By Joan Endicott
It’s that time of year. (You’re hearing a Christmas song in your head about now, aren’t you?) Yes, it’s December 2023 as I write this and many are in the midst of enjoying celebrating our Savior’s birth with festivities, lights and decorations, pumpkin pies (with unreasonable amounts of whipped cream), hot cocoa with marshmallows, building gingerbread houses and snowmen, ice skating and sleigh rides. December is extra special to Mark and I also because on the 20th we get to celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. (Clearly married super young—LOL!)
This time of year also brings football playoffs and bowl games, so this year, my favorite coach and I are heading to the LA Bowl game for our anniversary to support our Broncos! Besides being my favorite coach, Mark has received honors and accolades both as an MVP athlete and received Coach of the Year Awards multiple times. The value of his contributions was recognized even further in January of this year when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by his high school where he was an athlete, teacher and coach for his entire career. Clearly, athletics has been an enormous part of our lives.
More than anyone else, I’ve seen up close and personal the lifelong impact Mark has made on student athletes as a coach! I also fully appreciate the experiences he had as an athlete and how they helped positively shape his life. A quality coach does more than just impact an athlete on the field or court; they live a life worthy of being modeled by all who observe them. This kind of coach cares much more about the heart and soul of the person than simply the performance of the player. There’s an automatic compensation that happens when the person feels valued: his or her performance as a player naturally elevates!
This level of influence never happens by accident. It starts with having clarity in one’s own convictions, consistently choosing character and courage over comfort, which is then proven and played out in one’s conduct. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though I may not know the X’s and O’s of football, I do know about the value of these basic life-principles. As a speaker, I’ve been blessed to share them with everyone from students to entrepreneurs to CEO’s and have coached individuals in over 30 countries. These are universal to the human condition, regardless of race, religion, background, education, or DNA.
Though shared multiple times since, the following topic was first presented many years ago to the Boise State Bronco Football team and coaching staff, when then-head coach Chris Petersen invited me to share again. (I’m truly blessed and honored to get to encourage the current BSU coaches, team, and staff, as well—I love them all!)
“I Get To!”® Earn This
While dissimilar in the obvious ultimate danger and sacrifice, many have noted the intriguing parallels of football and war. In essence, these two echo each other across the field and the battlefield: strategy and tactics, violence and sacrifice, adversaries and victories, teamwork and brotherhood, leadership and discipline—all in the ultimate quest for victory.
Because of the importance of the unique bond of brotherhood for a football team, I shared the brief summation of the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” which is a gripping 1998 war film written by Robert Rodat and directed by Steven Spielberg. Set against the backdrop of World War II in 1944, the movie follows a group of American soldiers on a perilous mission. Led by Captain John Miller (portrayed by Tom Hanks), they embark on a quest to locate Private James Francis Ryan (played by Matt Damon). The urgency of their mission stems from the fact that Private Ryan’s three brothers have tragically lost their lives in combat. Upon discovering this, the military became committed to find and safely return the last surviving son to his grief-stricken mother. The film provides a harrowing and visceral portrayal of the brutality and sacrifices enduring during wartime. This movie was challenging to watch on many levels, and for good reason. It is said by many veterans who lived through horrific wars that this was the most realistic and accurate war movie ever made.
The clip from the movie that gripped and challenged me from the first time I saw it was the one I shared with the team. Captain Miller, who had led seven soldiers on a harrowing mission through the bloody, brutal battles that claimed five soldiers’ lives, was now the one who lay bleeding to death from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Private Ryan knelt down in front of his captain on the bridge. The raging battle finally dampened with the sight and sound of our United States military planes. As the two looked up, Ryan observed, “They’re Tank Busters, sir—P-51’s,” to which the captain replied, “Angels on our shoulders.”
Then, with his shaky hand, his last ounce of energy, pulse and breath, the captain pulled him close and used his last words to make a powerful plea: “Earn this!”
WOW! What a powerful perspective and incredible challenge! Just imagine how it would elevate everything in our lives (and those around us) if every single day we showed up with sheer gratitude to God and to all who have been there for us, invested and sacrificed on our behalf. Starting with all who have sacrificed for our freedom in this country. THAT sacrifice can never be overstated or too appreciated!
Then, on a more personal level, think about all the sacrifices made on our behalf and see it as an opportunity to earn what we’ve been blessed with from all who have gone before us: those who’ve poured into us, prayed over us, unconditionally loved us, nurtured and invested in us; those who have encouraged and believed in us; spoken words of wisdom, truth and life into us; taught us, coached us, offered us kindness and compassion—pastors and clergy who have offered spiritual guidance, who have befriended, mentored and counseled us—and all those who have been a safe place for us to fall and fail.
That day in the meeting room, I encouraged the gentlemen to picture themselves standing alone in the center of the blue turf of the football field. Starting from their earliest memories—as well as what they’d been told—I asked them to imagine that, standing with them, were all the people they could remember who had impacted them, along with the current coaches, staff and teammates in that room. I shared that even with an unsafe home of origin such as I had, there were still so many who showed up and made the difference for me. Though virtually impossible to recall them all, if we could, not only would the blue turf be covered, but the stands would be filled as well!
Of course, on a spiritual level, we cannot earn anything. Everything we have, from our earthly lives (every breath and heartbeat), relationships, positions, and possessions—to the faith in Jesus for our eternal life—are all gifts from God alone. So, with all God blesses us with, we get to respond with humility and gratitude and be a blessing to others. We are rivers, not reservoirs. We own nothing—but are simply stewards of everything. He calls us and enables us to be faithful with it all. “… everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required,” Luke 12:48b.
“What you are is God’s gift to you; what you become is your gift to God.” –Hans Urs von Balthasar
I’m eternally grateful that my favorite coach has been a stellar role model of earning this as a faithful man of God who’s lived with unwavering clarity of conviction, courage, character and conduct. He will immediately tell you that is purely the result of loving and surrendering to Jesus Christ as Lord of his life.
Grab your FREE copy of Joan Endicott’s “I Get To!”® book and videos at www.JoanEndicott.com. Joan is an Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, Author and Coach whose coaching has reached over 30 countries. Meet her and enjoy her encouraging messages on Facebook and Instagram.