Purgatory, Heaven and the Gridiron

This past week I read that Bobby Petrino was hired as the football coach at Western Kentucky.   Within a couple of days I watched the California High School Football Championship – NorCal vs. SoCal.  Two football stories, one involving a coach working to rebuild his career, living in purgatory.  The other coach reminding us what it takes to reach Heaven.

Both stories teach us much of leadership.

First, Bobby Petrino finds his new job after being fired from the University of Arkansas earlier this year.   Why was he fired?  He cheated, lied, and showed such low character that despite his success on the field, he had to go.   One recent article on CNN went so far to call Bobby Petrino slime.  Folks, nothing is lower than slime.

Yet … Yet … Yet … Bobby can coach a team to success on the football Gridiron.  It was a matter of time for a University to hire him to gain more victories.  One finally did, Western Kentucky.  Both Bobby and the school acknowledge that he may only stay a couple of years before he finds a so-called higher level job.

The New York Times said that Bobby Petrino’s hire at Western Kentucky “might feel like purgatory for Petrino”.   Purgatory, a place of suffering and redemption before reaching a better place, a heaven if you will.   In the world of college football, victories alone may be all the purification Bobby needs.

 As a father would I ever allow my son to play football for this man?  He will again have such influence on so many young men.  Football victories with no moral grounding.

Now we consider that California High School Championship.  Specifically I watched De La Salle High School win their 4th straight state title.  De La Salle is one of the top programs  each year nationwide.   They hold the record for consecutive wins at 151.   Kids come and go, but one constant remains, Head Coach Bob Ladouceur (399-25-3 over 34 seasons).

Coach Ladouceur is a quite and unassuming man.  He is quick to give all credit to his coaching staff and the kids.  He does not raise his voice, yet the kids will do anything to gain an approving nod.   I read a piece he wrote for his school titled, “What is a Spartan (school mascot).”  Coach Ladouceur also teaches religion and philosophy at the school.  As time allows do read his article.  He clearly is a coach and teacher whose words and conviction going well beyond the game of football.  I plan to use this article in my broader context of leadership development.  It is that good.

He speaks of commitment, make a commitment and stick to it.   He speaks of accountability.  I am there for you and you will be there for me.  He speaks of trust and honesty.  This is who I am, can you help me, or can I help you?   He speaks of love the players have for each other.

We are a nation of forgiveness and all the best to Coach Petrino in his path of redemption.  He may be in Purgatory, yet the path out toward Heaven is not easy.  If I can suggest … he should learn more of how Coach Bob Ladouceur goes about his day.  He possesses the most important thing imaginable … a map to Heaven.

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