What No High School Football Coach Will Say This Friday

If you are a high school football fan then you know that we are in that special part of the season in which there are only a handful of teams left competing for a state championship. The stakes are high as with each game there is a chance to advance. One team goes on. One team goes home. 

For the past 4 seasons, I have served the Christian Heritage Lions football team as a chaplain. I have watched our team go from 1-9 to now 9-1. It has been an exciting journey. But perhaps my favorite part is getting to be with the team in the locker room during pre-game and at halftime to hear the coach speeches.

I’ve heard a lot of things said in the locker room. But this week, I assure you, there will be some things you won’t hear said. I would go so far as to say, these things will never (or should never) be said by a high school football coach to his players. 

“Assume we will be given another opportunity.”

There is not a single high school coach who will this week tell his team that if they lose, it won’t matter. No coach of a playoff team is telling his players, “Don’t worry about it, they’ll give us another chance.”

There is no loser’s bracket in football. The other team is not going to feel sorry for you and give you another shot. There are no redos. There are no makeups. Your math teacher may give you extra credit, but the only thing “extra” in football comes after a touchdown, not a loss. In football even “extra” is earned. Once the clock hits zero the game is over. What’s done is done. If you lose, you go home. You get 1 shot. It is especially true this week; there is not a football coach on the planet that is telling his team that this game doesn’t matter.

“It’s about me, not we.”

There will be no locker room speeches about the importance of being an individual. There is not a coach who will suddenly decide that there really ought to be an “I” in “TEAM.” There is not a coach who will embrace his QB or star RB and look at the other players and say, “Hey fellas, it’s about this guy right here!”

There are no coaches who will counsel their players to scrap the playbook and just have fun. No coach will look at a 17-year-old and say, “I don’t know son, it’s 3rd and 1 and we are down by 6; just do what you feel like doing.” There is not a coach of a playoff football team that will tell his QB to look up in the stands and check with his dad for the next play call. No coach is going to pull his RB aside and say, “You know son, you’re so good, we really don’t even need an offensive line.”

Pulse by Brian Branam

My book Pulse originated from chapel talks given during the 2016 CHS Lions football season. Also available on Amazon.

“We don’t need anyone pushing through pain.”

If you are in the stands watching a playoff football game, you should appreciate the fact that just about every kid on that field is hurt. They may not be injured, but I guarantee you something on their body hurts. And if you don’t know the difference in hurt and injured, don’t Google or check WebMD, ask a high school football coach to explain the difference. He’d love to share with you some insight :)! All I ask is that you have someone video you asking him because what’s about to happen to you will be YouTube gold!

There will be no coaches, especially this week, asking which of his players “isn’t feeling it?” He won’t be asking, who needs a break? He won’t ask, “Who’s too tired to play tonight?” He’s not passing around a signup sheet for waterboy. There is not a single football coach that will draw the line at suffering.

When it comes to football, especially playoff football, those statements are ludicrous. Why? Because entitlement, self-centeredness, and an unwillingness to suffer are the key ingredients to a wasted opportunity. There is no player on a playoff team that has to be motivated about not wasting his opportunity. Every player knows the magnitude of this game. He knows what it takes. He knows he’s not entitled and that he will not be given another chance. He knows that it has to be a team effort and he’s counting on every other player to give it his all. Every player knows that he has to play through pain. If there was any semblance of these things in players at the beginning of the season, I assure you, for the elite teams that are still in it, those toxic attitudes are long gone.

Why do you have to be convinced not to waste your life?

If football players in the playoffs don’t have to be reminded not to waste the opportunity of “this” game, how much less should we have to be reminded not to waste our lives? But sadly, there will be so much more focus and discipline as players approach a playoff game than there will be to the rest of your life. As ludicrous as it is to think that a coach has to motivate his players not to waste an opportunity for a playoff game, isn’t it even more ludicrous for us to have to be convinced not to waste our lives? So just in case you didn’t get it – here’s a locker room speech for the rest of your life!

You’re one and done!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27-28

There is no team that makes the playoffs that wants it to be a “one and done” experience. If they haven’t already, playoff games are where you truly see players leave it all on the field.

But have we forgotten that our lives truly are a “one and done” experience? There are no redos. There are no retakes. We will not be given another one. Death seals our decisions. A life filled with fleeting pleasure but void of faith in Christ is a total waste. Eternal life does not come through entitlement but through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Your life matters, not your car. Your decisions matter, not dollars. In this life you need food and water, to have eternal life you need grace and forgiveness. In this life, people admire the words “I won a championship.” In eternity all that matters are the words “He made a difference.” When you’re one and done experience is over, where will you stand? You may be a great athlete, a good dad, a successful person, a talented individual; but if you don’t know Jesus you wasted your life.

