By John Croyle
Having had the chance to play college football at the University of Alabama for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, I got to watch a well-oiled machine in operation. We would practice hard Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then on Thursday, we would go over the final game plans. Friday was a chill and relax day before game day Saturday—time to put into motion all the hours of practice and preparation.
Game day in so many ways was the easiest day of the week. Thankfully, we won most of our Saturday contests and won the National Championship my senior year in 1973. Most every guy would go out with friends after the game and relax knowing that on Sunday afternoon there would be a film review and evaluation of Saturday’s performance. Then came Monday and getting ready to move on to the next week’s opponent.
As we reviewed film on Sunday afternoon, the grading system that Coach Bryant used was very simple. You would get one of three scores: a plus (+), a minus (-), or an ungradable (U) on every play. If you were involved in a particular play and you did your job, you obviously received a plus. If you were involved in a particular play and you did not do your job, you would receive a minus. If there was a play and you were not involved in the outcome, you would receive an ungradable. If you got an ungradable (U) instead of a plus or minus, this signified you did not help the team win nor did you cause them to lose. You were a member of the team, but you did not contribute either way.
I remember many times trying to get the assistant coach to change an evaluation of minus to ungradable so that my final grade could be higher. This was so important because if you “graded out” as a winner (60 percent or higher), you were able to eat steak, lobster, or prime rib every night at the Winner’s Training Table (the dining hall in the training room) while everyone else had just plain ordinary meals in the general dining hall. Obviously, you wanted to be able to eat at the Winner’s Training Table.
Our job as parents can also be graded on a similar scoring system—with one obvious difference. There are going to be certain days (plays) where you win and get a plus. Unfortunately, there are also going to be plays where you lose and get a minus because you didn’t do your job. But the one big difference that you and I as parents have to be sure of is that there will never be a day when we get an ungradable. We’re not just a member of the team with no involvement in certain plays. We must fight every day to try to win the hearts, minds, spirits, and souls of our children. We have to help them learn how to win and learn how to lose. We cannot take a day off. We cannot say, “Well, I was there every day.” That’s not enough.
Where would you “grade out” as a parent if you used this scoring system? Do you strive to have as many pluses as you possibly can and minimize the minuses when you fail? (And you will have those days.)
Let’s strive to score a plus every day! Don’t settle for even one minus—go for 100 percent in the plus column. Your children are counting on you. Every day is game day, and we all want our children to win!