What life lesson in Bleachers by John Grisham is relevant today?

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A relevant life lesson from Bleachers is that a coach should teach their players to be more than wins and losses.

Coach Rake was responsible for tremendous success. This is seen in his win-loss record, unmatched number of championships, and the way he transformed football in Messina. His intensity translated to his players, some of whom credit the coach with their being able to face down life's challenges.

However, it is clear that a number of his players were damaged through Coach Rake's approach to the game. Coach Rake valued success on the field more than anything else. As a result, he created a system where his players struggled to understand the demands of life away from it:

You count the years until you get a varsity jersey, then you're a hero, an idol, a cocky bastard because in this town you can do no wrong. You win and win and you're the king of your own little world, then poof, it's gone. You play your last game and everybody cries. You can't believe it's over. Then another team comes right behind you and you're forgotten.

Neely enhances this when he wishes that he "never saw a football." Coach Rake encouraged a system that shielded athletes from the reality of the world. They embraced his singular focus on football. This entitlement helped make some of them unable to fully cope with the reality of life when their time on the gridiron had passed. Coach Rake defined his players' lives in terms of success in football being the only metric that mattered. Even if only one player suffers from this condition, it means that Coach Rake failed his athletes. The dangers of this metric are evident in how Coach Rake's methods led to Scotty Reardon's death. Such an instance immediately provokes reevaluation of Coach Rake's approach.

I think that this emphasis on the game being more important than life outside of it is where we see Coach Rake as myopic. The role of a coach should transcend their sport. Their purpose is to lead. Especially in youth sports, a coach should use the game to teach lessons about life. Wins and losses are important. However, the coach's true responsibility is to prepare their athletes for life outside of the game. When Paul says that "another team comes right behind you and you're forgotten," it is an indictment of the world that Coach Rake created. Nothing can justify a coach whose players feel left behind or incapable of dealing with the world that awaits them once their playing days are done. Little can justify the death of a child under a coach's watch. Recognizing the limitations of Coach Rake's worldview is a very relevant life lesson from Bleachers.

In a world where so much of youth sports hinges on wins and losses, a life lesson from Bleachers is that there has to be more. Coaches must recognize that their job is to make athletes better people. Coaches must remind their athletes that no matter what happens on the field of play, they will be loved and that their job is to take that love with them into the outside world. Their ultimate job is to ensure that the young people they take under their wing become better people first and improved athletes second.

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