One of my favorite movies is Hoosiers. The movie told a story that took place in 1951 in the rural southeast Indiana town of Hickory. Norman Dale drove into town to replace a revered high school basketball coach who had died. He was hired by Cletus Summers, the principal and a longtime friend, to coach the team and teach classes.
Earlier in life Dale had been a champion collegiate coach until he punched one of his players. That got him barred from coaching college ball. For many years he had hidden in the Navy. Now he had been honorably discharged.
The coaching position in Hickory was a last chance for Norman Dale, who is played by Gene Hackman.
How about you? Have you made some mistakes?
Have you made a BIG mistake?
It may surprise you, but my experience is most people have made at least one BIG mistake.
For those of us who recover and rebuild, by grace our legacy is typically not the mistake. Instead, we are judged by how we apply what we've learned to more positively impact the lives of others.
The journey is long. The battles can be ongoing. At least for a time...
In Hoosiers, Coach Dale had to battle the disbelief of a teacher who was the guardian of the town's best high school basketball player, Jimmy Chitwood. Jimmy had decided not to play due to grief over the death of the prior coach. He refused to even speak a word to the new coach, even when Dale patiently tried to talk with him.
Coach Dale also had the burden of establishing boundaries and discipline for a basketball team of unruly high school boys. The situation is further complicated by the fact it initially only has five players after two quit. They didn't care to behave and show the coach respect. A father brings one of them back, which brings the team to six players.
It was a small town. The high school only had 161 students. However, basketball was their passion. A number of the men in the community felt firmly established as armchair coaches of the high school boys' basketball team.
As Coach Dale tried to get his team in sync, they question his every thought, word, and action.
Even the student body chanted to have Jimmy Chitwood return to the team rather than cheer the players who were doing their best to represent the school.
It was Norman Dale's last chance.
If he failed, then he would never get another opportunity to coach the game he loved.
He had the knowledge, experience, and skill to be a championship coach. But his BIG mistake had detoured him into a tiny Indiana town that did not like him.
So what did he do?
He had the grit to stick to what he knew was right, admitted his mistake of the past when it came up, and kept pushing forward day by day. He invested his life in the boys on that team.
If the story stopped there, it would be logical. However it did not.
Hoosiers lets you see the humility of a tough warrior. Without saying it specifically, Norman Dale was thankful for the grace his friend, Cletus, had shown him. He extends grace to others. You can see it by how he treats others. He decided that someone needed to help a man who had fallen into the deep pit of alcohol.
The opportunity comes about when Cletus, acting as an assistant coach, had chest pains after an angry Coach Dale got ejected from another of their early season games.
Dale needed a replacement assistant coach. He decided to invite knowledgeable local former star basketball player Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch. Shooter was the father of one of the players, Everett. He was also the town drunk. Even Everett was disgusted with him and would have nothing to do with his father.
Coach Dale put boundaries on Shooter, just like he did with the boys, although different. Shooter had to be sober, on time, and dressed in a suit to coach with him.
Yet the team still struggled.
Coach Dale bet it all. He was teaching the young men basketball. More than that, he taught them integrity, reminded them of the value of hard work, and tried to give a hand up to a man who was in a deeper pit than himself.
Yet all appeared lost. He started to lose his grip on the opportunity.
After just a few games the armchair coaches of the town called an emergency meeting to vote on whether Dale should be dismissed. It looked bleak, but the coach held his ground. He said he was proud of the boys on the team and he would not change anything he had done.
As the vote was being counted Jimmy walked in and announced he figures it's time for him to start playing ball. The crowd erupted in cheers. However, Jimmy had one boundary: He would play only if Coach Dale stayed. If the coach left, then he would not play.
Coach Dale won the vote.
Remember the importance of boundaries.
Did the team start winning? Did Shooter stay sober? Did Shooter and his son reconcile? What happened to the other relationships in town?
You have to watch the movie.
I SUGGEST 3 LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
First, a hero cannot do everything or save everyone.
Are you trying to do too much today?
Second, our lives are blessed when we extend the grace we have received to others.
Sometimes it is our turn to help. A kind word. A listening ear. A smile. Sometimes more.
Choose carefully. Once you choose help someone or a cause, then set boundaries. Hold tight. Stay true to the grace you are extending and the boundaries you establish.
The person you try to help may not make it all the way up on to their feet. Your role may be just to get them out of the pit.
Consider the risk to your opportunity, your life, and the people depending on you. Gamble only what you are willing to lose.
Norman Dale was willing to lose it all because he believed he was doing the right thing.
There is the story I heard years ago of a well-off couple who went on a mission trip. They were so touched by the needs of the people that they gave, and gave, and gave... until they had no more. But it wasn't enough. The poor were still poor, but now the couple had joined them in poverty.
It is rare that is the best decision.
Good intentions cannot be the only criteria behind your decision to risk what you have to help others. Balance your heart with sincere consideration of how a loss would affect people who depend on you, such as your family or employees.
Grace can be extended in small doses and still improve the lives of others.
Practice grace with boundaries.
Third, last week I encouraged you to embrace 2017 as your comeback year. This begs the question: What's the one thing you will do this year that will make everything else easier?
You cannot be a hero to everyone or do everything.
However, there is one thing you can do, and do with excellence!
Identify that one thing and do something. You will be glad you did.
Start with humility and grace.
If you have the time, watch the movie Hoosiers.
It's a fun story. Unfortunately it is not true. The real story of a small Indiana town's high school basketball team actually has some special gems of its own. Click here to learn what really happened.