Advice for life: Listen to your coach


Dear Jon,

Coach T. was right: Every game, every football season, has peaks and valleys.

You heard it in the locker room every Friday night for the last four years. You play through the pain and the losses and the frustrations of the valleys because you know if you try hard enough, if you keep working, — if you believe you can do it — you can make it through the low points. I hope you paid attention, because he was talking about life, too.

Life is filled with despair, heartaches and disappointment. Life is also filled with mountaintop highs, good times and success.

Now, you’ve made your final tackle and taken your last at-bat. High school is over and you’ll head to college next fall. Remember Coach T.’s words and never give up. How you manage your valley determines how soon you reach your next peak.

Your dad — who’s a pretty good coach in his own right — always told you, “Speed kills,” and you know he’s not talking about driving too fast. He means that quickness and agility will beat brute strength nine times out of 10. That’s good life advice, too. If life knocks you down, get up as fast as you can. Learn fast, fail fast, change fast.

I’m not surprised that you wrote your final senior research paper on Pete Rose. You’ve heard me and your dad talk about him ever since you were little. OK, so the gambling angle is not the lesson I want you to learn, but what we’ve wanted to emphasize was his true grit, his gumption and his determination to out-work and out-hustle more talented ballplayers. And he did.

In college, in work and in life, you will meet people who are smarter than you are, or who have more money, or who seem to get the lucky breaks. Remember Pete Rose and his nickname, “Charlie Hustle,” and make sure you don’t beat yourself. That’s all you can do. You can outwork anyone.

But you don’t have to do it alone. In his 1986 commencement speech, Woody Hayes reminded Ohio State graduates that a football player finds strength in a huddle. “Together is the thing that gives you the build-up to get ready to go again,” Hayes said.

Find strength in the people around you. Surround yourself, in every stage of your life, with teammates you can rely upon.

I’m proud that you want to be a teacher and a coach yourself. You will have the opportunity to impact many lives, and that’s an incredible responsibility. Huge.

You can do it.

You have the patience, the common sense, the wit and the talent to make a difference. It won’t be easy, but like Woody Hayes also told those 1986 graduates, anything that’s worth something never comes easy. “I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face. Never.”

They say that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent what you do with what happens to you. That’s so true. Choose to be positive, to see the good in others, to forgive and forget. Writer Anna Quindlen said it best when she told Villanova graduates several years ago, “you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.”

You and the man upstairs. Listen to Him, too.

You know I’m not a member of the Steeler Nation, but I gotta respect these words from Coach Mike Tomlin. “It’s not about fame and fortune. … It’s about impact, and inspiring.” It’s about making the world a better place to live.

No doubt, you’ll face some valleys as you start your life. Just remember the peaks are around the corner.

Keep going.


Read Advice for life: Get up eight — Susan Crowell’s 2007 graduation letter to her daughter, Annette.

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