In one of my favorite TV shows, the hit 2000s drama Friday Night Lights, Coach Eric Taylor, portrayed by one of my favorite actors Kyle Chandler, declares one simple phrase to his players before every high school football game he coaches. “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”
This chant became the thesis for the whole series (2006-2011). But this phrase does not only apply to fictitious high school football games on television– it applies to all aspects of life.
I believe that I appreciate the show so much because it is centered on sports and a football team. A team and its players have an indescribable bond—a bond that no one person can ever take away.
The producers of Friday Night Lights knew how important team sports are to communities—it’s the reason the show was so successful. Sports bring people together, and teach lifelong lessons along the way.
When I was in high school, I played a lot of sports. In the seventh grade, the basketball coach of my high school came up to me when I was watching one of the varsity baseball games, dreaming of my varsity sports memories that had yet to be made.
At the time, I was a scrawny, 5 foot 4 inch, cocky 14 year old with an ugly jump shot. But I LOVED sports, basketball especially.
He said, “Son, I know those football coaches down there at the field-house want you to play your last year in JV this fall and prepare for your varsity football career, but I believe your real future is in basketball. Why don’t you come practice and workout with me in the fall with the varsity.”
After that simple conversation, my love and passion for basketball only intensified. Coach was, without-a-doubt, looking at the size and stature of my father– a 6 foot 3 monstrosity of a man who, even in his forties, had a mean jump shot.
That next fall, I was able to work out with players 5 years my senior and dress out with the varsity. Three of my best friends were able to join me on the end of the bench during the 2008-2009 season.
We didn’t care that we got a combined 10 minutes of playing time that year–we were having fun practicing against players that made us better.
To this day, all four of us, and two more guys that didn’t play basketball, are still extremely close friends. College separated us, but we still hang out back home as much as we can.
It was those years of sports–all the practices, road trips, bench warming games, and games that we sweat, bled, and cried together–that started our friendships.
I soon discovered a simple truth that my father already knew–that sports can be extremely influential in a child’s life. Working together in a team setting instills many life lessons at a young age.
DISCIPLINE: Sports can teach a child self-discipline in a fun setting and with an activity that they enjoy. They will need discipline to put in the time and effort that it takes to excel.
Once a child realizes that when he or she has enough discipline to do what it takes to really maximize their potential, success will soon follow. Whether it be having discipline in the workplace, a marriage, or raising children, having discipline is a must in order to succeed as an adult.
SACRIFICE: Donovan Bailey once said, “Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.”
Sports will teach kids that sometimes in order for the team to succeed, each player must sacrifice something. It may be stepping aside from the PlayStation for an afternoon to go improve your free throws, or giving up some playing time to a better player.
But in life, sacrifices are a necessity. A husband sacrifices for his family, a boss sacrifices for his or her employees, a teacher sacrifices for his or her students. Sacrifice is a part of life and sports allow a simple and effortless way for this lesson to be instilled in a child’s inner core.
DEALING WITH SUCCESS AND FAILURE: Even though the anthem of Friday Night Lights says, “Can’t lose,” one of my favorite aspects of the show is that there is failure and heartbreak that the characters must deal with. In the pilot episode, the star quarterback, who is destined for the NFL, delivers a tackle with the crown of his helmet, which put him in a wheel chair, and devastated and demoralized the team and the town.
Throughout the five seasons of FNL, there are losses in championship games, deaths in the community, among other things.
The team and town must band together to deal with these losses, but also must learn how to be proud of their accomplishments with out boasting and demeaning their opponents.
Sports teach children, and in some cases adults, how to deal with failure, and teaches the importance of understanding that failure is just a temporary setback from which lessons can be learned and improved on in order to achieve success the next time.
It’s knowing who you are and believing in who you are. It’s believing in the beauty of your dreams and chasing after those dreams whole heartily. If you do those things, with success or failure, you will NOT lose.
I am grateful for the lessons I learned from playing sports my entire life. Although my athletic days are behind me, these lessons instilled in my heart I still carry with me today. It is these lessons that give me hope that all of my dreams can and will come true. If they do not pan out just how I have envisioned them, I know that I will not have lost.
With clear eyes I move onward toward my dreams and with a full heart I will give my best effort to achieve my dreams–and I rest easily knowing that, with success or failure, I cannot lose.