Throughout my football career, my favorite coach—the one who impacted me the most—was my father. Throughout little league and high school, the way my father coached me left an impression on me that will never fade.
I saw a different side of my dad when he became my coach. On the field, he wasn’t dad, he was coach. The best father-coaches are the ones who don’t make exceptions for you just because you’re their son. If I messed up, I knew I’d be running a lap just like anyone else on my team. It humbled me to know that even if I was more talented or had more athleticism than my teammates did, I still had to work just as hard in order to play. I also knew I wasn’t the only one working hard, which pushed me even more. I never wanted to be outworked.
My dad taught me discipline. He taught me, even at the age of six when I began playing football, that hard work pays off. If you talk to anyone in the NFL who has played on a team with me, I know they would tell you I have a strong worth ethic. This is greatly due to my dad’s teaching. I grew up with the mindset that everyone has talent. I knew there may be people who would have more talent than I did, but if I worked hard enough, I could be even better.
The only way to get better and grow stronger is to be teachable. I try to be humble in everything because I haven’t—and will never—arrive at perfection. If there are coaches and teammates who are able to see something in me that needs to be worked on, I want to learn from them. Many times, people who are on the outside looking in can notice things you can’t. It’s important to be humble and approachable enough to take criticism and work on improving your game.
The same principle applies to my walk of faith. It’s important to be motivated to read God’s Word and grow closer to Him but it’s also important to hang around other like-minded Christians. By surrounding myself with Godly men, I know I will be held accountable. We all have days when we don’t feel like going to Bible study or waking up to get in the Word, and it’s a blessing to have someone near me who is willing to say, “Man, what are you doing? Come on, let’s go.”
As we read in Proverbs, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Since I’m now in my 10th season in the NFL, there are younger guys who are coming into the locker room who were only 10-12 years old when I started my pro career. They look to me for advice, and I try to be there for them whenever they come to me, or when I see something that I may be able to help them with both on or off the field. Many players have shared their experience and knowledge with me throughout the years, so now I also try to give younger guys nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned along the way. I’ve been in their shoes. I know what they’re going through or may go through soon. I’ve seen it all before, so I try to help them when the warning signs appear.
Some don’t want advice; some won’t be coachable. But those who are too prideful to accept advice will eventually come back and realize they can’t go at it alone. When you show others you are there for them, humbly desiring to help them get better, you earn credibility to speak truth to them. In turn, they will then be able to coach the next wave of guys who come into the league—it’s a ripple effect.
You have the chance to leave a lasting mark. Be teachable, be coachable, and be willing to help others along the way.
Matt Forte is a running back with the New York Jets and a regular contributor of The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.