I graduated from Opelika High School in 1956. My Dad was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Opelika for 15 years. My formative teenage, college, and seminary years were spent in Opelika.
I had heard so much about the new high school and the sports facilities at Opelika. I played football, basketball and tennis there. I was driving back from Atlanta recently and called the head football coach Brian Blackmon and he arranged to give my son Si and me a tour. Wow! Opelika has just completed an indoor practice facility for football. It fits in beautifully with the nice stadium which seats about 9,000 people. They also have a new basketball arena.
The new indoor football facility is state-of-the-art. During halftime the Opelika football team can come into a large area with a huge screen and important plays can be projected and individual players can see exactly where they did something well or made a mistake. It also has a state-of-the-art weight room and locker room. Most college teams would be envious of the facilities.
The most impressive thing about Opelika High School is not all of the new facilities, but the passion which the coaching staff has for teaching more than just football. They outlined the process that they use to teach strong character. They spend time every day focusing on character building. You can’t participate in sports if you do not follow the character building disciplines that are expected of athletes in Opelika.
But then I learned something very interesting. That attitude permeates the entire high school. The first fifteen minutes of each day are dedicated to character education! Every student is exposed to a curriculum about character. On each Friday there is a test that each student must take.
I inquired about who initiated the curriculum and the emphasis school-wide. Guess who? The Head Football Coach Brian Blackmon. Now that is doing more than just coaching football – it is coaching young men and women to be good citizens, parents, neighbors, etc. Go to my website
www.johnedmathison.org and read the blog I posted on December 10, 2012, about Coach Blackmon.
Coach Kenny Prescott was extremely proud of the facilities and the accomplishments of the football program. He proudly said that he had been a part of the coaching staff for 14 years. He was “the old man” on the staff. He spoke with enthusiasm about the results of the development of the young men and women in the athletic program.
In a sports dominated world, we need to remember why we have sports – to help young people develop their God-given athletic abilities, and to teach them how to be real winners in life – not just on the athletic field. The real test of a good coach is not how many wins he/she has on the field, but how many wins are evident in the lives of the young people that coach touched. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our education was based on that kind of criteria?
It reminded me that we need to thank coaches and teachers who are making a difference in the lives of our youth. I have had the opportunity to speak to a lot of coaches’ events through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I will be speaking at a conference this summer for coaches and their families. I want to thank them, encourage them, and challenge them to the awesome opportunity before them.
Thank a coach, a teacher, or an administrator today who made a difference in your life.
My alma mater has great facilities – but it has a greater vision of what teaching, coaching, education, and life are really about!