Below is an excerpt from my 2012 journal with Saluki Football. It details much of my activity and interaction with the coaches and players during the weeks leading up to the opening day. I hope it is of interest to you and maybe spurs you to creative innovation of ministry strategies.
2012 Saluki Football Journal
Roger Lipe – Team Chaplain
Friday August 3 – This evening I was privileged to speak with the incoming freshmen and other newcomers of Saluki Football. I met them in the locker room after I had hustled back from Kokopelli Golf Club where I had run an FCA Golf Scramble all day. I was introduced by Coach Lennon and after he finished his remarks he left me with the players. There seemed to be over 20 of them gathered in a large circle at the center of the room. I asked them to tell me where they grew up and this gave me an early look at how they would communicate. I simply shared my 18 years with the program, what my responsibilities, goals and values were and the fact that I am here to serve them. I distributed a piece of paper with my contact information on it. It is below.
Saturday August 4 – The veterans reported today and the day was full of check in procedures and such. I came in for the opening team meeting, dinner and then we began a new item for the pre-fall. I interviewed Coach Schweigert at the conclusion of dinner with a few questions aimed at helping the players know their coaches more deeply than just their names and the positions they coach. We will aim to interview two coaches each evening and to add in a person from the support staff as well.
Interview Questions for Saluki Football Coaches:
Various Nights – Interviewed by Roger Lipe or Coach Lennon
1. Please tell us your name, title and the position you coach.
2. Please tell us a little bit about your home town.
3. When and where did you attend college?
4. Share one highlight from either your college football playing career or coaching career.
5. What are some of the qualities possessed by the best players you have coached?
6. Why did you choose coaching football as a career?
As we finished dinner, the interview and then Coach Lennon’s final remarks, the players and I went to the locker room for the first of five Team Building sessions. Our theme this evening was “Family” and the questions I used for discussion and introduction of the seniors are below. The players engaged well as I had them grouped by position group.
The Team - Family – Group Discussions
· Tell us a little about the family in which you have grown up.
· Who were the people in your family for whom you have greatest respect? Why?
· Are there people to whom you’re not blood related, who are like family to you? Tell us about them.
Saluki Football Seniors –
· Tell us your name, your home town, your high school’s team mascot, the position you play, and your uniform number.
· What are some goals you have for the Saluki Football Family this season?
· In your years as a Saluki Football player, who are some of the people who have become like family to you?
· What are some of the factors that turn teammates into brothers?
Sunday August 5 – I was up at 4:30 this morning and out to the stadium a little after 5:00 for this morning’s chapel at 6:00. The turf was wet and the air was heavy after the strong rain and storms overnight. My chapel talk was about “Sacrifice and Commitment” and my text was Luke 9:57-62. I challenged the players with the idea that being a follower of Christ and a college football player is neither comfortable nor convenient and it’s very exclusive. After the chapel talk, they stretched, did some review and then went to meetings prior to the 8:15 practice. I stayed through practice and joined the team for brunch. During that time I was stopped by two players who asked me to pray for family members. QB Matt Vincent’s uncle from Jamaica has been diagnosed with a cancerous lump in his chest. He is in Florida with family presently. Then at dinner, FB Rik Hicks asked me to pray with him for his grandmother who is set to have heart bypass surgery on Tuesday in Carbondale. We prayed together in the concession stand and I made plans to see the family in the hospital tomorrow.
Later in the afternoon I joined the team for dinner and then interviewed Coaches DeBoer and Stepps as well as Head Athletic Trainer Lee Land. The questions we’ll use to interview support staff personnel are below.
Interview Questions for Saluki Football Support Staff:
Various Nights – Interviewed by Roger Lipe or Coach Lennon
Please share this information with our Saluki Football Family:
· Your name, your job title and your number of years at SIU.
· Your responsibilities as related to Saluki Football.
· A story about one of your best days with Saluki Football.
· A story about one of your most challenging days with Saluki Football.
· Why is this role important to you?
· Two or three key values for how you do your job.
Monday August 6 – I was at practice for a while today and then went about the rest of my day. At dinner I checked in with Matt Vincent about his uncle and with Rik about his grandmother. As dinner was winding down, I interviewed Coaches Hedberg and Schmidt as well as Asst. A.D. Mark Scally. After dinner I went to Memorial Hospital in Carbondale and took a copy of “Soul Food Heart Fuel” to the Hicks family. I spent some time with them and could see the relief on their faces. The surgery had gone very well and they expect grandma to be up and walking tomorrow.
Tuesday August 7 – Today’s 8:15 am practice was full of anticipation as they finally got to put on shoulder pads. The drills had another gear and the whole atmosphere was charged with more intensity. I had a team event at which I was the featured speaker for Mt. Vernon High School Football this evening so I missed dinner and Coach Lennon handled the interviews with Coaches Crutchley and Flyger and with Miss Sharon.
Wednesday August 8 – Today’s practice was another one in shells and it seemed to be okay as I was there for the first half hour. I left and picked up Pastor Troy Benitone at his church. We visited coaches at Carterville, Johnston City and Herrin High Schools for their first practices of the season. They and Marion will be at an event we will do together on next Tuesday.
I was back in the locker room at 3:00 for a half hour team building session. Today’s theme was “Thankfulness” and we had a good discussion about that and then introduced the juniors to the team. I had them grouped by uniform numbers today. We finished right on time and released them to their meetings. I went upstairs and spoke with Coach Lennon for a minute as I was struck by a couple of glaring omissions among the answers I heard to the question, “For whom or what are you thankful?” I did not hear a single mention of either a father or a high school coach. I found that terribly disappointing and maybe indicative of how entitled this generation of young men are.
After a dinner of Salisbury steak from Mary Lou’s we interviewed Coaches Myer and Jackson as well as Mike Reis, the voice of the Salukis for 34 years. Mike had some very strong words for the players and I hope they were received and will be remembered.
Thursday August 9 - Today marked the first day of full pads practice and I was at practice for a good while before going on with my day’s work. I met the team at the Arena for dinner and interviewed graduate assistants Cory Wagner and Zac Rudolph as well as Equipment Manager Adam Borts. I had another talk with Rik Hicks as his grandmother had further surgery to repair some internal bleeding.
Friday August 10 – This was the first day of double sessions and the 8:15 am practice was in full pads. I was there for a good while, still working to memorize names and speaking with players and coaches. I had work to do midday so I left pretty early and returned to campus to catch the last 45 minutes of the afternoon practice which was in shells. I was at the team dinner, but we did no interviews.
Saturday August 11 – This morning at 8:15 we had the first scrimmage of the pre-fall in Saluki Stadium. We had officials and a spirited scrimmage. Prior to the start Coach Lennon informed me of Antonio Banks’ departure and the conversation he had with him and his parents. It seems he could not handle being fourth on the depth chart and was not willing to put in the work to climb higher. Coach Lennon handled it very well by calling the parents and by not buying Antonio’s first story as to why he was leaving.
The scrimmage seemed to go well as some players made big plays on both sides of the ball. Some of the young players may be ready to make an impact. After the scrimmage I returned home and made final preparations for Team Building this afternoon.
At 1:30 in the locker room we had Team Building session number 3. Our theme was “Team First.” I handed out copies of a chart I have had for a while of Maslow’s developmental model which details the progression from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious incompetence” to “conscious competence” to finally, “unconscious competence.” The point was that for our team to be at its best, each individual player must be committed to continual development and to a team first mentality that seeks the team’s best over his own. After my talk we broke into groups, interviewed the sophomores and then introduced them to the team. We finished with two minutes to spare and I challenged them at the end to be team first players.
After that was concluded, Sharon and I made a run to Sam’s to buy items for breakfasts and more. We returned and then met the people from Martin’s Catering at the Arena for dinner. At the end of the dinner I interviewed Coach Clete McLeod, Marty Rodgers and Sean Plumlee. After some cleaning up, Sharon and I returned home.
Sunday August 12 – I was up at 5:00 today to finalize my chapel talk which I delivered at 6:00 am. It was a follow up to yesterday’s “Team First” theme and came from Psalm 90 and verses 1 and 12-17. I emphasized that this psalm was the prayer of Moses, one of the greatest leaders in history, but his language was entirely about us and we, not me and I.
After chapel, the stretch and walk through, I joined the players and coaches at breakfast. Sharon and I did some clean up as we finished and then returned home. I attended church and then went to Rent One Park for pre-game chapels with the Miners and the Gateway Grizzlies and prayer with the umpires. I watched a couple of innings of the game and then returned home.
Monday August 13 – Today was an off day for the team, but it included a bowling tournament at the SIU Student Center at 3:00 and Team Building in the locker room at 5:00. Today’s topic was “Loyalty.” My discussion questions invited them to think about a dictionary definition of the word, personal experiences with loyalty being shown them and how they demonstrate it with others. I also asked them about situations which test their loyalty.
I challenged them strongly and said that our team, last year, failed the loyalty test. We had entirely too much second guessing about play calling, who was and who wasn’t on the field and other matters. I told them that although the coaches can’t hear such comments because of their wearing headphones and being focused on the game, I can hear it all. Last year I bit my tongue for the most part, but this year I will not. When I hear that kind of talk on the sideline or on the bus, I will call the person out and stop it. We are a lesser team when this happens and we must be more loyal to coaches and teammates.
