As many of you know, I grew up near the small town of Memphis, MO. My two brothers, my sister and I were raised on a farm. It's safe to say that I, along with my siblings, have spent a lot more time at home over the past few months since the passing of our Mother and I can speak for all of us in that we've never appreciated home more than we do now. And while I'll be the first to admit that I couldn't wait to leave the farm, when I graduated from high school, I absolutely love going back to visit now. And even though I moved away from the farm, the farm never "totally" left me. Many of the lessons I learned while growing up on the farm have stuck with me to this day. In fact, as crazy as this sounds, many of those lessons I try to apply in my life as a Coach and hope that I can pass them along to my team.
So, since our team is currently in offseason and soon to be starting preseason conditioning and workouts, here are a few lessons I learned growing up on a farm and how they can apply to athletics (especially the offseason workouts):
1. Clocks not necessary: It's safe to say that my Dad could go through each day without looking at a clock. My Mom or Dad (like ALL farmers) never needed an alarm clock...my Dad to this day still
2. School clothes, Church clothes, Work clothes: The four of us kids were always well provided for...we didn't always get the "wants" when it came to clothes but certainly our "needs" were always provided. And even though we often times wore the pass me downs (Brad's clothes passed down to me and from me on to Kevin...pretty sure Beth wasn't included in this) our clothes were always clean and always ironed nicely. But, growing up on the farm, you did learn that sometimes the school
clothes became chore clothes and sometimes maybe the work clothes needed to be worn to Church if in a hurry (and that was ok). Our athletes today are being trained to be very materialistic. We, here at Arkansas State, are fortunate to have a great all-school contract with Adidas and we pride
3. Toughness: Simply put...you have to be tough to work on a farm. Whether it's 100 degrees out or below freezing the job has to get done. I've witnessed my Dad have to go chop ice in one of the ponds (twice a day) in sub-zero temperatures because the cows needed water to drink. I've seen Mom take a jug of ice water to my Dad while he was on a tractor in the middle of the field during 100+ degree temperatures. Farmers do not work when it's comfortable. I still to this day wonder how my sister Beth survived being raised on a farm especially in a family with three boys. If there's a tougher person in the world than by sister I'd like to meet them...bumble bee stings to the eyes, bicycle wrecks, aluminum doors to grain bins flying open with a gust of wind, barbed wire fences (and electric fences). Farmers are tough...wives of farmers are tough...sons and daughters of farmers are tough. For an athlete to get anything out of preseason workouts they have to be tough. There is no substitute for pushing out of your comfort level and being tough. To be a successful team or athlete you have to be tough.
4. Farmers understand PATIENCE: While you have to practice patience in a lot of professions,
5. Farmers are the most ACCOUNTABLE people: People that are self-employed, and in this case farmers, understand the idea of being accountable. My Dad still to this day rarely takes a day off. My Dad still to this day doesn't have a boss or anyone telling him to go to work. Nobody follows up on a farmer to see if they're doing their job...nobody checks on a farmer to see if things are done properly...nobody checks on a farmer to see if they're putting in enough hours. My Dad has always been accountable for his own success. The ol' saying "you don't work, you don't eat" are words that farmers live by. As a farmer if you don't work hard you won't raise a crop, or your cows will not
6. Farmers know how to deal with disappointments: While I absolutely love my job, I'm guilty (as most coaches probably are) of getting frustrated at times and saying "it's tough making a living
depending on 18 - 21 year olds." Several years ago I made the mistake of saying that to my Dad and he quickly responded "could be worse, your livelihood could depend on whether it rains or not." The point was well taken. So much of being a farmer is out of their control...because of the weather. You can be the hardest worker and you can do everything perfectly as a farmer and some years you may not get rewarded. While it's tough, farmers understand that. I've witnessed the years where the crops were a loss due to a drought. I've seen the years where some of the crops couldn't get planted because of too much rain and flooding. I've seen the years where the crops had an amazing growing season but then almost turned into a loss because they couldn't be harvested because it wouldn't stop raining and eventually the rain turned into snow. But you know what I never saw...I never saw my Mom or Dad give up because of these disappointments. Disappointments are a part of athletics as well. Injuries are going to happen...frustrations are going to set in...there are going to be days where you want to throw your hands up because it's just too hard. But, athletes need to learn from farmers and realize you have to handle disappointments and push through them without giving up.
7. You reap what you sow: While there are certainly a lot of things that are out of control for a farmer the bottom line over time is that "you will reap what you sow." No different for an athlete...all athletes want to win championships...all athletes want playing time and they want to be starters. But
while there are some differences in God-given abilities, more times than not you will "reap what you sow." You will be rewarded (or not rewarded) by how much time and effort you put into your offseason workouts.
8. Farmers never compete against their neighbor: One of the things I've always admired about farmers is how unselfish they are and how in times of need they always pitch in to help one another. Farmers get the true meaning of "community." I've never once heard my Mom or Dad wish bad on a neighbor. Farmers get the idea that they're all in this together...if I have a good crop most likely you'll have a good crop. I've seen first hand neighboring farmers pulling together to