Lessons Learned from One Man and One Principle

<i><b>PREVIEW: Guest editorial from <b>TOTAL BLUE SPORTS</b> Magazine's upcoming February issue.</b></i> <P> I have been involved with sports for 34 years. One man and one athletic principle stand out the most: Leadership and ability are the principles; and <B>Dan Watts</B> is the man.

Coach Watts was my Little League coach and the person I want to be like most. I knew he loved me, cared about me as a person, and knew sports would be an integral part of my life. Although my abilities were not as natural as other players, he realized my leadership was key to the team's success.

In one game, our pitcher had a no hitter going and I was playing second base. The batter hit a ground ball to my right. I dove, snagged it and came up ready to throw when I heard coach Watts yell, "Don't throw it!" I didn't and the runner was safe. We got the next few outs and won the game.

Afterward, I asked coach Watts why he didn't want me to throw the ball. His reply has somewhat guided my life: "The team needed to know you would follow me." Of course, I would follow coach Watts. I would run through brick walls for coach Watts. I went to bed early for coach Watts. All I ever cared about was playing ball for coach Watts. I was the team captain. I can't say I was the best player, but I was the leader.

Coach Watts wanted the team to know that even the team captain, even "their" captain, follows the coach. As I went or as I followed, so did the team.

We are hearing about some great football talent coming to BYU; perhaps as much talent as there has ever been. Each player who has committed has been quoted as wanting to play for Gary Crowton and or Bronco Mendenhall.

Quite frankly, I'm not surprised by the top talent wanting to come to Provo and play for these two great men. One only needs to be around them to know they have both the knowledge and the leadership to produce wins.

My experience from Little League on up has taught me that coaching makes a difference – but the players have to believe in the coaches! In essence, the team needs to follow.

Last year, there was a divided camp. It's almost as if Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt, but some still wanted to be back in Egypt. Mostly fans wanted the LaVell Edwards era back; Crowton was too hands-on; Crowton shuffled his quarterbacks too much; or Crowton's play calling was suspect.

I believe the leadership was there, but the followers were not. Following is an integral part of leading. Going back to Egypt is not the answer. The promised land will only be reached when all players and coaches insist on a unified, "we ain't in Egypt anymore" approach to winning. If my understanding of scripture is correct, it took the children of Israel 40 years to reach the promised land because a whole generation needed to die off.

If BYU is to win, these new recruits, as well as the current Cougar football team, must follow Crowton to their own place in the promised land.

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