Lessons from a Coaching Legend: Respect and Equality

It’s evident from some of the stories I heard growing up and those I read in Bo’s Lasting Lessons, that Coach Schembechler believed in treating everyone equally. When describing his players, Bo said, “I’m going to treat you all the same. Like dogs!” (Schembechler/Bacon, 31). Behind that comment, though, breathed a coach who respected his players and required that they in turn respect the trainers, managers, secretaries, and building professionals that made the Wolverines success possible. As Bo stated, “they’re all important or they wouldn’t be working for Michigan football…they owe you nothing. You owe them your gratitude” (Schembechler/Bacon, 73).

Bo motivated and offered others a sense of belonging.

I asked my mom recently if Dad’s preference for inclusion over exclusion stemmed from Bo, or if the old coach merely sharpened it. We failed at reaching a consensus. Regardless, these quotes from Bo remind me of many moments from my youth, particularly the softball games that Dad organized for the neighborhood kids.

We played on a weathered field at the elementary school across the street from my grandparent’s house. A paint splattered blue-gray slide and rusting merry-go-round loomed in the not too distant outfield. We had no fence, so a home run meant the ball rolled to the wood chip area near the black and metal swing set or the splintering jungle gym. Our games had all the organization of an unattended cattle drive, but everyone had the chance to play. We had players with emotional handicaps, minor intellectual disabilities, and other physical shortcomings that we could have easily kept on the game’s fringes. Not in these contests, though.

Everyone bat, everyone played the field, and everyone took their shots at smacking a home run off a Levi-Garrett spitting ex-NFL running back playing all-time pitcher. At the risk of sounding cliché, I can say that winning and losing didn’t matter. The only score that counted was the fun had as part of the game.

As I compared what I read to the memories of these games, I felt a simple message shared by Bo and my dad develop inside my head: respect each person you meet, care about their well-being, and elevate nobody while appreciating everyone.

Sounds pretty good to me.

The introduction to Lessons from a Coaching Legend can be found here.

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