I know you have heard the old cliché that football emulates life, but it really is true and I think this gets to the heart of why many of us coaches value the sport so highly. Just like life, football is about death and resurrection. Football is about death to self and life to the team. It’s about our player’s transformation from the lower physical, temporal, selfish, ego driven “self”, into a higher spiritual, self sacrificing “team” self. In order to have a great “team”, individual players must die unto them-selves and sacrifice their wills, their bodies and their lives for the team. There is a great poem from an Unknown Author that brings this point home. It’s called:
THE COLD WITHIN
Six men were trapped by circumstances in bleak and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story's told.
The dying fire in need of logs, the first man held his back,
because of the faces round the fire, he noticed one was black.
The second man saw not one of the own local church,
And couldn't bring himself to give the first his stick of birch.
The poor man sat in tattered clothes and gave his coat a hitch.
Why should he give up his log to warm the idle rich?
The rich man sat and thought of all the wealth he had in store,
and how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man's face spoke revenge, and the fire passed from his sight.
Because he saw in his stick of wood a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group did not except for gain,
only to those who gave to him and how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death's still hands was proof of human sin.
They didn't die from the cold without,
they died from The Cold Within.
On every team, just like in life, the self must be denied because our carnal mind is driven by pride and an underlying belief and desire that we must get things for ourselves. This is the way of the world, the way of vanity, self-centeredness, coveting, greed, envy, and defeat. To achieve “victory” our players and coaches must serve our team as a living sacrifice by loving each other and serving each other. We must put to death our carnal, selfish “me” minds and replace them with a unified “we” mentality based on love and servitude.
This latter is not the “way of the world”. It’s hard to die unto ones self, to deny that carnal ego. It’s a lot easier to go along with the way of the world. That why I believe the rosters of teams that are categorically labeled as “losers” are probably full of a bunch of players who are more concerned about “me” than “we”.
Where does your team stand?
By Randy Traeger