Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How Rebuilding a Boat Helped Rebuild Me

Note: When I started writing this blog site in 2004, it was a commitment from me to live out my life in as transparent a way as possible. The following post is an example. it is very personal, but one that is a testimony to God's presence, His grace, His mercy, His blessing- I am nothing and He is everything.

Because it is so personal, I would like to request that you not share or post this to social media .. I can't stop it, if you do.... if you stumble on this and read it, I welcome a comment on this page, but least for a few months, let it stay here.

I have no idea the shelf life of a google blog..... it's gone on a lot longer than I ever imagined... but one day maybe one of my children or grandchildren will be able to read these posts and see how faithful the God of the Bible is.....

So here is as honest as I can express my last few years.......

I don't have to rehash all the circumstances that led to coming back to Birmingham, AL in 2011.

As a coach, I discovered that a fear I had had for much of my life wasn't nearly the monster it purported to be. I won't be the first or the last football coach to be dismissed. I experienced this after going 3-7 and 5-6 in 2009 and 2010.

To say it is very humbling doesn't quite describe the depths of the hurt.

Just about all of my life I was used to winning. I think I enjoyed going 45-3-1 as a player from 7th- 12th grades including a 17-4-1 record as a starting varsity QB at Banks High School (1980 and 81 season).

I played for championship coaches David Cutcliffe and Paul 'Bear' Bryant.

As an assistant coach, I was fortunate to win 3 state titles and enjoyed a streak of 112- 4 from 1996-2003.

In Nashville, I enjoyed a dream and experienced a nightmare.

The Nashville City Paper summarized an amazing, but turbulent 7 years:

I will tell you that being let go sent me into a turmoil of faith and a flattened ego. The day I had to tell my wife and children I had lost my job was as difficult a day I have ever had in my life.

When you are on a winning streak, you don't feel like you can ever lose. Once you lose that mojo, you wonder if you can ever win.

The hardest part of leaving Nashville was that I knew we were about to be really good. A wonderful man and coach took over after I left and he has gone 54-4 and won a state title since my departure. I guess the folks who wanted me gone feel vindicated, and no doubt he drew some talent in that I may not have... So I applaud him, but I also do feel like we left a good foundation in place for him and I have celebrated their success...... way to go!

To show you how gracious the Lord is.... He showed up in a tangible way for me every single day for  almost 4 months after I was fired. He ministered to me in His Word. He made the path smooth in leading me to His next calling on my life and He made it clear that I was sent to Nashville because He needed to work on me.

I realize that a lot of my sports motivation was an addiction to sports glory. A lot of my significance came from people applauding me as a great player or coach. And like all competitors, I feared and hated losing more than I loved winning. In summary, all of that was an idol.

I spent long hours talking to the Lord, most of them training for the Music City Marathon which I completed in 2011. The 26.2 mile run was a sign that I still could compete- I still had a fire to finish.

I came back to Briarwood in 2011 as a pretty fragile guy. I was ready to be rebuilt, but my spiritual and emotional health wasn't going to come quickly. It is a long road back.

And of all things, God intended for me to work as a school disciplinarian (Dean of Students).... talk about a job to break you of other people's applause!

Coaching was good coming back. My first year, I got to enjoy just coaching receivers and it was like drinking from a fresh well... head coaches don't really get to coach like that! It was so freeing to just teach routes, blocking, and taking time to encourage kids.

In year two, I was able to experience head coaching again as I took over the freshman team. It was so enjoyable...simple and innocent!

I received a special blessing at the end of that season where circumstances led to me taking over as offensive coordinator of the varsity ream for the 1st 2 rounds of the playoffs. We pulled off two major upsets and I was back on track to believing I was a good coach after all.

I spent the full season in 2013 as offensive coordinator and personally feel like it was one of the best coaching jobs I have ever done. And I had the pleasure of doing it with amazing coaches and players.
I have a E-book coming out this Spring from Coaches Edge Technology that will describe the offense we used that season. I have had coaches from all over the country contact me about the fast break huddle and some of the concepts we used that year. Coaches Edge signed me to a contract to teach some of the concepts and plays.

Because it is so recent, I can't go into all the details of what happened in 2014...but this past year, the Lord allowed similar circumstances to happen that haunted me like the nightmare of my final two years in Nashville. I heard the same voices, saw the same attitudes, and experienced the same pain that had crushed me just a few years earlier.

And I regressed...... and the Lord seemed distant this time. I ran another marathon in 2015, but this time- the Lord withdrew- I felt I was fighting the race alone. He wasn't mad at me, He loves me enough to let pain mold me.

I experienced more personal attacks.... the lowest moment was when a parent roasted me over a lie his son had told him. I tried to convince this dad that I wasn't guilty of what he was accusing me of.... but this man was convinced... I was a bad man........

