Scott Wright: One of my greatest encouragers on the gridiron
Core scripture: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5: 11).
Message: One of my all-time favorite coaches was Scott Wright. Coach Wright, my receivers coach at Blue Valley High School, way back in the early 90’s—the Dinosaur Age if you will—was always good for a word of encouragement. He took me higher than I thought I could ever fly by continually peppering me with compliments, encouraging me through mistakes, and letting his positive vibe drive me to success. I still remember him yelling his patented quote, “Atta, baby!” while clapping his hands, smiling brightly. It was Scott Wright who believed in me, and because of that, I believed in myself. Every player out there waited patiently for his turn to speak to us all at the end of practice, letting his powerful words inject enthusiasm into our exhausted bodies. To this day, whenever a football is thrown at me, I catch it and tuck it away. Catch and tuck. Catch and tuck. Just the way Coach Wright taught me.
Although my coaching days are on hold for now, I found myself impersonating Coach Wright in the classroom recently. You see, I have been blessed with a group of kids that are kindhearted and loving toward one another, yet their fallacy is in their lack of homework. All year long I have been lucky to get 50 percent turned in on time. It kills me! All through the fall and winter months, I gave them speeches about getting their work done, each one layered thick with sharp words that I hoped would convict them to rise above their mediocrity. It did nothing but drop their heads and get them feeling sorry for themselves. So, recently I decided to switch my tactic. I became their encourager. I put my coaching hat back on and celebrated successes of kids that were getting the job done as opposed to focusing on the ones who were not on board.
Never had there been a single homework assignment when every kid in a class had turned in an assignment on time. I set that as my goal for them coming back in January. If 32 percent of kids in any class did their assignment, I called each one up, giving them a high five or an “Ohana” pass. I praised their successes! I encouraged the others. Little by little, I saw more homework being turned in. Especially in one particular class, 7th hour, that I soon began touting as “My Homework Class” in front of others. We had competitions for points all year, but suddenly this fresh, positive look left other classes craving that title. I even promised an extra 20 points for 100 percent homework completion. Guys, if 7th hour can do it, you can too! It wasn’t a slam on those kids at the tail end of my day. My words weren’t layered with sarcasm as they might have been before. They reminded me of Coach Wright’s words: positive yet convicting. Inspiring yet challenging.
Pacing around the room last week, I started calling them out, letting them know their brilliance was only merely beginning to shine. My words shifted from harsh to uplifting. You could begin to see it in their eyes. They began to believe! And I believed too. It wasn’t fake. It was real. It was so real 7th hour could taste it! I wasn’t shocked when their Wednesday assignment was ONE KID away from all turned in. The hilarious thing was that as I called out the results in a positive way, they all turned toward one kid who had a sheepish, guilty smile on her face. I didn’t even have to say her name! The rest of the class called her out with positive peer pressure—yes, there is such a thing—and I followed that with a comment of my own. “Hey, Friday, guys! FRIDAY! That is your next homework assignment due date! You got this one in the bag!” Every single kid in that room believed it. The extra 20 points was theirs for the taking!
When Thursday came, it was our pregame warmup. They got a little work time, and I threw down the gauntlet. Not just to my 7th hour, but to ALL my classes! Every single stinkin’ one of them. I had this sneaking suspicion that more would buy in, and by Friday, game day, they were ready. The literature circle discussions that day were popping! Almost all the kids did their reading, and the books were getting good. My first class, 2nd hour, dominated all class period, and as I plugged the last score in my iPad, I swiped up and down. Perfection! I teared up. Honestly and truly, I wept like a little baby as the bell rang, and I called out, “Guys, you’re not going to believe this … You ALL turned your homework in!” A few kids high-fived. One boy fist-pumped like Tiger Woods sinking a long putt. One kid embraced me in a hug. All I needed was the Gatorade bath, and I would have felt like it was the Super Bowl. I would have chest-bumped any of the boys had they approached me!
It didn’t stop there. As the classes poured in and out that day, quite a few came close to the 100 percent turn-in ratio, but nobody knocked down the door midway through the day. By the time 7th hour arrived, I couldn’t wait. “Get your homework up on your iPads right NOW!” I said. “I wanna see perfection!” The kids clicked away and I slowly began circling the room, starting with the one girl who missed on Wednesday. I knew we were in good shape when she had hers complete, and surely enough “My Homework Class” slugged 2nd hour back with a 20-point punch of their own. Two 100 percent completions in the SAME DAY! The statistics were startling, a stark contrast from the less than 50 percent ratios I was seeing beforehand. Even looking at them now makes me wonder why I didn’t try this sooner.
- 2nd Hour: 100 percent completed, 88 percent average on the assignment
- 3rd Hour: 90.9 percent completed, 78 percent average on the assignment
- 5th Hour: 85 percent completed, 77.5 percent average on the assignment
- 6th Hour: 85 percent completed, 79.2 percent average on the assignment
- 7th Hour: 100 percent completed, 90 percent average on the assignment
Only nine kids the entire day missed that assignment, and three of them were absent. One of those absentees has been in ISS or OSS for two straight weeks. (Privacy reasons obviously don’t allow me to mention his name, but off the record, would you please pray for him? God knows who he is.) The overall totals are staggering: 91 percent turned the assignment in all day long, and the overall average of all my classes was a respectable 82.5 percent average. All because this idiot teacher didn’t realize the importance of positive thinking!
I wonder what the results of my classes would be if Paul taught my classes all year long. You know who I’m talking about. Same dude in the Bible who was shipwrecked, imprisoned, scourged, cursed, you name it! How did he react? He welcomed it. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope …” (Romans 5: 3-4). I tell you what, the road to get to last Friday was painful, but the celebration we had at the day’s end was worth the pain. And no, we’re not living in a perfect world. The kids were back to their old bag of tricks on their very next assignment with less than 50 percent doing the EdPuzzle lesson, but hey, can’t I just focus on their awesomeness last Friday?
That is needed this time of year. Too many times I find myself pulling my hair out over the sour apples that ruin my day. Get a bunch of teachers together this time of year, and you’ll hear it, believe me! You know what? It is so much more enjoyable to focus on the positive and shout out the name of those forgotten gems that are there every day, rocking homework, providing valuable leadership, and just being plain amazing. Try that if you need an uplifting thought. Cassie, Karlie, Caleb, Destiny, and Clara, wherever you kiddoes are, YOU ROCK! As for the rest of you reading this, put on your best coaching hat. Be a Scott Wright. Be a Paul. Be a Christian teacher!
Challenge: Become the best coach you possibly can. Encourage! Challenge your kids to be excellent, but do so with a positive vibe. Eliminate the harshness from your voice, and become the best Coach Wright that you can. And when your kids rise to the challenge, reply below to let me know about it. I want to hear some success stories!
Song to bring it home: An encouraging song has to have two essentials: an upbeat tone and pure adrenaline. Two of my favorite workout songs are Mandisa’s “Overcomer” and 7eventh Time Down’s “God is on the Move.” If either of those songs doesn’t spur you through a tough workout, you’re not alive.
Prayer: Lord, allow me to coach my students to excellence through the upcoming months. May my words be positive, encouraging, and uplifting, inspiring them to achieve greatness. Amen.