Monday, 24 June 2019

C Columns

Skip Hall: Winning Was Great..... But Not Everything

Jan/ Feb 2019




By Gaye Bunderson

Former winning Boise State University head football coach Skip Hall was born February 18, 1944 in Minnesota. He was not born in a Christian home, he said; in fact, it would be another 35 years after his birth before he'd give his life to God. In the meantime, he found his fulfillment in athletics.

“My parents divorced when I was 4,” he said. He remained with his mother and younger brother, moving to Seattle at one point and then, later, back to Minnesota, where his grandfather lived. Skip attended high school and college in Minnesota and discovered the saving grace of sports.

“Sports was my anchor all those years; it kept me on the right side of the tracks,” he said.

“Coaches were my fathers.” He still stays in touch with the man who coached him in both high school and college in football, basketball and baseball — Charlie Basch, now 92.

At Minnesota's Concordia College (now Concordia University), Skip majored in physical education and biology and also earned a teaching certificate. After graduating, he got a job as a teacher and football and basketball coach at a high school in Henning, Minnesota. Over the next three years, he would experience great success with his teams, coaching them on to championship seasons.

He got an itch to coach at the college level, so he headed off to the University of Colorado at Boulder to get his master's degree in education and administration. He kept his hand in coaching while there and said, “I got hooked on college coaching.” The thrill of watching Colorado beat Alabama was a special high for him.

His exemplary skills led other coaches to seek him out. When Don James got the head coaching job at Kent State in Ohio in the early 1970s, he asked Skip to be his assistant coach. It was a 5-year position that would lead to four championships for Kent State. “One of our players was Nick Saban, now the head coach at the University of Alabama,” Skip said.

In 1975, when Don moved on to the University of Washington, he once again asked Skip to be his assistant coach and, once again, it was a football success story. The Huskies went to 10 bowls, including three times to the Rose Bowl and one time to the Orange Bowl.

By then, Skip had married his wife Virginia, and of those gridiron glory years, he said, “We call those our Camelot years.”

It was around this time that Skip, now 35 and a family man as well as a successful coach, began to think about things beyond sports, including spiritual things. He became a Christian and attributes it to what he calls “The 3 P's.” Those include:

  1. A pastor, Chuck Swindoll (author, radio personality, and leader of Insight for Living Ministries)
  2. A player, Mike Rohrbach (who went on to launch Run to Win Outreach)
  3. And a partner: his wife Virginia

Skip said he would listen to Chuck Swindoll's radio show while at the University of Washington and liked it so much he called Pastor Swindoll and offered him tickets to the Rose Bowl. Though the pastor said he would not be able to make the game, he reciprocated by inviting the Halls to his church in Fullerton, California. It was the beginning of a long friendship that included travels with Swindoll and his wife to the Greek Isles, Germany, Switzerland, and Israel.

Skip said he and Virginia especially enjoyed the 1982 trip to Israel: “The sight and sounds there brought the Bible to life.”

Skip's faith was transformational for him.

“Becoming a Christian made me a better coach and a better husband and father; I learned the importance of reaching out to others,” he said. “Previously I was so focused and driven to win.”

He actually possesses a box that has all the things in it he used to value most. He calls it “god in a box” because it holds all his former idols, such as football championship rings. Now, his priority isn't a football playbook but Scripture; he quotes Matthew 6:33: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

“My priorities changed. I still got to the top, but God and I were doing the things together now,” he said.

In 1987, he was asked to interview at Boise State for the head coach position. He was at BSU from 1987 to 1992, compiling a Bronco winning record of 42-28. Like so many football coaches at BSU, he was highly regarded by the fans. “In Idaho, the BSU coach is right up there with the governor. Football means a lot to Idahoans.

”Still, he said, “You know when it's time to go into a place, and you know when it's time to leave.” From 1993 to 1997, he coached at the University of Missouri. Following that, he retired from football, and he and Virginia moved to Phoenix, Arizona. “Virginia and I are a team, and we made the decision together.”

Throughout his career, Virginia was as much a part of football as her husband; at one point, she served as president of the National Association of Football Wives. “I used to tell people, 'I live with a big shot,'” said Skip.

After coaching for 30 years, he went to work with Aflac as the regional manager and recruiting coordinator focused on team building. That's what he had done for so many years: recruit, coach and build teams. In 2006, after eight years in Arizona, he was offered the same position in Idaho, where his children and grandchildren live. Virginia, wanting to be near family, told her husband, “We're leaving.”

Skip's business career continued in the Gem State, and in 2008, he became the managing director for Principal Financial Group in Boise. Later, in 2012, he and his son Chris opened Hall & Associates in Boise.

Skip now also hosts his own radio program called Game Plan for Life on 94.1 The Voice. He interviews coaches, players, and business and ministry leaders. The show airs each Saturday morning at10 a.m. “I draw the stories out of the people I interview — I let them tell the story,” he said.

His guests have included Chris Peterson and Bryan Harsin, past and present BSU football coaches. He continues to pay close attention to both the University of Washington and Boise State football. “They're both excellent programs; they're doing the right things,” he said.

Skip believes the best way to coach is through positive reinforcement, or what he calls a “Coach 'EmUp” style. As a Christian coach, he emphasized two things:

  1. Encouragement: “Encouragement is the fuel that propels people.”
  2. Hope: “Hope is the anchor of our soul.”

“The true measure of a coach is not wins or losses but the men and women our players become,” he said.


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