Honor on the Football Field

 

I recently watched part of a series on the Medal of Honor recipients. The commentator mentioned that of the 40 Billion that have served our country, only roughly 3600 have ever received this award. The man honored in the show that I happened to see was named Sargeant Sylvester Antolak. His actions in WWII helped our forces eventually take Rome, one of the first major Axis cities to fall. This man and his fellow soldiers were pinned down by the enemy fire behind a wall. Instead of staying where it was safe or trying to retreat, Sergeant Antolak ran right into a spray of enemy bullets, taking three large round hits over the 200 yards that he covered. Each time he was hit and knocked to the ground, he would pull himself up and then run toward the bullets again. Even with a shattered humerus in his right arm, he continued to carry his machine gun and shoot as he ran. He eventually led his group to overtake the enemy and secure that area. The soldiers with him reported that even the German soldiers were in awe of this young man’s actions as he refused to quit. Later that same day, Sergeant Antolak lost his life as he continued his heroic deeds pushing forward deep into the enemy territory.

As they interviewed other Medal of Honor recipients on the show, one of the common themes I noticed was that none of them wanted to talk about what they had done, but they only wanted to talk about their friends or about what they had accomplished together. Even when receiving their accolades, each one deferred to those that had fallen and those that had fought along side them as if what they had done individually was not as important as their group and the mission. This attitude is exactly what I noticed when writing the book Perfect: The Building of a Championship Culture. The young men and the coaches of this magical team were and still are humble and mindful only of the team as a whole as if talking about the individual achievements was somehow not as important. Today, they have a bond of friendship and unity that has remained steadfast through the twenty years since their incredible year. This bond and their unity were so compelling that even the radio broadcasters of the championship game decided to name the Darlington Tiger team as a whole as the “player of the game.” Even they understood that these players worked and bled alongside each other and as one coach put it, “They checked their egos at the door.”

Read about their journey together and how the staff and players were able to find the intangibles that elude so many others.

Click HERE to purchase or sample

 

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When God Closes a Door

 

 

 

Recently, I listened to a short sermon about the importance of allowing God to close a door in your life so that He can lead you somewhere else. I’ve heard this preached my whole life, but on this particular day, it spoke to me in a new way. I knew the premise of the message was to let God have control, but my mind immediately recalled a problem that we had faced on a daily basis for several years and how frustrating doors can be.

We recently sold our home and downsized. In our former house, there was a bathroom closet door that was behind the entry door to the room. To get anything out of that closet, we had to close the entry door slightly to make enough room open the closet door. It was frustrating at times, and sometimes the two door handles would become entwined creating a 10-minute ordeal to fix them both. At times, I would be in a hurry and need something out of that closet while my husband might need to pass through the door. We learned how to coordinate this process, but it was somewhat aggravating at times. 

As I listened to the message about God’s hand on our lives and how He wants to guide us if we let Him, I began to think about those doors. If one was open, the other had to be closed. There was just no other way. Is that how it is some of the time when we are trying to go through a “door” in our lives? I wonder how many times we are stubbornly trying to open a door while God is trying to close it, never knowing the reason. There have been times in my past that I have held on to that door handle with everything that I had trying to make it work while God is gently blocking the door from opening any further. While I fought to keep the one door open, I never realized that it was blocking a new door that God wanted to open for me. Later, when fatigue and despair would overcome my strength, my fingers would slip a little, and I would lose my grip, allowing the door to close. Feelings of disappointed would overwhelm me and my anger would sometimes swell. Thoughts would race through my mind:

Why didn’t God let that happen? It was perfect for me!

Not getting what I wanted was bad enough but sometimes the sense of despair over not knowing where to go next would also creep into my thoughts. Soon, though, God would open a new door and show me blessings that I never imagined possible—many times giving me substantially more than I even knew to ask for in the first place. I’ve seen Him open doors that were “blocked” by the one I had clung to in the past. 

During my dating years, I had a few heartbreaks like most people. I remember thinking that I might not be able to endure it ever again and maybe I would never marry. The young men that I dated never seemed to work well with me, and no matter how hard I tried, each relationship would crumble and end in pain. When God brought my husband into my life, it was so evident that I had been wrong to ever worry about any of this part of my life. Tim was and still is so much more than I ever expected in a husband, and I was almost mad at myself for not trusting that God would lead me to such a perfect man for me. If I had only known what He had waiting for me, I might never have dated another boy.

