Student athletes reflect on the impact of their coaches
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I’ve never had a coach who has impacted so much as Coach Brandt. In fact, apart from my parents I think no one else has had the same sort of positive influence in my life. For the past four years, I have been playing for Coach on the Messiah men’s soccer team. During that time, he engendered in me and the rest of the team a set of core values that apply to real life as much as to soccer. There’s a list of 11 different ones but these few stick out to me: we dare greatly, we are a collection of Christian friends first and soccer players second, and we finish strong. What do these mean to me?
"We dare greatly" is a motto I attempt to make real in my life. It means never settling for a loss or tie. It means risking our hearts hoping for something far-fetched when the odds rail against us. I’m reminded of the Stockdale paradox about which coach would often tell us. The Stockdale Paradox says that you have to face the grim reality of your current situation without losing faith in the desired end. This isn’t optimism, which has its own merits; this is a stalwart faith. This principle teaches me that I in every rough patch of life when the world seems to be kicking me in the teeth, I never have a right to throw in the towel because new hope will come. Because of this knowledge, I can dare greatly even when circumstances suggest that I might be crazy to do so.
"We are a collection of Christian friends first and soccer players second" reminds me that soccer is only the vehicle that allows me to have an incredible experience here. I love the sport of soccer and have dedicated a huge portion of my life to it but when I leave Messiah it won’t be the game I miss so much as the guys with whom I played it. Although I have had wild success here, winning three national championships and participating in four final fours, many of my favorite memories don’t even correspond to the soccer field. They’re road trips to away matches playing card games and watching videos on the bus. They’re team bowling nights on Halloween. They’re 2 a.m. Sheetz runs when I should be hitting books. What’s unique here is not chiefly the success Coach has had but the environment he’s established where the guys fight for every chance to be together because we honestly are a circle of friends and brothers, and I guess soccer players too.
"We finish strong" is perhaps the simplest and most self-explanatory statement of the three. Similarly, its impact may run the deepest. In summer running, Coach constantly reinforced in us the attitude that a champion finishes strong. In the pre-season mile test, Coach in no uncertain terms declares that our final lap around the track should be our fastest. In games, we make it part of our resume that in the waning minutes of the match, we pick up pace and intensity. In life, it applies to schoolwork, projects, and occupations. It’s a mind set that refuses to yield to the voices that say, “You’re almost done. You can slow down and relax. It doesn’t matter because it will be over soon anyway.” But it does matter. In fact, I’d say it’s even a matter of character. It takes integrity to finish strong and Coach Brandt has modeled this attribute in every way to us.
Apart from on-field instruction and technique teaching, Coach cares about us as individuals. He desires the soccer program “to have an unspeakable impact on our lives.” But it would be foolish to aim for this goal if the program centered on soccer. As I hope I’ve already delineated, playing for Coach has taught me that the soccer was never really even about the soccer. He has demonstrated through his own life the principles I’ve described and the importance of implementing them into our own lives. He’s inspired us to be Christian leaders. He’s inspired us to be best friends. He’s inspired us to be great in whatever we do and whoever we are. I’ll always be grateful to Coach for the lessons he taught me and the man he’s helped in shaping me to be.
— Joshua Binger '09, men's soccer