By John Ed Mathison
I admire and appreciate coaches. They have such a huge influence on young people today. Someone has said, “If anybody gets a foot in the door with young people, it will probably have a cleat on it.”
I had the opportunity to lead the worship service in Nashville for the American College Football Coaches Association. I have also spoken several times at the Coaches Conferences sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I love relating to coaches.
Brian Blackmon is the head football coach at Opelika High School. He has just completed an incredible season. For the first time in Opelika history, he carried his team to the 6A State finals.
I had an opportunity to go in the locker room with Opelika before the ballgame. I attended high school in Opelika and played football and basketball. It was quite a treat for those young high school players to play in Jordan-Hare Stadium and to dress in the same room in which the Auburn Tigers dress. You see the lockers for Bo Jackson, Cam Newton and others with their jerseys, equipment, etc.
Brian knows what winning is really about – and it is not football. High school coaches, when they have a Friday night ballgame, try to keep the boys at school to get them focused on the game and have a pre-game meal. The coaches also know that some of the boys might not be able to get a ride back to school late Friday afternoon.
On a Friday afternoon before one of the big games, a young player came to Coach Blackmon and asked if he could talk with him. They went into Brian’s office. The young man wanted to know about this idea of being a Christian. He had heard Brian and other coaches and players talk, but he wasn’t sure about it. He then asked how he might become a Christian. The head football coach, Brian Blackmon, led him in making a decision for Jesus Christ that Friday afternoon. It transformed the boy’s life for eternity!
That Friday night Opelika went out and won a very important football game. Brian was later interviewed and was asked, “Was Friday night the biggest win of your career?” His response was, “No, but Friday afternoon was the biggest win.” When the puzzled interviewer asked for an explanation, Brian shared with him about the decision the young man had made for Jesus Christ. Brian said, “People will forget the score of the Friday night game, but the victory that boy won will be remembered for eternity!”
That is understanding what real winning is. That is the influence that a coach can have.
Brian Blackmon is always teaching. As the guys were getting dressed in the locker room one of his best players came up to him and had a new pair of football shoes.
They were the flashy kind. The young man asked if he could wear them. Coach Blackmon looked at him and smiled and said, “No. Uniform begins with uni and means unity. We are a team and we all dress alike. We are not out here to show off individual shoes, or jerseys, etc.” The boy smiled. I had a feeling he knew what the answer was going to be before he asked.
I told Brian how much I appreciated his discipline. He looked at me and smiled and said, “We teach them to be a team, not a group of individuals who want to be recognized for something other than playing as a team. I even require them to wear the socks that I give them.”
I love coaches. I love Brian Blackmon. I love what he stands for. There are a lot of other coaches like him.
You may not have a cleat on your shoe but I hope you get in the door with a lot of young people and adults. And remember what the biggest win is!!
* Thanks to our sports editor D. Mark Mitchell for this story. See D. Mark’s column, “On the Mark,” for additional information about Dr. Mathison.