Jesus explained it like this. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul (Mark 8:36)?” Don’t waste your one and done life.

Carry out the commands. This is not your turn to call a play.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Luke 6:46-49

There is no coach who is going to look at his high school QB and say, “Forget the game plan, do it your way.” That would be a disaster, not a championship! But somehow we believe it to be the duty of God’s Son to be our Savior but not our Lord. Somehow we have come to believe that He gives us eternal life but then turns us loose to do the rest of it our way. If you call Jesus Savior, the rest of your life is not your opportunity to call a play.

If you don’t want to waste your life, obey Christ. His commands are not suggestions. Learning self-control is not an option. Mortifying the desires of the flesh is not for only a select few who follow Christ, it is the standard sanctifying process for His disciples. Christ is not something you “feel.” Jesus is someone you follow. The Bible is not a book merely to be read. It is God’s Word to be obeyed.

The rest of your life should be about finding out how to be a dad, in Christ. How am I to be a husband, in Christ? How do I make the next business decision, in Christ? Work the plan. Don’t waste your life.

You should expect suffering. Don’t avoid it.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

I haven’t met a single football player who likes practice. There are always some remarkably odd exceptions out there, but I don’t hang out with aliens. So, I know plenty of players who don’t like practice, but I don’t know any football players who don’t want to make it to the playoffs. Football is a game of suffering. Athletes know that suffering is necessary if they are to achieve their goals.

I want to be very careful in how I say this, because a vast majority of those who read this post may have been “frustrated” for Christ, but I’m not sure that we have ever truly “suffered” for Him – or ever truly will.

I have sat in a church in Egypt amongst saints who have truly suffered for Jesus. I have heard a pastor preach in Samara, Russia who spent most of his life in and out of prison under communism. I have met Romanians who were ostracized as children because their family was Christian. These brothers and sisters understand the meaning of suffering for Jesus. I am in awe of Jesus in them.

But in the American church the experience is much different. Our refrigerator goes on the fritz on a Sunday morning and the entire family stays home because we think that the “devil is attacking.”

We are ridiculous in our belittling of what it really means to suffer for Jesus.

If we do not resolve to be faithful and to follow Christ no matter the cost, we will waste our lives. The reason we get upset at Chick-fil-A is because we think that by eating a “Christian” chicken sandwich that we are making a difference. We have relegated a fast food restaurant to be our bastion of truth rather than the church. It is much easier to douse nuggets in Polynesian sauce and feel good about ourselves than it is to put on the whole armor of God and stand against the wiles of the devil. It is a lot easier to order a #1 and supersize the waffle fry than it is to do what it takes to truly crash the gates of Hell. Jesus said that He would build a church, NOT a CHICK-fil-A, that will stand on the rock of Christ against the gates of Hell. Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church, not chicken.

So you don’t feel good enough to attend a 1 hour meeting we call a worship service this Sunday. You’re tired? Jesus told a man to let the dead bury the dead (Matthew 8:22).

So you’ve had a busy week? Jesus said that anyone having put his hand to the plow and turning back is not fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

Oh, you need some “family time.” Jesus said that if you’re comparative love and dedication for Him doesn’t make it look at times as if you hate your family, then you cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:26).

How is it that football players are willing to suffer so that they can make it to the playoffs, but we as the people of God can hardly make it through a Sunday? We are wasting our lives.

Only one thing matters.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:44-46

Only Jesus matters. With the decisions in your life you are constantly assessing value. Football players do it every week of every season. They are constantly motivated by what is in front of them. They have an objective they are trying to reach. The pain of a workout is worth the playoffs. July is not too hot for November. The gassers on Monday are not even in your mind in the fourth quarter on Friday night. In football the joy that is set before them is the playoffs. And for that opportunity, they willingly, and joyfully suffer.

Your life is much bigger than a game. What is the joy that is set before you? If it isn’t Jesus, you are wasting your life. In the examples from Matthew 13 both the man and the merchant assessed the value of the treasure that was before them. There was not hesitation in giving all for something of such eternal worth. They realized that keeping what they had was a waste. They joyfully sold off all they had for something greater.

Don’t waste your life. You are “one and done.” Death seals your decisions. His commands are not options. You are either following Him or faking it. Expect to suffer. There are no valid excuses.

Not a single coach will stand before his players this Friday and try to convince them not to waste “this” game. Do you really need to be motivated not to waste your life? Don’t waste your life! Turn to Jesus!

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