When I became a head football coach at twenty-six years old, I quickly realized I was in over my head, especially when it came to discipline.
What was I supposed to do when I kid dropped an f-bomb during practice? What about fights? Then there were the off-the-field issues: classroom behavior, poor grades, parties…
The list went on and on.
So I made a “list” of my own. Something like the Ten Commandments, except my list had more rules than just ten. The document was over three pages long and outlined every conceivable transgression a high school football player could possibly commit. Every offense had a punishment. I had it all covered.
Or so I thought.
Come to find out, there was no way to foresee all the crazy boys aged 15-18 could come up with. They bucked the rules even harder once I had the document in place, finding loopholes in the wording and arguing with me over every little detail. They were like lawyers, and I was the judge, trying to decide what was right and what was wrong in our football-shaped world.
Not long after, I scrapped the document and came up with a much more concise guiding principle: “Effort and Respect.”
I don’t remember how, exactly, I came up with “Effort and Respect,” but I’ll never forget the effect those two words had on my discipline problem.
The three-page “list” went right out the window, replaced by those two simple words. From that point forward, anytime I had an issue with a player, I brought them into my office and talked about “Effort and Respect.”
No matter what they’d done, I could always point to a lack of effort or respect. I ended up deciding their punishments case by case, and gone were the days of our “discipline” problems.
Then, barely a year later, I got out of coaching. But here’s the funny thing — “Effort and Respect” have remained.
Those two guiding principles are how I structure my classrooms at the start of every semester. I tell the students if they try hard and are respectful, they will pass. I can guarantee it.
When I became a father, “Effort and Respect” took on a whole new meaning. It wasn’t about winning football games or teaching kids the difference between “you’re” and “your” — I was now responsible for another person’s life!
Luckily, because of my experience as a coach, I had “Effort and Respect” to fall back on. Every day Mal and I work with Emmy, explaining how effort is more important than results, how showing respect toward her parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends, will be the thing that sets her apart in the years to come.
And the same is true for you. Regardless of where you find yourself today, if you make “Effort and Respect” a part of your daily regimen, there will be a drastic difference in your quality of life. You’ll pass the class. I guarantee it.
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