultural Bullies Change Meanings

I could write a whole post just on this heading. This is a strong tactic of those who gain power, be they on the right side of the isle or on the left side. I will give two quick illustrations of extremes on both sides.

When I say swastika, what do you think of? Do you think of good fortune? Do you think of sacred religious symbolism to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or Odinism? Probably not; I would wager 98% of my readers draw up negative connotations of the word and associate it with one of the worst human tragedies known to our modern world. Adolph Hitler and his politics has changed what we think of when we bring up the swastika, perhaps for the rest of history. (Unless we forget it and revisionists rewrite it as is currently underway in America)

Lets move over to the other side of the aisle. What do you think of when I fill out a questionnaire and I list rainbow as my favorite color? Or maybe I put a rainbow symbol bumper sticker on my car. Are you immediately thinking, “wow, this guy has a healthy respect for the promises of God and understands that He will never flood the earth again.” No I imagine you would probably assume I was pledging my solidarity with same sex couples.

These two examples are along the same lines of what I believe has happened to “hell fire and brimstone” (HFB from here on out) preaching. In an attempt to defend the character of God, somebody along the way thought that it would somehow impugn his character if anybody went to hell. So then they got the notion that you shouldn’t be talking about hell. Next thing you know you have people being labeled “HFB preachers”. Did the content and message change or is something else going on?

Should We Please Men, or God?

This is the question the Peter and the apostles had for the high priest after he commanded them not to teach in Jesus name. (Acts 5:16-32) I don’t know of anybody that is going to be real pleased hearing about the fact that their rebellion against the creator has them destined for hell, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warn them.

Now granted there is a wrong way to present the gospel and that would be to stop the message right there. It would be like your mom saying you’re going to get your butt beat when your father gets home and then your little sibling repeats that to you fifty times through the day before he gets there. You are naturally going to want that sibling to shut up. This is the case with people who don’t deliver the full gospel message.

It seems to me today though that those cases are far and few between and that  the majority of pastors and Christians in general would stray much too far in the other direction. Never breathing a single word about hell. Now what if that same sibling above knew how to get that butt whipping taking care of with you never having to feel it, would you want them to tell you? Or would you rather them just say, “You’re good man, dad loves you….no worries, he’s loving, I’m loving, we’re all loving.” I would choose the former, the latter sounds just wonderful until your father walks in and you still get your butt beat. That is the equivalent of just telling people  God is love and don’t worry about anything because He is a good God. Those are true words, but hearing them and knowing them will do you absolutely no good come judgement day.

Who Started the HFB Preaching?

It is real easy, Jesus did. It was his message. There is hell coming and those who have sinned are going there for God is holy and perfect and there will be no sin in his presence. Now that wasn’t the climax of His message, but it was the setting of the stage. If you take away this aspect, the message can lose its clarity, impact, and meaning.

Jesus didn’t give a hoot if it upset the folks around him, but it wasn’t because he was cold or indifferent; it was because he loved them with a greater love than the “love is love” groups and the social Christians who think you’re going to heaven because you sat in a building for two hours once a week. He didn’t have a problem with “bible thumping” that was kind of His thing. He based his life around the word, when people had a problem with what he was doing He simply quoted scripture and went on about His business. He trusted and rested fully in the authority of the word of God.

He gave the full counsel of God, not just one side or the other. He didn’t lead them to think there wasn’t an ultimate eternal butt whipping coming, he said if you will put your faith in me I’ll take it for you. We have so far removed hell from Christian talk I sometimes wonder if people know just what it is they’ve been saved from. Lump that in with teaching evolution and then you don’t know why you need saved in the first place. It goes down hill pretty quick when you start taking key components out of the bible.

Time Marches On

I attended my little cousin’s wedding yesterday and my daughter Lilly was the flower girl. I was sitting a few pews back and in my line of sight was my Uncle (father of the bride), my daughter a step or two down from the top of the stage, and then my cousin the bride up top. I just had this overwhelming feeling of time sucking everyone in the equation forward.

My uncle would go on to be old and die, like he always said he would. (he has a morbid sense of humor) I would sit where he was, and my daughter would be married off one day. We are all on this planet living and breathing  then one day we aren’t. Some of us have more time and some of us less, but we are all limited by time. Please don’t waste your time. There is no more crucial question to answer then where you are going to go when your time is up. I will choose to love you enough to let you know hell is very real, and without the blood of Christ that is where we go.

 

 

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