December 22, 2010

Breaking the Huddle

Max! You’re starting quarterback; you’re not supposed to be late!” Coach Osborne says emphatically. “You know the drill, son. That’ll be 100 push-ups.”
Each Monday Coach Osborne meets with his football team to review its previous game and game plan for the next team on the schedule. The get-togethers aren’t too long—usually about two hours—but, needless to say, Coach puts a strong emphasis on punctuality.
During the first hour of the meeting the team breaks into position groups with the assistant coaches. Linebackers, quarterbacks, and wide receivers—each unit splits off to review its past performance and work on improving going forward. For the team this is the time it focuses on refining the individual skills that will help it function better as a collective unit.
2010 1541 page27The last hour of the meeting is typically a presentation by Coach Osborne, although one of the assistant coaches sometimes fills in. During this time Coach addresses the team on a particular topic of importance, ranging from ball security to the fundamentals of tackling (sometimes this section of the meeting goes long; and though the team complains a little among themselves, they realize Coach has their best interests at heart).
Though Monday’s team meetings set the tone for the week, the onus is on the players themselves to continually review their plays, eat nutritiously, and stay in game shape over the course of the next six days. Some of the players work in small groups during the week—holding each other accountable as they prepare for the next challenge.
Finally it’s here—game day. The fanfare is majestic: cheerleaders have the team’s logo painted on their blush-colored cheeks, while 85,000 zealous fans pack the stadium and cover their bodies with Eagles paraphernalia. When the team walks onto the field, it seems as if the whole universe is watching; and thanks to satellite dishes, that’s not far from the truth.
The Eagles get the ball first on the 20-yard line. The quarterback, a six-foot-five-inch natural with a cannon for an arm, leads the offense onto the field. Looking over to the sideline, he interprets the hand signals from the coaching staff and calls the first play of the game. “67 fake, zip post.”
The play comes as no surprise to the team—it’s been practicing it all week. As the clock winds down, the crowd anticipates the action. Yet, as if paused by a remote control, the team stays in its circular formation.
The other team is ready; in fact, they can’t wait to engage the offense. But the Eagles just stand there, trapped inside the huddle. Not even an energized stadium of their most enthusiastic fans can encourage the team to leave the safety of their own company.
In But Not Of
Absurd, right? To think of a football team standing still in their huddle for four quarters—unwilling to face the other team and put into action the plays it’s spent so much time learning.
But aren’t we sometimes guilty of doing the exact same thing?
Oh, we practice; we practice a lot. We have church, Sabbath school, prayer meetings, camp meetings, board meetings—pretty much every kind of meeting. But how often do we implement the things in practice we have learned in theory?
I’m part of a Bible study group that’s been meeting on Monday nights for the past two years. We have a great time reading God’s Word and sharing our struggles in a safe environment. However, lately we’ve realized we’re missing half the equation. Now, each Tuesday night our group participates in a food distribution program at the Bakersfield homeless shelter. We share food, time, and prayer with people in great need of each.
In my own life I’ve realized that I have a lot of theoretical knowledge that isn’t being used to impact others.
It’s time to change that. It’s time to break the huddle.
Jimmy Phillips ([email protected]) writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communication coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. This article was published December 23, 2010.