Are you holding on to the handle of a door? Are you pulling against a force that is trying to close a door for you? Are you tired, frustrated, exhausted from the struggle? Trust in Him. Let go of that doorknob and relax. He is closing that passage to keep you safe and He has great plans for you. He cannot wait to lead you on a better course. Trust the One who has your best interest at heart. There’s a new door somewhere close. It may be hidden behind the one you are fighting to keep open. Maybe it’s time to surrender to the One who has never left you or forsaken you. He loves you and wants the best for you. Relax, release, and rely on Him. 

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Struggling for a Purpose

 

The end of fall sports seasons is near. Many athletes have completed their games while others are now entering playoff competition. Even though my children are now all gone, I still enjoy attending events to watch other kids compete. Besides, it’s the best way that I know to see my husband more.

We attended a regional cross country meet today. I willingly tagged along knowing that these meets are generally not long, and the sunshine and cold air were beckoning me outside. Of course, we had been outside late last night at a football game as well as attended many playoff games for field hockey all week. I had a pile of work back home to complete, but the drive into the country was beautiful and well worth the time away once more.

Cross country meets are unique in that they provide a chance to see athletes up close as they struggle and compete. I find it comical to watch the fans scurry around the course to grab another look at the runners as they pass. Something festive is always in the air as the crowds gather along the path to catch a glimpse of the athletes running along the course. Sometimes, people get a bit rude as they jostle and push for a good spot, but today everyone was cordial and friendly. I don’t know about you, though, but I have a tough time watching the kids as they run. Something always stirs in me as I see their faces up close, pushing their bodies past the pain to fight against every tick of the clock while willing their muscles and joints to give more with every step. Every course is different, and sometimes the temperatures swell or dip to uncomfortable levels. The face of each athlete tells a different story, and sometimes it isn’t easy to watch. 

Today, I was moved to tears a few times, and this is not unusual for me at these venues. My heart swells for these kids, and I want to hug each of them as they pass. I wish that I could tell them all that they are going to make it and they would believe me. I want to grab each child by the shoulders and make them understand that it will get better. My thoughts gravitate toward comforting them all and giving them hope until tears spill faster and I have to look away. 

And this it’s over. 

As we moved to congratulate our athletes, I had to remind myself that they did make it. The pain is gone, and they are now feeling better. The agony of those three grueling miles is now behind them and they can rest.

Athletics are excellent for kids of all ages. They get to experience hard work, struggle against adversity, work with others to accomplish a goal, and experience failure and success (both of which teach valuable lessons).

Thank you to all athletic directors and coaches for providing a venue for our kids to learn about life.

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Making a Splash

 

 

While my husband helps coach, I take pictures of the football team. It’s just something that I do with my nervous energy—something I can give back to the families so that they can sit and enjoy the games. 

This week, our team lost a tough game. It was difficult to watch, but the guys played hard. As has been every game this season, rain poured down almost the entire game, and so I was decked out in my rain boots and rain gear, carrying an umbrella as I snapped away along the sidelines.

We live next to the school now, so I walk to and from the games. Even in bad weather, it’s a beautiful walk and I enjoy it every time. As I began my walk home after the game this week, the rain was pouring down on my umbrella and I was thankful for my gear that kept me warm and dry the whole night. On the sidelines, my rain boots had become caked with mud and grass, so as I walked home, I tried to stomp off some of the debris. 

As I walked along the road home, I encountered many puddles, which I avoided to stay as dry as possible. Before long, though, I started seeking the puddles and rinsing my boots to remove all the gunk. I began enjoying splashing in the puddles so much that I found myself splashing more than necessary, and by the time I was almost home, I was actually seeking out every puddle that I could find.

I’m sure anyone watching would have instantly thought that I was insane and maybe you do, too, as you read this. I highly recommend that you try it sometime soon. Slip on some waterproof boots and grab an umbrella and don’t worry about what the neighbors think. Even in the midst of a rainy cold night after a devastating loss, those puddles were refreshing and almost invigorating. I submit that you will enjoy this little pleasure, even if you have to do it in the dark when no one is looking.