It didn't take much evaluation that I was needing to get away from coaching for awhile. My school job had turned into a 24/7 full time on call affair. I just can't do both effectively until we apply some needed changes and I need to continue changing as well.

I have to mention that in the midst of this transition, my heart has been broken in the loss of two brothers... one, my spiritual brother, Terry and the other my youngest blood brother, Lee. One died of suicide and the other of a drug overdose. One fought a 20 year battle against depression and the other a 20 year battle with addiction... and after some time of victory for both, the demons rose up and won a battle, but not the war.

 I am still grieving those losses.

Through all of this, once again, God, my family, and my school co-workers were gracious. They all saw it was necessary to take a step back and re-tool.

Stepping back from 26 years of coaching and 43 years of continuous football seasons was surreal.

I remember praying, "Lord, what are you planning to do?"

And then I was surprised by a boat.

Day 1- little did I know!

A year earlier, a parent called me and wanted me to become a steward of his dad's bass boat. It was a 17' aluminum, Lowe, bass boat with a 75 Evinrude on it.

To say it need work was an understatement.

These weren't even the right numbers!

And to make matters worse.... I knew very little about boats. I didn't even have a boating license. Even though I had fished all my life, I never drove the boat. I never towed it. I never backed it up. I wasn't even sure how to start it!

A good friend got me started... the boat had not been cranked in a long time and the gas in the fuel tank was very old. So this project tok a long time.

The old gas... tough doing this part- thanks Lance!

But having a summer without coaching prep meant that it was time for me to fulfill my promise to restore this boat.

Every day was a challenge and a joy to accomplish. I spent long hours on you tube and google, looking at how to install marine batteries, on board battery charger, and cleaning old moldy things out of the bowels of this boat.

I had it taken to my garage and opened al of the compartments. My house smelled like a dirty, moldy tennis shoe for weeks. How my wife stayed with me during this time was amazing.

This was when it was STINKY!

God would send help every time I got stuck.

One such time was an old student of mine who allowed me to launch in his lake while we replaced the rotten boards on the trailer.  He helped me grease the bearings.

The trailer minus rotten runners

I put the new tags on the boat and discovered that the serial numbers on the side were incorrect.

I added life jackets, trolling motor, hummingbird navionics, fire extinguisher... each improvement was like a healing.

I passed my boating test. And friends began teaching me how to hook it up, how to tow, how to back up, and how to run it.

It was so exciting learning new skills.

I had my setbacks..... the old trolling motor burned up on the 2nd outing.

The shaft on my starter was sticking... and I celebrated the day I was able to fix it while on the phone with a mechanic, who diagnosed the problem by listening to it on my phone!

I had humbling mistakes as well-- got towed in over a mile only to discover that my kill switch had been disconnected! My boat was dead until I realized I forgot to put the main battery hookup on!

I drove 50 feet or so one day with the trailer wheel down!

And we put the winch strap on the wrong side of the rubber  bow stop while all the waiting boaters were rolling their eyes at us!

But from June to August, I got better and better.

I have now spent two months towing, launching, driving, loading that boat all by myself. I have dome it in daylight and dark.

I have enjoyed fishing... caught a few nice ones even though fishing hasn't been great.... but much more than fishing, I have learned to love boating!

I love to turn on my navigational lights and GPS just before daybreak and running between the Lay Lake Narrows just as the sun is peeking his early rays on the horizon.

And then, as birds are flying at flying at dawn and the peaceful breeze of morning dew splashes my face......

God shows up.

I nod to Him and He nods to me.

And I feel like He has me more ready to follow Him than ever before in my life.

And I have never been more content. I am not addicted to the applause or approval of man.

I still have struggles and one was making sure the boat doesn't become a new idol... God has already been working on that one as well.

So I don't know what the future has in store. I love my job (which is weird for me to say) and I love coaching the fishing team.

Today, I finished a 3 mile run and the neighborhood boys were playing football.

I took some time to teach them a few routes and we played touch football for a few minutes.

It was a lot of fun!

If I am ever a head football coach again, I do know this, I will NOT be afraid. But I can also say, If I am never a football coach again, I will not be discontent...God knows what He is about.

Rebuilding a boat helped to rebuild me.


This boat has been a successful tournament boat- the kids and I are calling it 'Ole Reliable"

Twice, it has had to fill in when another boat hasn't been able to go!

It ran so well each time- going all the way to Pickwick and running almost 60 miles for that whole day.

Personally, I guess I have caught 250+ bass including a 5.4 lb on on Pickwick and a record day for me catching a slew of spotted bass at Logan Martin

Late one Saturday night after a tournament... my wife and I talked... she and I both agreed... I finally am healed from that painful transition... likely, will always have a limp from it... but I am at peace and thankful to the Lord for helping me!