"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

January 27, 2008
Legacy E-Zine

For Youth Workers and Pastors
The Jock Issue: Super Bowl Tie-Ins for Your Teaching or Super Bowl Fellowship
From Legacy Youth Ministry Resources


You're receiving this e-letter because at some time you joined our youth ministry site. (You may have been with us when we were a part of Reach Out Youth Solutions.) 

We'll send it your way every couple of months to give you fresh ideas for communicating with your students or congregation. Each issue will bring you unique stories, quotes or activities - practical stuff that you can use this week. If you don't want to receive it, click HERE to cancel. 

Below you'll find some intriguing stories about Bill Belichick (former defensive coach with the New York Giants, presently New England's head coach) and superstar quarterback Tom Brady. I focus on these two Superbowl stories because of the hype about their perfect regular season and consistency in the top of their profession.

We took the time to read the biographies. You get the good stuff that can drive your biblical points home. (By the way, we find biblical principles lived out, positively and negatively, in the lives of both saints and sinners. So don't imagine that we're declaring people to be saints just because we mention a good quality in their lives. Hey, I use King David as an example of faith and godliness, but on the negative side he did commit adultery and murder!)

Failure: The Pathway to Success
How One Football Coach Handled Failure

This story of the Patriot's head coach should encourage all who struggle with failure.     

Bill the Failure

The Cleveland Browns' head coach was one unpopular guy. In five years he'd produced only one winning season. As if losing games wasn't bad enough, he traded Cleveland's favorite quarterback.

The press crucified him. At games, fans would chant, "Bill must go! Bill must go!" Bumper stickers called him an idiot. It got so bad that his children couldn't ride the bus to school because of other students' cruel comments.  He received so many death threats that the police had to stake out his home. He endured for four long years. But in the end, he probably did well to escape Cleveland with his life.

From One Failure to Another

After such a horror story in Cleveland, you might wonder why anyone would risk repeating it. But Bill loved football. At age nine he was already scouting teams with his dad and studying film of teams. His dad didn't push him into coaching. It was his passion. In school and at home he incessantly talked football, studied football and dreamed up plays. And getting older didn't put out his fire for the game. 

So he refused to give up. When things got tough, he just worked harder.

But it takes more than football knowledge to be a head coach. Maybe Bill didn't have what it takes to motivate players, deal with the public, and chat with the press.

So everyone, including Bill, must have worried that his next head coaching job might be a repeat of the last. But he took the chance by accepting the invitation to lead the New England Patriots. The first year looked like another failure - a dismal 5 wins and 11 losses, the same record as his last season in Cleveland.

On Top of the World

But he still refused to give up. 

Rather than believe the crowds and the press in Cleveland, rather than listen to the detractors who doubted him in New England, he kept on working. He learned from his failures. And behind the scenes, he was building a coaching staff and a team for the future. Not a team built around a couple of flashy superstars, but a team of dedicated players who worked as a team, thought as a team, and got credit as a team.

And it worked.

Today, Bill Belichick is universally acknowledged as a brilliant strategist - one of the top coaches to ever coach pro football. His Patriots are one of only two teams to have ever won three Super Bowls in four years. Two of his Super Bowl defensive game plans are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His Patriots dominate the world of professional football, having won five straight division titles (six overall). As I write, they are undefeated in their regular season - a feat only equaled by one other team in pro football history. Now they've won the playoffs and are on the way to yet another Super Bowl. 

But it could have never happen had he thrown in the towel after five humiliating years in Cleveland and a horrid first year in New England. So if you watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, you'll see coach Bill Belichick standing on the sidelines. When you do, remember the criticism he had to overcome to get there and be encouraged to hang in there, no matter what you're going through. 

Reflections

Have you ever failed? Do certain subjects or skills or sports elude your grasp? Don't give up!

When people put you down, remember how the newspapers, radio and TV commentators put down Belichick. When they laugh at you, remember the bumper stickers that read, "Belichick is an idiot!" When you go through weeks and months of failure, remember his years of failure. 

I suppose you could say that the road to success is often paved with failures. 