I’m certain that the small things in life are more important than we think and the big things that take our time probably won’t matter to us much in our last days. I want to lay on my death bed and smile thinking about that rainy night when I didn’t care at all what others saw. I splashed in every puddle that I could find.

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The Story of Winning

A true story…

Three years before, they lost every single game. They were small and unnoticed and not one player seemed to garner any attention in the preseason rumblings. The predictions about this season were grim at best, and most believed that this would be a “rebuilding year,” but there was something unusual brewing in the hearts of these young men as they stepped onto the field for the 1998 season for the Darlington Tigers. No one gave them a chance to do much of anything, and so other teams and players in the area were highlighted and heralded. The Tigers began their first game largely ignored and forgotten, having “no respect,” as one of their coaches repeatedly told them.  Even as the wins began to stack up, these young men were often called “lucky,” and still few people saw what was growing inside them all.

It would be a year of surprises with explosions of speed and an uncompromised will that would produce a new definition for the word “TEAM,” creating a powerful “beast mode” that would not yield to anyone or any circumstance. The 1998 season would end after the 15th game in a town several hours away in front of a crowd of over 6,000 people. When it was over, not one of their opponents would be able to understand how they had been defeated, but they would always remember the night that they faced the young men from the 1998 Darlington Tiger football team. Imprinted in everyone’s minds would be the effect of their overwhelming desire to win at all costs with a dedication to each other and their purpose.  Amazingly, not one single senior would be a Division I prospect and the success on the gridiron was due to an uncrushable spirit more than talent alone.

Perfect: The Building of a Championship Culture

The story of winning.

 

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Football, Championships, and Winning

 

 

Winning.

That’s the goal of every season.

Years ago, there was a group of young men who began their season on the football field. There wasn’t much hope since they only had three returning starters and they had lost every single game when they played JV.

Something was different, though, and this time when they stood alongside each other they formed a bond and found their purpose.

The Tigers would experience sicknesses and injuries, but they would endure these quietly and without complaint.

The Tigers would be ignored in the preseason predictions and continue to be called “lucky” as they accumulated wins, but in response, they would seek to prove those people wrong.

The Tigers would face other teams with amazing talent and skills, but they were never intimidated and only continued to play their game.

The Tigers would face one obstacle after another, like last-second goal-line stands and a variety of moments when they were behind or must get a first down to survive, but they would continue fighting and they would never quit.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock of the fifteenth game of the season, they stood together on a field far from their home and claimed their title. When the season ended, it would be the team as a whole that was the hero. Not one single Division I player would emerge from the group of seniors and they could each claim an equal part in their title.

The 1998 Tigers were relentless, mean, committed, and intense, but most of all they were a TEAM. Not team with a small “t,” but a new definition of the word that requires all capital letters. This new word would now have an intensity that only they could understand.

And the 1998 Darlington Tiger football team was perfect.

Read the incredible true story and discover what qualities they possessed that allowed them to defeat every Goliath on their schedule until they stood alone as champions.

Click HERE

Available in both ebook and print editions

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The surprise is here!

The release date is October 1, 2018, but…

…the reunion is this weekend so…

I’m releasing early! The print edition is LIVE now HERE

The ebook will still say “Pre-order” but will be sent out on September 20!

SURPRISE!

Happy reading everyone! Spread the word!

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The New Book Release: Cover Reveal

The new book is almost ready! I’m looking forward to telling you the true story about a team with no limits and how they built a championship through defined winning traits.

The release date has been set for:

October 1, 2018.

What separates those who achieve greatness from everyone else?

A state championship is earned only by those who take it. Some teams will claw their way through a season and then fail in the end. Only a select few will find victory. What are the qualities that separate the winners from those who fall short? 

This story is about a group of young men who fought against all predictions and odds to become the only undefeated team in the state of Georgia in 1998 across all classifications, crushing their opponents week after week through an allegiance of pure passion. Discover the secrets behind the culture that produced this historic season and the intangibles that made them unstoppable…and perfect.

See the new cover below and stay in touch for more information!

Pre-orders to be announced soon.

