BleachersI just finished the book “Bleachers” by John Gisham.   Coach Eddie Rake built an unstoppable High School football program in Messina, Mississippi where losing was not an option and winning was not enough.  Coach Eddie Rake coached the Spartans for 34 years.  He expected perfect execution from his players and expected the same type of effort.  Coach Rake pushed his players to the boiling point to where after their playing days were over, players questioned if they loved coach or if you hated him.

Nelly Crenshaw the super star quarterback who won a state championship and went on to play college football came back to Messina to be there when Coach Rake died.  As the coach passed away all the past players of the Messina Spartans came back to town to be together and share stories of the “glory days.”  Nelly had the hardest time as he could not decide if he loved Coach or if having him die was the best thing to happen.  One of my favorite quotes in the book,

“Rare is the Coach who can motivate players to spend their lives seeking his approval.  From the time Neely first put on a uniform in the sixth grade, he wanted Rake’s attention.  And in the next six years, with every pass he threw, every drill he ran, every play he memorized, every weight he lifted, every hour he spent sweating, ever pregame speech he gave, every touchdown he scored, every game he won, every temptation he resisted, every honor roll he made, he coveted Eddie Rake’s approval.”

Coach Rake pushed his players to never quit and to keep on fighting.  He instilled in their minds that losing was not an option.  Nelly in the book says,

“Once you’ve played for Eddie Rake, you carry him with you forever.  You hear his voice, you see his face, you long for his smile of approval, you remember his tongue-lashings and lectures.  With each success in life, you want Rake to know about it.  You want to say, ‘Hey Coach, look at what I’ve done.’  And you want to thank him for teaching you that success is not an accident.  And with each failure, you want to apologize because he did not teach us to fail.  He refused to accept failure.  You want his advice on how to overcome it. 

At times you get tired of carrying Coach Rake around.  You want to be able to screw up and not hear him bark.  You want to slide and maybe cut a corner without hearing his whistle.  Then the voice will tell you to pick yourself up, to set a goal, work harder than everyone else, stick to the basics, execute perfectly, be confident, be brave, and never, never quite.

Another quote from the book that I thought was great was,

 “Few of us will ever do anything that will be recognized and remembered by more than a handful of people.  We are not great.  We may be good, honest, fair, hardworking, loyal, kind, generous, and very decent, or we may be otherwise.  But we are not considered great.  Greatness comes along so rarely that when we see it we want to touch it.”

I think everyone needs a Coach Eddie Rake in their lives.  Someone to push them over and over and even when they are not there, they still remember his constant voice.  I believe High School athletics is where young people can achieve greatness.  Where young individuals can come together and unite under one common theme and achieve what they set their minds to.  I love living in a small community like Enumclaw, Washington that reminds me so much of Messina, Mississippi.   I want kids throughout Enumclaw High School and high schools across the country to not take the easy ways out in life.  That hard work and success are earned.  I hope that kids and people do not forget that failure is not an option. “Set a goal, work harder than everyone else, stick to the basics, execute perfectly, be confident, be brave and never, never quite.”


1 Response to “Bleachers”

  1. May 19, 2009 at 2:27 AM

    I swear to you I just started reading this book. That is so crazy, so I didnt read your post bc I am only like 50 pgs into it. But I love Grisham and this looked like a book I could relate too:) As I’m sure you. Happy Enggagment!

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