Biblical Principles

1. Hang in there when things get tough. (I Corinthians 15:58)
2. Stand your ground, in spite of the pressure. (Daniel 3:13-18)
3. No matter how bad things get, God can bring victory. (Philippians 4:13)

Discussion

1. In what ways did Bill Belichick fail?
2. In what ways did people reject him?
3. How would you have felt if you were rejected in the same way?
4. What do you think kept him going?
5. How have you faced rejection?
6. How do you know when to quit and when to keep going?
7. How can we overcome failure?
8. How can our faith help us to overcome failure?

(Here's another story on more lessons from Bill Belichick. And still another on our character site contrasting the terrible criticism from his earlier years with adoring praise from his latter years.)

End Notes

[Copyright December, 2007 by Steve Miller and Legacy Educational Resources ( www.character-education.info and www.youth-ministry.info ). Facts from The Education of a Coach, by David Halberstam (New York: Hyperion, 2005) and Wikipedia on Bill Bellichick.]

Tom Brady: On Commitment and Initiative
Or, Playing Fourth String, Getting Third-Rate Treatment 
But Going the Second Mile with First-Rate Effort 

(Teacher Hint: Go to www.youtube.com and type in "Tom Brady" to find some cool clips of Brady in action. I really liked one with music in the background entitled "Tom Brady: My Hero". Play a bit before you speak to remind your students how awesome a player he is. Or, you might want to start with the first of a video, and show the rest after the story.)

Brady Today

Tom Brady makes it look so easy. Moments before lightning fast defensive tackles and 300 pound linemen close in to take his head off, Brady steps back to avoid one collision, to the side to avoid another, patiently waiting for his receivers to complete their patterns. Now. He throws. Completes. Touchdown, New England.

It happens so often that he's widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks ever. At age 30, he's led his team to three Super Bowls, received two Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards, been invited to four Pro Bowls, and holds the NFL record for the most regular season touchdown passes. No wonder he's been named "Sportsman of the Year" by both Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. (1)

It may look easy and natural for him today, but those skills didn't come naturally. It took supreme commitment to growing and learning, often under difficult circumstances.

The High School Brady

Tommy entered high school built like a beanpole - a slow-footed beanpole. Not very impressive in a game that emphasizes size and speed. But he was super-competitive and wanted to excel.  

So he did more than attend regular practices. He went the extra mile by attending quarterback camps in Arizona and the University of Southern California. He even spent personal time with a throwing guru who ran a school for quarterbacks. This guy had broken down the art of passing into the most minute detail to discover what works and what doesn't . Tommy took tons of notes, to which he still refers today. (2)

And the "extra mile" stuff continued. After school during the off season, many kids throw their backpacks onto the bedroom floor to watch TV, play games and goof off until bedtime. But Tommy completed his homework and met up with his friends at the Pacific Athletic Club to work out for three or four hours. 

When his coach, Tom McKenzie, lamented to Tommy's dad that he had "a Division 1 arm, but a Division 5 lower body," Tommy took it as a challenge. Every morning before school, he'd practice a tedious footwork drill called "The Five Dots," which most players loathed. According to Brady, "I've never been real fleet of foot. I enjoyed the struggle of it. I gained a lot out of it, in terms of mental toughness."

According to his coach, "Tom Brady is the only student athlete I ever saw who took advantage of every opportunity that was provided to him." (3)

His high school team wasn't that great, but he made the best of it, winning about as many games as he lost. 

The College Brady

By high school graduation, he was still a beanpole. But they put together a video-tape of Tom's games and sent it to fifty-five universities. Their diligence paid off and the University of Michigan, a football powerhouse, recruited him to play for their Wolverines. But then things got strange. Before he even made it to the campus, the two coaches who recruited him and believed in him left the school. 

His first year, he kept the bench warm with the third string. The second year, he played a bit in only two games. His very first pass was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Not exactly a stellar debut. He'd throw five total passes that year. (4)  

But he kept practicing, kept learning, and developed a great network of relationships with his people skills. Surely next year would be his year. 

But before his third year, appendicitis robbed him of 30 pounds that he didn't need to lose. Now he was an even skinnier bean pole. Thoughts of quitting and giving up were getting the best of him. Instead of turning inward, he began to talk to the athletic department counselor, Greg Harden. From meetings with Harden, he developed a game plan for problem solving and becoming a better person. It helped. 

