Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Encouragement Goes a Long Way

August in Memphis is brutally hot and muggy.  It was August, 1974, just before the inaugural football season at ECS, the Christian school that I attended.  Football two-a-day practices had started.  At 8:00 in the morning, steam was already rising from the ground, and we were in full pads.  I had always loved playing recreational football, but the reality of the work required to become a real football player was setting in.  We would practice for two or three hours in the morning, take a midday break for lunch and rest, and then practice again in the afternoon.  It was common to see players at the edge of the grass “calling Earl” as our coach would say.  We drank Gatorade, swallowed salt tablets, and just accepted the fact that sweat bees were going to find their way into our shoulder pads.

I hated calisthenics in full pads.  Burpees, mountain climbers, and monkey rolls were part of the warm-up before practice.  We would finish practice with wind sprints and then we would run the “camel caravan”, which meant running laps around the field in single file.  When the coach blew his whistle, the person at the rear would sprint to the front of the line, while everyone in line was still running.  Everyday, I would pray that we wouldn’t have to run the caravan.  The practice drills and full contact scrimmaging made it all worthwhile.  That was football.  There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of wrapping somebody up and slamming them to the ground!

Our coaches were great men with servant hearts, willing to invest their time to turn boys into men.  They each had their own personality and approach to motivating us.  I can remember hitting the blocking sled with all the strength my 5 foot 10 inch 140 pound 14-year old body could muster, and barely moving it.  The coach would say something like, “Hit it next time”, and the next time I would hit it again as hard as I could.  At one point, the coach got off the sled and said “Let me wipe the blood off this thing”.  I thought, finally, I had hit it hard.  Then I realized his comment was dripping with sarcasm.  I thought I would never be able to hit it hard enough.

Later on, during our scrimmage, I made a couple of tackles, and one of the other coaches made it a point to call me by name and say “Good job!”  My attitude changed completely, and I played every play as hard as I could go.  I noticed that after every good tackle, he would call players by name and reinforce their effort with “Great hit!  Good job!”  I haven’t seen him since that freshman year, but I can see him in my mind’s eye and remember his encouragement.

We all need to be told when we need to make improvements.  But we also respond with much greater enthusiasm when someone offers words of encouragement.  Whether you’re dealing with family, friends, employees or employers, look for an opportunity to encourage someone.  Encouragement goes a long way!

1 comment: