Happy Father’s Day to my amazing Daddy. My first love.
Written January 19, 2016
Everyone knows one thing about Texas, everything is bigger in Texas. I cannot think of anything bigger than Texas High school football. Friday Night Lights. This was my life. You see, my dad is a Texas high school football coach and has been for 35 years. I was born into a lifestyle that is very unique. There is nothing I loved more than being the daughter of a coach. I am the woman I am today because of the father I had. I can never thank him enough for this.
Our life wasn’t easy and was not glamorous, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. All I have ever known is football and going to football games. In fact, I never missed a football game that my dad coached until I went off to college. I remember getting to ride the bus as a little girl with my daddy to games. I wasn’t spending my weekends and summer days playing every day with friends or doing girly things. My Friday nights and Saturday afternoons were spent on a football field and my summer days were spent in a field house. While my dad worked, I would set up a space in the field house as my “office” or my “school room” and live out all my imaginations. The smell of sweat, dirty socks and grass will always provide an odd sense of comfort. Eventually, when I got to high school, I had the joy of cheering my dad on from the sidelines. I loved being a high school cheerleader for my daddy’s teams. Granted, it wasn’t always fun or “cool” having my dad in the same school or having every single coach watching my every move, but having him there were some of my best memories I have from high school. I certainly did not have boyfriends in high school either. I think every single guy was probably too scared to even look my way. The best part has been in recent years. I have had the privilege of going with my own precious family to see Big Da’s football games.
The passion in my heart for life and my career was fueled by living as the daughter of a football coach. My dad has always been extremely passionate about coaching. I can think of many games watching his reactions on the sidelines. Many times I was afraid he may have a heart attack from screaming so loudly or getting so excited when his players did something amazing. He left nothing on the field. He has always poured out his heart in everything he has ever done.
To some, football and even sports is general is about winning and losing. I learned from my dad that while winning in football is important and fun, winning in life is everything. In life there will be times we lose, but we learn from those losses. We learn that we cannot accomplish true victory in our own strength. Ultimately, we are already winners because through our faith in Jesus Christ, we have won the ultimate championship game and will spend eternity with our Savior in heaven. The rest is just icing on the cake. We can’t take our trophies with us to heaven. Kingdom perspective.
”Lead a life worthy of our calling, for we have been called by God.” (Ephesians 4:1)
My dad was called to be a coach. He was a very successful athlete himself, so it was only natural with his God-given athletic ability and leadership skills that he would be a coach. As a coach, he won several state championship games. Those were some of the best days of our lives. He was not called to just to teach young men how to play football or how to win games, although he did both very well. He was called to teach young men how to win the game of life, how to be successful in life and how to be successful young men. There were so many guys that the only honorable man in their life was my dad. I can remember growing up, every Wednesday night, the entire defensive team would be at my house. My mom, sister and I would come home from church to a house full of teenage boys. They were spread out through our little house either playing dominos or cards, watching MTV or in my room playing Nintendo. I would just jump right in and join them. Every Wednesday night, my dad would cook a feast for dinner and invite his defensive players over for a time of fellowship. At the time, I just thought my dad was cool for doing this. Now as an adult, I see that this was so much more. He was the only father figure many of them had. That one meal may have been the only true home cooked meal they had all week and man was it a feast. My parents did not have a lot of money. I never put those pieces together at the time, but what they did every single week was a huge sacrifice financially. It is not cheap to feed 20-30 guys a week, especially on a coach’s salary. They not only sacrificed their money, but they sacrificed their home and their time. My parents showed us that making sacrifices were required in order to serve others. By giving of ourselves, we gained so much more than we would have ever if had just sat on the sidelines and watched. Kingdom perspective.
“Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
Being a coach’s daughter also taught me to see everyone as equal. It did not matter what color you were, how much money you had or how smart you were. Anyone was welcome in our home. There was no fear of being judged in our house. My father taught us how to live out the gospel. He taught us a person is not defined by their color, educational level or social status. We are all one. We are all sons and daughters of the One who created us all. As an adult in today’s world, I am incredibly thankful for these truths that were instilled in me as a young child. Jesus called us to love one another just as He loved us. My daddy lived this out in an amazing way. He showed us how to love people with all that we have. Kingdom perspective.
“God has given me this special ministry of announcing his favor to you.” (Ephesians 3:2)
As adults, we all have a job of some sort. We are all called to something. But not all of us consider our job as a ministry. The Lord strategically places us in positions to share the gospel with others. So many of us believe that sharing the gospel means preaching to someone or having a formal bible study. Then we shy away from doing this because we feel inadequate to do so. For me, I learned that sharing the gospel means being Jesus to others. It means loving them, feeding them, helping them without any conditions or reservations. Just like Jesus would have done. My daddy taught me that a job is more than a means to an end and is more than a paycheck. He showed me it is a way of life and more importantly an opportunity to forever change the lives of others. There are many sacrifices involved but when we live out the life God intends for us and use the gifts he alone has given us, our lives matter. Our job is about more than money or fame, but the mark we leave in the lives of others can forever change their path. The world tells us to focus on the things of this world and to satisfy our own souls, but the Lord calls us to so much deeper. My daddy showed me how to live in the world but to not be of the world.
I now have the honor of working with children and families affected by heart disease. Just like my daddy, the Lord has given me unique gifts and placed me on a path to have the opportunity to work with this special population. In my line of work, some days we win and some days we lose. But the game is much different. In my job, lives are healed and lives are lost. But, I get to love others like Jesus did. I have the privilege to make a difference in the lives of so many, just like my daddy did. I get to remind others of the truths of the bible and point them to Jesus. My daddy taught me that in giving of myself, I will gain everything. It won’t be easy, but the Lord promises us it will be worth it. Kingdom perspective.
“The battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
This scripture represents the most important truth I learned from being the daughter of a coach. You see, my daddy taught me that the Lord will fight for me. I can do nothing apart from Him. Six months ago, at the age of 34, I was diagnosed with a very rare form of ovarian cancer. My daddy has always been one of my biggest supporters. Now the tables were turned. It was now my turn. I wasn’t cheering him on from the sidelines, instead I was fighting the game of life. In fact, this was the largest and most terrifying game of my life. It was my daddy’s turn to cheer me on from the sideline.
Without evening knowing it, the Lord had already prepared me for this battle in countless ways. It wasn’t always the lessons my parents told my sister and I that made the bigger impact. It was the lessons we learned from watching how they lived out their faith. They showed us how to follow Jesus. Just as the saying goes, actions are louder than words. It was growing up as the daughter of a coach that prepared me in numerous way to fight for my life. It was determination, courage, and most importantly faith that carried me through my journey. I am now cancer free. I have won this particular game. But as my daddy always told me, winning is important but it isn’t everything. We will win some and we will lose some. I will have to fight hard and it will hurt, but just as the Lord promises us in his word, it will be worth it.
Thank you Lord for allowing me to be the daughter of a coach. Thank you Lord for giving my dad the best assistant coach, my mother. I am forever grateful to my coaches for the lessons they taught my sister and I. So many times playing sports, I heard my daddy say “Keep your eye on the ball”. This was true and necessary to being successful in playing sports and winning games. But the most important thing my daddy showed me is to keep my eyes on Jesus. This is the ultimate truth and necessary to winning in life.
All for His glory. Jesus, it’s all for you.
Holly Tomlin (daughter of David Thomas)