We then introduced all the redshirt freshmen and then turned them loose to meet with Coach Lennon for his Head Coach’s Review meeting.
At the close of a wonderful dinner by the Barbecue Heroes, we interviewed Kristina Therriault, Tom Weber and A.D. Mario Moccia. After dinner I drove to the Lake of Egypt to start my annual study retreat.
Wednesday August 15 – I went to the afternoon practice after I wrapped up my annual study retreat and spoke with Coach Lennon and several players. I attended the team dinner and spoke with several players and coaches during that time. No interviews this evening as we had two practices today.
Thursday August 16 – I was at the morning practice and continued to work on memorizing names and numbers. I spoke with Coach Lennon about who we should invite to dinner this evening for our support staff interviews. I sent Sharon a text message and she started making contacts. We wound up having Dan Rohrer and Andy Pettite for the interviews after a dinner by Mary Lou’s Restaurant. It was a little more difficult to interview these two as the p.a. did not work.
Friday August 17 – I attended this afternoon’s practice in total and enjoyed some good conversations with coaches and players as practice was about to begin. They’re ready to be done with camp and to play for real. Tomorrow’s scrimmage may give us some insight as to how ready we really are. After practice, we had dinner by the Barbecue Heroes in the stadium club. During dinner I had a very good conversation with Tanner Crum, Jordan Bowlby and Matthew Griffith.
Saturday August 18 – This morning’s scrimmage went well and after it was over I went home for the afternoon. At 5:00 I took some final breakfast items to the Arena and prepared for Team Building. I met my friend Mike Jessup at the locker room and then went back to the Arena for the final moments of dinner and interviewed Brad Taylor. In Team Building Mike Jessup spoke about sacrifice and commitment in a very strong way and then broke 12 inches of concrete blocks with his forearm. The players loved it and then we interviewed and introduced the true freshmen to their teammates. The Freshman Talent Show followed.
Sunday August 19 – I awoke at 3:30 this morning and then got up at 4:00 and started drinking coffee while I finalized thoughts for my chapel talk. I was at the stadium at 5:15 and walked the field while praying for the team, coaches and individual players as well as some friends around the country.
My chapel talk was taken from Ephesians chapter 4 and verses 1-7. I talked about team unity, stressing three ideas: living a life worthy of being a Saluki Football player, this is about the team and not about you individually and finally I emphasized that each individual is uniquely gifted and that we need each one’s best every day in order to have the best team possible. I wrapped up by saying that these values could allow us to achieve as highly as we can dream.
At 5:00 this afternoon I came to the Arena with the repaired sound system and prepared for the after dinner introductions of the coaches’ spouses. I was a little early so I sat in on the head coach’s review meeting wherein Coach Lennon wrapped up pre-fall camp with his comments. He seemed pleased, but cautious that we still have a ways to go to be fully prepared for the August 30 opener. He mentioned our team GPA for the summer being over 3.0 and dismissed the players to dinner by their summer academic achievements.
Dinner was catered in by Great Boars of Fire and this evening we were joined by the coaches’ wives and children. Each coach introduced his family at the end of dinner. The one painful and awkward situation was the situation with Coach Meyer and his wife. He and I had been talking about the seeming collapse of their marriage since March and Brandi said today that she would file for divorce. Phil has done pretty much all he can to restore and recover the situation, but she was unrelenting. The next months will surely be hard for all concerned.
Wednesday August 22 – There was no practice on Monday as it was the first day of classes and that was followed by the worst practice of the pre-fall on Tuesday. I was there for a few minutes that day and again on Wednesday afternoon. I had a good talk with Coach Lennon today as I watched maybe a half hour of practice from 4:00. We discussed our players’ lack of maturity and the expectations of the team, both internal and external. It’s good that we have another week to prepare for game 1.
Thursday August 23 – We are now 7 days out from our season opener at Eastern Illinois University. I was at practice briefly and then went home to prepare for the SIU FCA meeting we would host at 7:00 p.m.
Monday August 27 – After a long work day and almost 300 miles on the road, I went by practice for a few minutes and then Sharon and I met with dozens of others at Buffalo Wild Wings for the Lennon Live radio show.
Tuesday August 28 – After another long day of meetings and miles I went to practice prior to its 6:30 p.m. start. I had good talks with Coach Lennon, Coach McCleod, a few players and then made my way home. I am excited to make the trip tomorrow and to play on Thursday.