At Spring camp, he found himself third in line behind the starting quarterback and another quarterback, Brian Griese, who's father had been a legendary quarterback. The latter won the starting position and Brady would get to play in only four games, throwing only twelve passes. Griese would graduate, leaving the slot for Brady to fill, but did Brady want it anymore? He'd been practicing his heart out for three long years to throw a total of 17 passes. In his mind, he wasn't given equal treatment. He considered changing schools. But outside of football, he loved his friends, his classes, and his volunteer work at a children's hospital. He decided to stick with it. (5)

His fourth year, he would clearly be the starting quarterback, but then things got strange again. Michigan recruited a phenomenal high school quarterback from a nearby town who had already been featured in Sports Illustrated. Being a local hero, there was pressure to move him quickly up to starting quarterback. So what did Brady think when his head coach referred to Henson, the new be,  as "without question the most talented quarterback I've ever been around"? (6)

Brady started as quarterback the rest of the season, winning 10 games and losing three. But there would be a fifth year, allowable since he didn't play as a Freshman. Surely he'd established himself by now. But that would be too easy. Influential alumni were pressuring the coaches to play Henson, the new quarterback. 

So here's how it played out. The coach announced that Brady would play the first quarter, Henson the second quarter, and whoever played the best would play the second half. It was a slam on Brady, the deserving fifth year senior. It would have been easy for Brady to take the low road, rallying his friends around his cause and dividing the team. Instead, he kept working and pursuing team unity. After the seventh game Brady established himself as the starter for the rest of the year. 

After his final game as a Wolverine, Brady's quarterback coach told him that the circumstances he'd played under would have broken most athletes. But Brady endured. (7)

After college, he could have smugly assumed that he knew everything he needed to know about football. Instead, he attended a  performance clinic to try to pick up foot speed. I mean, come on, after four years of coaching in high school and five years of coaching in college, don't you think he knew enough about how to run? Not Brady. There were still weaknesses to shore up and there was always more to learn, always an extra mile that he could go. (8)

The Pro Brady

His next stop was the NFL Scouting Combine, a place where coaches and scouts have the opportunity to watch their potential drafts in action. The gathering includes interviews, psychological testing, strength and agility tests, and the 40-yard dash. 

Although the assessors noted some great traits in Brady, most saw him as a gamble. The most prominent of the evaluators concluded that he "didn't have the total package of skills." (9) One offensive coordinator assessed Brady as rather average, with his inability to establish himself at Michigan counting against him. To some, he was still a "skinny quarterback who didn't run well." (10)

Still, he hoped to be picked early in the draft. Sitting at home listening to the draft with his family, they saw one round after another passing him by. After the fifth round, the Brady bunch was depressed. According to his sister Nancy, "What with what happened at Michigan, and now having this infuriating and disappointing couple of days, he just wanted to take a walk...." While he was out walking, head coach Bill Belichick called from the Patriots, picking him on the sixth round, the 199th draft pick. 

Dick Rehbein (the quarterback coach) and Belicheck saw something in Brady that others apparently didn't. During those college years, Brady was put in a bad position, but made the most out of it. They were impressed with "what he did with the opportunities he had." (11)

But at New England, he'd have to start out once again at the bottom. Now for anyone who's played second string, you know the demoralizing feeling of working hard all week to sit on the bench during the games, hoping that, just maybe, your team will get so far ahead that they call in the second string. But he wasn't on second string. He wasn't even on third string. Brady started fourth-string for the Patriots. (12)

Although he'd filled out a little by this time, the Patriot's owner still referred to Brady as, you guessed it, a "beanpole," after their first meeting. (13) But what he lacked in physical intimidation, he made up for with his work ethic, team spirit, and a rare ability to care for and energize those around him. Package all that together and it's called leadership. As one biographer put it, "Brady had that unique ability to make the person he is talking to feel as though the rest of the world has fallen away and there is only this one conversation happening anywhere." (14)

He'd spend extra time watching film of their opponents, although he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of playing in the game. The defensive coordinator noticed that Brady would work out harder than anyone else in the weight room. He threw himself into off-season workouts, whether or not he was required to attend. That helped add about 20 pounds of needed muscle. After a normal practice day, he'd lead a group of others at the bottom of the totem pole to run through the plays until they had them down. And they got better, and better. The coaches took notice and liked what they saw. 

So Brady found himself the backup quarterback during his second year. And when the starting quarterback got injured, Brady took over. Because of his intense preparation during good times and bad, he was there to answer the door when opportunity knocked. And the rest, as they say, is history.  

