This training camp has been like none other I’ve ever been apart of. In my 11-year career this is the first time I’ve had to go away from my team facilities for training camp. Leaving my family in New Orleans for three weeks has been hard on all of us, but spending camp in West Virginia at the Greenbrier Resort has been quite an experience. Although NFL Training Camp doesn’t lend itself to leisure, the 10,000-acre resort has myriad activities to offer, from world-class spa treatments to off-roading, if and when we do get time off. When you add in the PGA tour and the fact that 26 presidents have stayed at the resort it’s easy to see the national appeal. What started as retreat for therapeutic pain management, through the healing powers of the local sulfur springs, has blossomed into what is now coined “Americas Resort.” The recent success and growth of the Greenbrier can be attributed in large part to West Virginia native, billionaire James C. Justice II, who purchased the hotel out of bankruptcy in 2009. As if resuscitating the ailing resort to health wasn’t enough, he put the cherry on top by bringing the first ever NFL training camp to the region.
Larger than life, in stature and personality, the 6’7” 350 pound Justice addressed the team halfway through camp. As he lumbered up to the front of the room, wearing a green golf shirt (of course) and plaid sport coat, we weren’t quite sure what he would say and if it would resonate with us as men competing for a spot on an NFL roster. With all due respect, what does a billionaire CEO of over 40 companies know about the grind of training camp? Dwarfing the podium in the front of the room, Mr. Justice started off with a joke to break the ice, then delivered three essential keys for healthy and successful organizations. They are as follows.
- “The owners have to care for the employees and the employees must know this and in turn care for the owner. Like wise the employees must care for and love each other.” We all do our jobs better when we feel appreciated. Owners/Coaches set the appreciation thermostat in the workplace. Employees/Players will be more inclined to care for each other as well as management when they know their superiors care about them.
- “To get better we must admit when we do wrong and truly own up to it and change our actions. It’s not enough to just say, “I’m sorry.” Trust in the workplace is built when there is a change.” Like a crack in a windshield, an unresolved breach of trust can fester until it divides a team in two. Good teams are able to identify mistakes, receive correction and change behavior without offense. Moreover, good teams have players who WANT to correct their own mistakes so the team can function at the highest level.
- Lastly he gave a baseball analogy. “Suppose you’re an outfielder”, he said. “Your team is ahead by 1 run. The count is 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th. If you are hoping the batter does not hit the ball your way, you will never amount to anything. You MUST WANT the ball.” He assured us, “We all are afraid at times. But you must believe you can make the play.”
I think I speak for the entire team, when I say his words were exactly what we needed to hear, individually and collectively. The identity, camaraderie, character and trust that will sustain a team through a season are forged during the dog days of training camp. These keys are what keep teams healthy and functioning at the highest level. And while these proven keys will propel businesses and teams to success, on a more significant level, they will also transform families into the foundational yet world-changing units they were created to be. When I think about my life as a Christian, and my role as a husband and father, Mr. Justice’s words are, in many ways, a blueprint for success. Lets take a look at these three keys of love, trust, and courage from another perspective.
- I John 4:19,20 says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” God created us and loves us. He shows us His love by meeting our needs, forgiving us, sustaining us, protecting us, disciplining us, fellowshipping with us, and redeeming us through His Son. Our proper response is to love him back. We do that by worshipping him, obeying him, trusting him, acknowledging him, listening to him, and telling others about him. The ultimate proof of our love for him, though, is our love for our fellow man.
Ephesians 5 says it like this. Christ loves the church (his followers) and gave himself up for it. Likewise, husbands, sacrificially love your wives, continually striving to cultivate her spiritual and physical well being. Fathers, as head of your household, it is your primary duty to love your wife. Why? Because the “owner” (GOD) of the business in which you are employed (Life) loves you! And when your little employees see your love for their mother, they will follow suit and love each other as well.
- “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
Through my life, I’ve learned that honesty is greater than the facade of perfection (most of the time the hard way!). Confession is the catalyst for healing in relationships while denial creates distance. This can be said of our relationship with our heavenly father, our spouse, our children or our close friends. Fathers, you are the chief disciplinarian in the home. No I’m not saying you are the only one who should spank Junior or send him to timeout, but the buck stops with you. That role is a double-sided coin though. You also should be ready and willing to admit, when you screw up. When you respond in anger, or do things you shouldn’t, you are provided with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate repentance and discuss our need for Gods grace and forgiveness. The family will follow your lead and the atmosphere will be one of trust and growth instead of hypocrisy and pride.
- I admire the prophet Isaiah’s response to God’s call for action. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). I wish I could say I respond the same way when God asks me to do something, but fear and hesitation always seem to be lurking.
Sometimes we elevate the men and women in scripture to super human status. Through the power of God they did some amazing things, but many of them were terrified at the tasks they were asked to perform. Everyone wasn’t as eager to go and answer the call as Isaiah was. Moses was worried about his speech impediment and if the people would believe God had sent him (Exodus 3). Gideon doubted God could use him to save the Israelites until God proved it to him not once, but twice! (Judges 6) Jonah was so afraid to go to Nineveh that he went the other direction and subsequently was swallowed by a big fish…BUT God still used him. In fact God did great things through all these men when, in spite of their fear, they obeyed God. Then and only then did they “make the play.” Then and only then did they display true courage.
We all have fear and doubt. We doubt if we can be loving fathers, faithful husbands, or committed Christians (remember Peter?). The truth is, YOU can’t do any of these things alone. BUT because Christ has changed who you are on the inside, you CAN make the play in your marriage, as a dad, and in your Christian life. His spirit is within us giving us all we need do what everyone (including us) thinks we can’t. (2 Peter 1:3) He has made us courageous. Remember Satan is the father of lies and he would love nothing more than to fill us with unfounded disbelief and worry, keeping us from what God has for us. Is there something God is urging you to do, or someone you know you should spend time with? Are your relationships out of balance? Are you afraid to share your faith? Are you walking down the wide road because you’re afraid of the commitment and rejection the narrow road may bring? Have you shied away from your role? Are you afraid to be vulnerable before Him? Or maybe you’re afraid of being like the men in the Bible who courageously stepped up to the plate and chased God with reckless abandon.
As a football team, I hope we incorporate Mr. Justice’s keys for success into our DNA and that they propel us to new heights this season. As men, I hope we use these three keys to unlock the closed doors in our lives that separate us from our ultimate goal: becoming more like Him.