I’m a movie buff. I enjoy great drama, exciting action, and a good story. The best movies inspire me to be better, to reach higher, or to look deeper. I’ve watched thousands of movies in my lifetime. Everything from cheesy camp to the greatest classics. I’m familiar with many of the greats. But I need your help.
Coach Norman Dale receives an icy reception from nearly everyone in the town of Hickory. No relationship was more chilled than that with fellow teacher, Miss Fleener. Before she even has a chance to know him she determines his character flaws and prejudges his motives.
But the Coach sticks to his game plan. He knows his purpose. He stands by his values. It isn’t easy but in the face of hostility and accusation, he is able to stand firm in what he knows to be true. Miss Fleener doesn’t know anything about him and he tells her so. Coach Dale, on the other hand, knows exactly who he is and what he plans on doing.
We could take a lesson from his play book. Who are we? Are we firm in the conviction that we know our character? Are we secure in the knowledge of our purpose and our direction? Even in the face of those who have pigeon-holed us from the very beginning?
In the movie, Hoosiers, Coach Dale finally interacts with Jimmy Chitwood while he shoots buckets on the dirt court outside the school. As the Coach talks, Jimmy drops in one shot after another with precision and perfect rhythm.
“You have a special talent; a gift. Not the school’s, not the town’s people, not the team’s, not Myra Fleener’s. Not mine. It’s yours to do with what you choose. Because that’s what I believe, I can tell you this: I don’t care if you play on the team or not.”
Too often we invest our energy making sure everyone is on the team, on the same page, playing our kind of ball. In reality, it is just wasted effort. We need to make the most of the team we have, the hand we’re dealt, the life we live. Of course, there’s always one better player, another dollar, a bigger house, a better job, a sweeter offer…but looking for more takes our eyes off of what we already have.
If others want to come along and play, it’s up to them. We can spend our time focusing on the our life as it is, or constantly bemoaning the fact that life could be better if the perfect people, position, and players were playing with us.
Coach Dale got it right. In a touch of irony, Jimmy misses the next shot as Coach walks away. A nice touch, don’t you think?
Fundamentals are a key to understanding the game, understanding the process, understanding life. When we are able to drill down to the very root of an issue, the very essence of the problem, the very nature of the situation, we can reach the core of the matter and deal with it successfully. But to get to that fundamental state, sometimes we have to “unlearn” everything we know about the game.
Too often we come onto the court of our day with preconceived notions and expectations. We think the day requires shooting, offensive posture, aggressive action. In reality, most of the days we live require nothing more than the fundamentals: Play As A Team, Pass The Ball, Be Prepared, Outlast Your Opponent, and so much more.
Wise words from Coach Dale.
“My practices are not designed for your enjoyment.” And with that, Coach Dale begins putting the boys through their paces. He has them run up the court and down. They run from line to line. They bounce the ball, learn to pass, develop a team mentality. He pushes them as hard as he can. He attempts to get the most out of each boy with no apology for the sweat and tears he is producing along the way.
Too often we think that the things in our life are there simply for enjoyment. But the truth is, anything worth having requires effort. Our family, our work, our homes…these all have potential to be enjoyable aspects of our life. We want the enjoyment, we expect the enjoyment. But we rarely want the hard work that is required to reach that end.
Our children can excel in school and when they do, we can celebrate. But they have to study, put in the late hours, do the hard work. And that isn’t enjoyable.
We can find success at our job and when we do, we often get promoted or at least acknowledged. But we have to put in the late hours, know our product, invest in the customer and the product. And that isn’t enjoyable.
Our home can be our castle and sometimes they look like one. But to get the siding just right, the kitchen counter correct, the tile perfect requires some sweat equity (or a big bank roll). Either one isn’t always enjoyable.
But each of these levels of success, each achievement, is a result of effort, time and consistent, hard work. And, while that isn’t always enjoyable, the end result is worth it.
It is an interesting approach. Honesty. Offering his weakness right up front. Letting his players know that he’s been off the court longer than he was on the court. Trusting them to teach him as he teaches them. Asking for a little grace in the transition.
