Boundaries; Defining Greatness

I once counted hours per week spent on being a high school teacher and football coach. It came out to 80 hours per week. In a 10-game season with 4 weeks of pre-season and, on average, 2-3 weeks post-season in “play mode” it came out to an average of 16 weeks of non-stop work.

At the same time I was also a husband and a father of three. Being the sole-breadwinner, I tried to do all I could to make extra money, and I taught summer school for 25 years. That, along with the ever-present “off-season”, which is a euphemism for more work and no games. I was a weight-room prisoner going deaf from the factory-like metal on metal sounds. We also were relentless in our quest to develop speed, so that involved weekly time on the field, track, bleachers and hills. Summer was 7 on 7 time( aka football in shorts) throwing and defending hundreds of balls in the air.

As a coach, no one worked harder or longer or more intensely. I can look back with no regret and truly say I could not have put in any more hours. Smarter – you bet – but not harder, not longer.
My regret is not wishing for more hours at the office. Mine comes in the area of my lack of balance and boundaries when it came to family. I confess now, (at times) to wishing I had never coached a down of football. I wish I could rewind the tape – paste the pages back on the calendar, and have my three kids back home. And to see my wife more in her 20’s, 30’s and 40’s – to go back and be more of a present figure. One who lives in the moment – savoring each experience, knowing how fleeting they are, how quickly they pass.

Being young, dumb and ambitious all make for a cocktail of absence. I had a burning desire to take on dragons, make a name for myself, build a team, grow boys to men. And prove I mattered. While at the same time ignoring four of the most wonderful gifts I could ever ask for. My kids and my wife lost to the battle of priorities. I failed to find balance. I failed to build immovable walls of boundaries. I failed to reserve enough time, energy, focus and care for those who mattered most.

As a biography junkie, I have yet to read any great leaders’ stories who didn’t share my tendencies (at least not any normal human leader). I have read some who tried – really tried – but did not reach their goal of balance.

That does not mean it cannot be done, but it will take some deep soul-searching and incredible courage on your part. You can be a great dad and husband and a good coach. You may not be a great coach, especially if you are not willing to sacrifice your family. You have to decide which adjective is attached to which title. “Great” is built upon many hours, days, and years – while,“forsaking all others”.

Flash forward 30 years…what do you have to show for your efforts? What is left when you finally walk away from your occupation and pre-occupation? Will it have been worth all the time and effort? As John Mellencamp said, “Life goes on long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.” Nothing will replace that rush of Friday night lights, but life-long satisfaction comes from relationship built over time, and experiences done together. Schedule accordingly.

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