More Than a Game

Sports Teach Lifelong Lessons

This is an exciting time of year filled with hope and promise as students begin a new school year. It’s also a season that brings people together to cheer on their favorite football team. There is something unique about the enthusiasm for the sport that shapes the identity of schools, communities and fans. Like many Arkansans, I know firsthand how athletics builds character and teaches lifelong lessons that extend beyond the field.

Growing up in Fort Smith, I looked up to Razorback players and coaches and watched games on Saturdays. Having the opportunity to suit up in Hogs gear under legendary Coach Frank Broyles was a dream come true. 

Outside of family, the people who had the greatest influences on my life were coaches and teachers. Perhaps none more so than Coach Broyles. Coach Broyles had a great ability to attract good people to surround himself with, and he made them better. Since he had so many assistant coaches come through the program that went on to do great things in football, the award given to the best assistant coach in college football is now named after him. 

He was a great mentor for his staff and the athletes he recruited.

Coach Broyles was fond of saying “there are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. Live your life as a giver, not a taker.”

I have carried that bit of wisdom with me throughout my life and certainly while serving Arkansans in the Senate.

In a recent episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast, we talked about how sports teach us to work as a team. On the field players learn quickly that by working together you can achieve great things, but it requires cooperation and the participation of all team members. 

It’s a practice coaches share that also translates off the field.

When I was first elected to Congress to represent the Third District of Arkansas in 2001, I became friends with Congressman Tom Osbourne who was representing a district in Nebraska.

Prior to serving in Congress, Tom was one of the winningest head coaches in collegiate football history. He coached Nebraska teams to 13 conference championships, three national championships and earned a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

He understood that this life we are given is about more than personal accomplishments. He felt compelled to give back and thought the best way to use his talents was to serve in the House of Representatives.

The old football player in me sought out the Coach for counsel when I got to Washington.

He provided a wealth of advice, but perhaps the best lesson he taught me was that, even in a place like Washington, you can get a lot accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.

There is so much truth in this insight. We are stronger and smarter as a team. When each person brings their individual talents to the table we can change things for the better and celebrate the victories together.

As the 2023 football season kicks off, I wish all players, coaches and fans a great season, and I encourage all of us to remember the valuable lessons learned on the field are just as important after the final whistle blows.


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