Brady once noted that the most difficult wins are the most memorable. I think you could say that about his life. As Brady said, "Who wants everything to come easy?" (15)

Action Points

So do you consider yourself the "beanpole" of your team or organization - the one who doesn't look the part or make heads turn? Do you go to all the regular practices, but still find yourself benched? Do you do the assigned homework but don't get the grades you want? Do you do your ministry, but fail to see results? 

If that sounds like you (and it often sounds like me!) remember how Brady defeated discouragement and went the extra mile by preparing a little harder, getting outside counsel and continuing to learn. If God can make a professional football player out of a slow beanpole, He can use you as well. 

Biblical Principles Illustrated by Brady

1. Work hard, going beyond what's expected. (Proverbs 10:4; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23)
2. When life's not fair, don't give up. (Job 1:1; 1:13-22; I Corinthians 4:7ff.)
3. When things get too hard, get help. (Proverbs 11:14)
4. Keep learning. Get input from the best. (Proverbs 10:14; 8:12-21)
5. Get along with people, even when they're not the easiest to get along with. (Romans 12:18)
6. Prioritize relationships. Not only do they make life fun, but they build a foundation for leadership. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Extras: Brady on Standing Alone (Daniel 3:13ff)

Elwood Reid, one of his college professors, noted that Brady was his own person. The other jocks were too cool to do homework or act interested in his class. Not Brady. He was polite, sincere, did his reading, brought his books to class. Reid expected the other athletes to treat him with contempt, making fun of the skinny athlete.

But to Reid's surprise, "the most disruptive guys in the class did more than leave the quarterback alone. They seemed to look up to him. In fact, they seemed to look up to him more because he wasn't following their lead." I suppose you can't very well lead the crowd if you're following it. (16)

Brady on Commitment to the Team (I Corinthians 12:1ff)

"All I ever wanted was the camaraderie, to share some memories with so many other guys." (17)  

On Not Talking Down to People

According to head coach Belichick, Brady "doesn't put himself above anybody, above the equipment manager, above the guy on the practice squad, or above a defensive player. He has respect for them doing their jobs." (18)

End Notes

1. Wikipedia on Tom Brady.
2. Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything, by Charles P. Pierce (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), pp. 38-40.
3. Ibid., p. 41.
4. Ibid., pp. 59,60.
5. Ibid., pp. 61-65.
6. Ibid., pp. 67,68.
7. Ibid., p. 78.
8. Ibid., p. 89.
9. Ibid., pp. 89,90.
10. Ibid., pp. 90,91.
11. Ibid., p. 92.
12. Ibid., p. 94.
13. Ibid., p. 95.
14. Ibid., p. 8.
15. Ibid., p. 18; also The Education of a Coach, by David Halberstam, (New York: Hyperion, 2005), pp. 214-221.
16. Ibid., Pierce, pp. 4,5.
17. Ibid., p. 27.
18. Ibid., p. 159.

Teaching about Finances?

Because of the problems with debt and materialism, we're starting to write more resources on biblical money management. We're starting with a collection of verses at
http://www.youth-ministry.info/Money/main.php5
. We'll let you know as we offer more. 

Having Issues with Music?

Our book, The Contemporary Christian Music Debate, is back on the market. It helps us understand:

  • Why choosing the optimum style of worship is critical to helping people truly worship.
  • How to evaluate various styles for possible use in your ministry.
  • How to deal with controversy when it erupts.
  • How the bible, scientific studies, missions and church history can help us to choose the right music for our ministry.

Find out more about it at The Contemporary Christian Music Debate.

Why not forward this e-zine to a friend in ministry or a coach who could use this with his team?

Stuff We Always Have

Find over 1000 pages of bible studies and over 3500 quotes, stories, jokes and activities organized around Christian themes at www.youth-ministry.info. (If money is a problem, please e-mail us at webmaster@youth-ministry.info for scholarship information.)
If you don't want to receive this e-mail in the future, click HERE to be removed from the list. 
For stories, quotes and activities arranged around character themes for public schools, see www.character-education.info . Ask for a free membership to the character site if you're already a member of the youth ministry site.  
For ideas and input (we listen!), either reply to this e-mail or use webmaster@youth-ministry.info.