Sunday, December 22, 2019

19 for 2019: No. 3 and 4—Coaching Crush

Two coaches, two divisions. One sport, same crush.

Your basic school girl/school boy crush isn't what it used to be. Yes, there will always be the first crush and potentially your worst crush, but now there is the man crush, the girl crush (which became a monster hit by country music artist: Little Big Town)  and I would like to add to the mix. I have a full blown, unadulterated coaching crush on the man I hope will be coach of the year: Mike Tomlin.
The seeds of this crush were planted when I watched HBO State of Play
A deeply personal look at another side of professional sports, the fourth film focuses on the challenges of balancing the pursuit of professional success and family obligations.  FIRST LADIES focuses on three couples whose vows shape their decisions on the field and at home.  What role has each of these spouses played in her family's success? Profiled are Mike and Kiya Tomlin, Kevin and DeLana Harvick, and Scott and Megan Lenhoff.  Mike Tomlin is head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kevin Harvick drives a racecar on the NASCAR circuit, and Scott Lenhoff is head football coach at Steele High School in Cibolo, Tex.
Both Tomlins emerged as hardworking, engaging and dedicated to their craft and to one another. 

Coaches are inherently competitive people. It's easy to get jealous of their success or envy their situation. But what Tomlin has done with this year's team demands respect and admiration. Bill Cowher, the coach Tomlin succeeded in Pittsburgh prior to the start of the 2007 season, believes that this has been Tomlin's best coaching season to date. Agreed. Let the crush rage on.

Go west and head to the NFC and it's hard not to notice Forty Niners Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh. He looks like defense and he means it; safe to say that Saleh eats D for breakfast as the Niners will play next week for a first place standing in the NFC playoffs. 
The reason I want to profile Saleh, extends far beyond the coaching crush. Saleh is a graduate of Fordson High School. I am familiar with the Tractors of Fordson High and feel as though I know it well because the school in Dearborn Michigan is the subject of the movie, "Fordson: Faith, Fasting and Football." 

I use this film in Sports and Spirituality for the way it demonstrates spiritual and religious discipline—inside and outside of athletics. My students find it meaningful and interesting. It is often mentioned as a highlight of the course, as noted by my student Sarah. 
I really appreciated having the opportunity to learn about Fordson High School: their school, love for football, and balance between typical, teenage life with their sport.  
When we watched this movie, it was at a time when football ended for the Saint Francis seniors. It was special for me to watch that movie with the players that I have come to know the past three years. We were able to joke around about similarities within the Fordson team and ours, ultimately lifting our moods about our recent finish.   
I also loved being able to see football from a high school in a completely different state. Football is a national sport. It is not just here. Sometimes, it is too easy to forget that Californian teams are not the only teams in the United States. We often are unable to actually see football in other places–football we relate to and can feel an intense connection to–but this gave us a glimpse into the outside world.  
One thing that I found beautiful about their story was their dedication to following their  religion. It is easy in high school settings to succumb to the pressure of fitting in. These boys—the vast majority of who are Muslim— were diligent in following their beliefs and customs, so much so they rose above the disapproval and left it all on the field. Their strength, the support of the school officials, and the love between the boys and their coaches was wonderful. Ultimately, I very much enjoyed learning their story.
I first paid close attention to Saleh, when the Niners defeated the Rams 20-7 in the LA Coliseum on October 13, 2019. He certainly models the intensity and focus he asks of his players...and he was on the sidelines. I looked up his background and when I read "from Dearborn" I knew it had to be. Watch "Faith, Fasting and Football" and it all makes sense.

Great people, great profiles for 2019. #CrushThat

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