It seems that the star football player for the University of South Carolina was flunking math and was about to be dropped from the team. The famed “Old Ball Coach” was interceding on his behalf: "Look, we need Bubba for the team. What do you say? Give him just one more chance, OK?"
The math teacher was somewhat sympathetic; so he did his best to accommodate the young man. He replied, "Ok, Ok! Bubba, if you can just answer this one simple question right, then you will pass math. Now, listen carefully. What is 5 times 5?" With great trepidation, Bubba ventured his answer: "Is it… 25?"
Overcome with frustration, the “Old Ball Coach” immediately grabbed his visor and flung it to the ground as he blurted out: "Oh, come on! You’ve got to give him just one more chance!"*
Seriously, by the first Saturday in October, most college football players and their coaches pretty much know one thing. They know what sort of season they are probably going to have. For some, it is a time of much excitement and anticipation as a great season appears to be unfolding. For others, it is a time of growing concern as the middle of the season approaches without much promise of success.
For my own part, I would not want to be a football coach. As one comedian quipped, “Who wants to know that your entire livelihood is dependent upon what a bunch of adolescent young men do on a Friday or Saturday night?!” How true!
And yet, few people are in such a position of influence as are the men and women who coach athletics. When I look back over my life, I remember with fondness those individuals who so impacted my life. In addition to my parents, I think of ministers, teachers, and employers. But I also remember a coach or two along the way. And I thank God for them as I do.
I have a friend who coaches football in the public school system. He pours his life into his players. And some of them genuinely need it. The stories he could tell you would break your heart. In a society where increasing numbers of children are now born and raised in dysfunctional homes, and where so many young people lack wholesome role models to help instill values in them as a result, especially from fathers, the influence of a ball coach simply cannot be overstated.
That is why I am so thankful for men like Mark Richt at the University of Georgia, who is (by length of service, at least) the “Dean” of Southeastern Conference football coaches. Coach Richt is a deeply committed Christian who takes seriously his role as a coach.
But he also understands that his impact upon his players goes much deeper than just his interaction with them on the football field. He knows that, for many of the young men who play for him, his influence upon them will last their whole lives.
Coach Richt’s own personal testimony of the impact of another coach on his life can be found online at: https://www.cbn.com/entertainment/sports/Mark_Richt_102
907.aspx. As you read it, note that it was under the influence of a man named Bobby Bowden that his own life was turned completely around!
Who knows? Perhaps the day will come when some young college football player from the University of Georgia will be a prominent college football coach in his own right. And perhaps he will look back with great appreciation on the influence that Mark Richt had on his life and the difference that made.
But whether or not the young men who play for him go on one day to play professional ball, and whether or not they one day become coaches themselves, I trust the impact of Coach Richt will be longstanding in their lives.
For an individual’s life unfolds just like a football season does: one day at a time. And at this point in the game of life, even if they might have stumbled up front, no doubt many young men who came to the University of Georgia to play football have been given a reason to be excited and to anticipate great things ahead in life. And this is, in part at least, due to the inspiration and guidance of a coach named Mark Richt.
*JOKE SOURCE: Based on another version found at: http://jrcministries.org/jokes/i_sports.html.