Do we do the same? Do we let down our guard for those who will be a part of our team? Do we show them our weakness? Do we reveal our vulnerability?
Or are we too insecure to let others know when we are frightened? Are we reluctant to show the kinks in our armor for fear that they might take the shot?
Perhaps today, instead of trying to stand above the rest, we will be honest with ourselves and with others and stand with the rest. And in the process, we might find that we strengthen the entire team with one honest act.
In Coach Dale’s first encounter with his new co-workers, he gets off on a very wrong foot. It is probably because his other foot is now in his mouth. After being grilled by fellow teacher, Myra Fleener (played by Barbara Hershey), he makes a big mistake. Rather than walking away (as we’ve discussed earlier), he opens his mouth and with his words he sets the stage for a rocky relationship from that point forward.
“If everyone is as nice as you, Country Hospitality is going to get an awful name.”
You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all opened our traps at one time or another and allowed that witty statement to escape our lips only to lead to hurt feelings and damaged relationships.
Today’s Hoosier lesson? Keep your mouth shut whenever possible.
Experience proves that many times people will offer their help, their opinion, even their friendship with the underlying agenda of directing your own actions. Coach Dale, when confronted by the men in the town’s barbershop makes a wise decision. Instead of outlining his coaching strategy, explaining his methods, accepting their direction or defending his own opinion, Norman Dale raises his hands, thanks the men and leaves the shop.
He sets a good example. Too often we fight for our beliefs, make our stand, defend our rights. What we should do, instead, is to politely walk away.
When co-workers gang up, when friends triangulate, when family manipulate, the best thing we can do is to stand up and walk away.
Never sacrifice your beliefs at the insistence of others, whether their methods are overt or covert. “Thank you and good night.”
“Let’s see what kind of hand I’ve been dealt here.”
With those words, Coach Norman Dale begins to get to know his players and how best to play the game of basketball.
Every day we wake up, climb out of bed, and begin our day. Many times we do this without ever evaluating the strengths and weaknesses we bring to the court. Too often we forget our strengths and overlook our weaknesses. Too many times we march into the field of play without considering how we should approach the game.
Before you lace up your shoes today, stop and consider what you bring to the court and how you can play to your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.
“Let’s be real friendly, here. First off, my name is Norm. Secondly, your coaching days are over.”
With those words, Coach Norman Dale cuts loose the former assistant coach and lead critic of the newly appointed Coach.
We’ve all met them. We’ve all dealt with them. People who think they can do our job better. People who believe they should have been offered the position but because of a lack of training, poor people skills, an inflated ego, or any number of life’s circumstances they were the last person you want for the job. And yet, they stand up, grab the whistle, make the schedule, send out the email, call the shots.
They undermine, undercut, challenge and destabilize the entire process. They may do it in subtle tones or with a smile on their face but in the end, they will do everything in their power to chip away at your leadership until no one knows who to trust.
It happens in jury rooms, school groups, work meetings, sports teams and ESPECIALLY in churches. The self-appointed captain of the squad isn’t always the best leader…in fact, they are usually the worst choice for the job that needs to be done.
The hardest but most necessary duty of any boss, pastor or coach is clearing the team of anyone who stands in the way of success. Even the best-intentioned assistant can weaken the leadership vision of those responsible for the direction of the team. It is always better to play with a team member that loves the game rather than a team member that wants and needs the power.
My wonderful wife gave me the Blu-Ray version of the celebrated movie, Hoosiers.
I watched the film on Christmas morning in the quiet of my living room as the rest of my family slept soundly in their beds (I assume there were visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads). As I viewed the movie again, it occurred to me that this was a story that had less to do with basketball and more to do with life and how we live it. I started thinking about the coach’s decisions, the players responses, the community’s reactions.
It was then that I determined to watch the movie repeatedly over the next few weeks and months. Each time I view the film I will examine it from the perspective the individual characters. I will start with Coach Dale and work through the rest of the cast.
Together, the characters and their own strengths and weaknesses will speak to us, guide us, and hopefully, make us better and this game of life.