I believe it was 1991; the day I was reminded again to extend grace and understanding to others when they make a mistake.
I was coaching a Pop Warner football team with my friend, Mike Trautman. We were playing the team we were tied with for first place. I asked Mike to start the game as our coach on the field, calling plays and adjusting positions.
The other team scored in the first half; things didn’t look good for a win.
At one point Mike asked me to take his place, hoping that a different viewpoint on the field might help. Somehow, the very first play I called led to a touchdown by my son, Jeff, our quarterback. Mike had called that same play, but it was just the right time I guess.
The remainder of the game was back and forth, neither team scoring again. We got the ball again with only about 2 minutes remaining and I was thrilled. We were leading 8-6; we scored our extra point and they did not.
So I called a quarterback sneak to run out most of the time. When I called the same play again, I noticed that the boys in the huddle looked confused, but they ran the play. Then I called another quarterback sneak and all of the boys looked even more confused and started looking around at each other. I barked, “What’s a matter with you boys? Run that play.” Then my son said, “Dad, aren’t we even going to try to win the game?”
I looked up at the scoreboard and the score was 6-6, not 8-6. Scoring our extra point only existed in my mind. I called one last play in an attempt to win the game. We gained a lot of yards, but didn’t score. Time ran out and the buzzer sounded. The game ended in a tie.
I apologized to the boys over and over again. Their parents were nice enough not to tar and feather me. My wife, Shari, told me that the people in the stands were calling me every name imaginable. One of the referees who was my friend, walked over and asked what happened. I explained. He chuckled and said, “I started to ask you what in the world you were doing, but thought you knew what you were doing.” My son, Jeff, had to go home with dad who was the winner of the “idiot coach” trophy. I never felt so dumb. I let the boys down, Mike down, the parents down, our sponsor down. We might not have won, but not even trying on those last plays? Unforgivable.
Over the years, since that night, I have noticed that my criticizing of coaches and their decisions has diminished SIGNIFICANTLY. Most of the time now, I’m the one in the stands encouraging the coaches, even when I think their decisions are dead-wrong. That night has reminded me over and over again of the importance of extending grace and kindness and understanding to coaches, who are trying their best and who make mistakes.
It has also helped me to do a better job of practicing Col. 3:13: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
I hope you never have a night like I did. But I do hope that God will bless you with something that will help you to extend grace to others, even when they are making mistakes. Often they feel worse about their mistake than anyone. Extend grace and take them out for a cup of coffee or a soft drink. That encouragement might just be what they need. God bless.
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