 

P.S. Follow me on Facebook under The Green Author to get quick updates.

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Perfect: The Building of a Championship Culture

 

Just a bit earlier than expected…I decided to show you a little peek at the book. It’s almost finished. Here is a little taste of the contents!  Enjoy! Book cover, pre-orders, and release date announcements will be soon!

 

Rolling back the clock to the fall of 1998, the football practices began like any other year. My husband, Dr. Tim Green (he likes the title Coach Green better), was coaching the offensive and defensive lines. The group of coaches that he worked with were our friends and they were and still are amazing. We knew it at the time, but we know it even more now. Each one has gone on to great successes and has built legacies in their own way throughout their lives. Those young men that played on that field every Friday night and worked and sweated alongside each other throughout the week have now become men, fathers, husbands, and so much more. Many have now created successes in their own lives much like what they created together—effectively learning to be a champion not only on the field but also in life. The days when they pulled together one of the greatest feats in Rome’s history will never be forgotten. Unranked and unnoticed in the preseason, they rose to become the only undefeated team in the entire state of Georgia in any classification that year. They were David in the face of Goliath over and over every Friday night. No one gave them a chance. No one thought they had it in them. No one gave them any respect. Only they suspected what they could accomplish. They found those elusive qualities and bound them together in ways that cannot be described. They worked hard and depended on each other and they found a way to win every week no matter what they faced, focusing on one game at a time, one play at a time, one movement at a time…lifting each other up and refusing to quit. They found a way to be perfect.

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The People of The Ville: Neale Bennett

 

Through the first 14 years of my life, I grew up as the daughter of an Air Force navigator, moving frequently and sacrificing time with my father as he served our country. He retired and didn’t wish to fly anymore, but many of the pilots he flew with became commercial airline pilots. Often when I’m flying, I wonder about the men and women who are in the cockpit and the rich history of their lives. One such man is a dear friend of ours and I’m pleased to introduce him as the next honoree in The People of The Ville series.

Neale Bennett was born in Louisville and grew up here until he left for college at LSU and later returned to complete his BA in history from U of L. After finishing school, he joined the Air Force, where he trained to be a pilot. In 1992, he came back to Louisville and has lived here and raised his family since that time. Describing his time in the military, he told me this:

“My eight years on active duty were the best professional years of my life. I served with outstanding people who were very committed to the defense of this great country.”

During his career in the Air Force, he trained to be a pilot and underwent several other types of education, such as POW and water survival training. He flew the F-16 both as an operational flight lead/mission commander/FCF pilot and as an RTU instructor pilot at different bases throughout the west. He left active duty to join the Indiana National Guard, where he continued to fly the “Viper”, otherwise knows as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and Neale describes it as “the hottest, most maneuverable fighter in the world.” The missions were intense, often leaving him exhausted after just a short 1-2 hour flight.

Neale was hired by Delta shortly after leaving the service of our country and has been working for them since that time, except for a brief time as a UPS pilot. In our interview, he described his job as a commercial pilot as being “highly technical” and “highly regulated” and continued to describe it to me like this:

“The responsibility is tremendous considering the number of lives and the value of the equipment for which you are responsible. But you are the first to see the sunrise and the thrill is still there after all these years. The size of the team which is involved in getting every flight off the ground is extraordinary. It is also a very interesting career where you can live wherever you desire as long as you are willing to commute to work. You can live in your base or you can live on a mountaintop in Switzerland if you don’t mind the long commute to work.”

With those parameters on living, he has made his home in both Dallas and Louisville at different times and has flown to most all major cities and many small ones as well. His flying credentials also include all states except Hawaii as well as most all of Western Europe, South America, and Central America. For the past 11 years, he has been a Captain for Delta, getting the coveted left seat in the cockpit.

Neale met his wife, Karen, in 1987 when Karen was visiting a college friend in Las Vegas who was married to a pilot who worked with Neale in the same squadron. Even though Karen wasn’t interested in trying to date a pilot via a long-distance relationship, within a year they were married. Karen is a very interesting person herself and comes from a family with three other sisters. She was a talented flute player and dancer, procuring a scholarship in choreography and performance on the Weber State Dance Team at Weber State College (now a university).

