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By Michael Angier

What the Coach Meant by "Being Perfect"

I just watched a movie named "Friday Night Lights." It's based on a book by H. G. Bissinger that chronicles head coach Gary Gaines (played by Billy Bob Thornton) and his winning high school football team (the Panthers) from a small town in Texas.

Now, for those of you who don't live in the southern part of the United States, you have to understand that southern folks take football very, VERY seriously.

One could say there are two religions in the Bible Belt—Christianity and football. And some would say there's no difference between them. Everything is big in Texas and football is HUGE.

The movie follows the coach and his team in their quest of a state championship. Throughout the season, the coach urges his players to "be perfect."

There's a lot of pressure on the Panthers—from parents, from the town fathers, the coaches and from the players themselves. It seems like winning is everything—especially the Texas state championship.

The most inspiring part of the movie for me was the half-time speech Coach Gaines gives his squad in the locker room at the state championship. The Panthers are behind, and they must turn the tide in the second half in order to win.

Only a couple of these players will ever suit up for another football game again. It's an experience they'll remember for the rest of their lives. The competition is tough, and they are far behind.

As if he needed to, Coach Gaines reminds them about all of this. And then he tells them what he means by "being perfect."

I may not have it EXACTLY the way he said it, but I think I have the essence of his inspiring speech: "I want you to know what I mean by being perfect. It's not about that scoreboard out there. It's not about winning. It's about you and your relationship with yourself, with your family and with your friends.

It's about being able to look your family and friends in the eye, knowing that you didn't let them down—because you told them the truth—that you did everything you POSSIBLY could out there. There wasn't one more thing you could have done.

Being perfect is living as best you can—with clear eyes, with love in your heart, with joy in your heart. And it lasts forever. Can you live in that manner? If you can, gentlemen—then you're perfect."

Whether we're playing a game, building a business or raising a family, we would do well to go after all our goals and dreams with that kind of heart—with that kind of commitment.

Action Point
If you're not playing full out, either choose something that's more worthy of your best efforts or recommit to what you're doing. You may want to rate yourself on the go-for-it-scale in each of your endeavors. Whatever you do, resolve to do your best. And "be perfect."





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First published 01/13/2005
Last Updated 01/26/2005