As the words filled the air, Michael couldn’t believe they were coming out of his mouth. The cold jail bars were the only things that separated him from his son. “Drugs? Are you serious?” Harsh words, hurtful words came billowing out like the black smoke from a diesel engine. Have you ever found yourself in a similar position? Dealing with a rebellious child or having a serious argument with your spouse? Maybe it’s not drugs, infidelity or anything else equally serious but communicating with our family and helping them make good decisions is an art. It requires motivation.
In between my living room and kitchen is a statue of my father-in-law, Grant Teaff. It is a replica of the one outside of Baylor University’s stadium. The pedestal is inscribed with two words: The Believer. That was the name given to the statue because Coach Teaff was famous for making his teams believe they could win.
One of the most interesting and often told stories of Coach Teaff motivating his team is one about him eating a worm. In 1978 the Baylor Bears were preparing to play a stronger University of Texas team. In an attempt to motivate his team right before kick- off Coach Teaff told a story about a couple of Eskimos who were out fishing. One of them was having great success but the other one hadn’t caught a thing. The Eskimo who was struggling asked his friend how he was doing so well. His friend responded, “Your worms are frozen.” He went on to tell his friend, “You have to keep your worms warm.” And at that the Eskimo opened his mouth and revealed his worms. Coach Teaff told his team to have great success you have to do the hard things, the distasteful things. He congratulated his team for a great week of practice. He ensured them they were ready to play. He told them at this point it was up to them to play the game then added, “But the coaches will keep the worms warm.” He opened his mouth and pulled out a worm to show the team. He put it back in his mouth and the team went nuts. The Bears beat the Longhorns 38-14 that day.
Great motivators like Coach Teaff create a positive atmosphere in their environment. They put their team, whether it’s a sports team, a corporate team or a family, in a mental state that is conducive to achieve the greatest possible results. From time to time you find a leader that motivates with fear, or with threats, but most of the time you find that leaders who motivate people to do amazing things are people that other people want to be around and want to be like. What I have found, which constantly puzzles me, is that it is more challenging to motivate my own family than outsiders. I find it easy to encourage and motivate people at church, in work, and my teams I coach. But at home, I find it isn’t so easy. At home I’m more likely to see the glass as being half empty rather than half full. I find it easier to notice the one B on my son’s report card instead of the five A’s. I instruct the parents of my youth soccer team after a game, “Just tell your son how you love watching them play. Don’t talk about the game, especially their mistakes or effort.” Yet I find myself fighting the urge to tell my son the things he did wrong. I am not saying we should never give constructive criticism, but there will be plenty of time for that later. Encouraging our kids with the positive is usually far more effective than warnings about the negative.
Romans 8:28 says no matter what is going on in your life that God can make it work for your good. If you believe that you will not be able to help but be an encouragement to others. You will find your life will be better and you will find more people want to be around you. Keep in mind you aren’t trying to change all the haters who will choose to have a bad day every day. You are just trying to start with your attitude and your family’s attitude. If you do, you will find you can motivate them and together you can motivate others.
A big part of being a dad is creating the culture and the context for your kids to thrive in whatever it takes. You may not need to put a worm in your mouth to motivate your kids but you will have to suffer some discomfort and sacrifice your pride to get them responding to your leadership. Figure out what that is and do it and you will become their personal coaching legend.
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Every Man Ministries was founded by Kenny Luck, men’s pastor at Saddleback Church. Kenny created the Sleeping Giant program as a way to give men the tools and resources to make the most of their own men’s ministries and make the most of their walks with God. Watch Kenny’s teachings at EveryManMinistries.com and start your men’s group today.