When I asked Neale who the most influential person in his life was he named his own father, W. Neale Bennett III MD. He describes his father as a “good athlete, a great doctor, consummate gentleman”. Neale also says about his father that “he admired and respected talent not position” and his father often said, “there is honor in digging ditches if you give your best effort”. These words stayed with Neale throughout his life and according to Neale, his father was caring and patient and was “a life-long learner”. With those types of credentials, Neale also described his father as “the kind of man that [he] wants to become”. Without hesitation, though, Neale also credits his mother, both sets of grandparents, and an aunt and uncle as other people who influenced and supported him throughout his life. He states that “all these great people instilled in me a desire to succeed and not let them down. They were all well-educated, strong people who were also very kind and generous.” One other influence was his dad’s dad, who was a US Air Service pilot in WWI and although Neale never knew him, his choice of career was greatly affected by his grandfather’s history. In a final twist, Neale states that he is now being influenced by his own two sons saying, “I like what they are doing, how they lead their lives and how they approach their professions.”

Choosing to become a pilot like his grandfather was a process. Originally, Neale thought he would pursue a medical career like his father and uncle but was drawn to planes as a child and through adolescence and eventually acquiesced to his dream of becoming a pilot. Interestingly, not only the strong connection to the medical profession through his own father and uncle but also the strong connection to the military and pilot profession has been continued by his own two sons. His son, Beau, was drawn more to the medical world and his son, Chase, was drawn more to the pilot profession and both are now pursuing those dreams. Both also followed in their father’s and grandfather’s and great grandfather’s footsteps and have joined the military, and more specifically the Air Force. Neale describes their personalities as perfectly designed for what they chose to do and he finds it easy to relate to them both. He states, “I feel happiness that the Lord has blessed them with the opportunity to chase their dreams and that they have the determination to be successful.” Knowing both young men as I do, there is no doubt about that success. Beau is now in residency and Chase is in pilot training and I personally feel better knowing another great doctor is in training and that another great pilot is in the service of our country.

A few other questions I asked Neale:

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

Neale answered with two things:

Speaking of his mother’s dad, whom he was very close to through the years, he stated,

“I wish I had written more to my Grandfather. He was a great man and I loved him tremendously. We were close. As he got older and more infirm, he wanted to receive and read letters or postcards from me telling him about my experiences in the Air Force. We talked on the phone a great deal, but he really wanted letters to read. I wish I had written to him more often.”

 

Another small regret Neale has concerns his time at LSU.

“Selfishly, I wish I had continued to play football at LSU past spring ball of my freshman year. It was a rash, emotional decision to give it up, but I found out later that my position (LB) coach was very impressed with my play and potential. While the decision allowed me to follow the dream of flying in the Air Force with few bad injuries, my football story never really had an ending. I would like to know whether I would have played in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night or not.”

 

What do you like most about Louisville?

“The people and the size. I don’t think we will ever move because of the tremendous people we have met over the years. When you know people who have influenced you and your children the way Coach Green has; well, I cannot imagine moving somewhere else just because the mercury stays a little higher in the thermometer. Louisville, as a small city has a great deal to offer without the traffic. And it comes back to the people, you are about one person away from knowing everyone. We went to a UL basketball game recently and I saw four people whom I have not seen in a while and it was like I saw them yesterday. Super people from all walks of life. We are blessed to know them and would not like to see that change.”

 

Tell me something you want us to know about you that we haven’t already discussed.

“Long answers have pretty much covered everything. However, I do want you to know this. I have been extremely blessed to have had an exciting, fulfilling life. Whatever success I have attained in life I can directly attribute to the great influences from the people who came before me, the support and strength of my wife, the inspiration I get from our two very fine sons and the camaraderie of outstanding friends. I firmly believe in the Constitution of the USA. I believe that this country like no other offers the opportunity to succeed if one is willing to dream, work hard and sometimes take a chance. Freedom is not free and the liberty to succeed or fail in the attempt is precious. “Hanta Yo – Clear the Way.” (favorite book).

Neale and his wife and boys are a great addition to our city and I was glad to be able to honor him as the next addition to The People of The Ville. Maybe the next time you fly Delta you will be lucky enough to have him in the front of your plane. If you do, you will be in great hands.

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