Chapter 7 Summary

I Never Made It to the NFL

Pausch began playing football when he was nine years old and has loved the game ever since. In fact, football helped mold him into the person he is today. Although he did not reach his goal of playing in the National Football League, perhaps he learned more from not accomplishing this goal than he learned from many of the goals he did accomplish.

His father drags him to his first practice, and Pausch does not want to be there. He is a scrawny boy and one of the smallest on the team. The coach is Jim Graham, a former Penn State linebacker. He has old-fashioned ideas about football: he considers a forward pass to be a trick play. All the boys are frightened of this giant man, and they wonder why he has no footballs at football practice. When asked about it, he tells the boys they do not need them because only one out of twenty-two players on the field ever has the football. They are going to concentrate on what the other twenty-one players are doing: fundamentals.

Getting the fundamentals right is the foundation for success in any area of life. Coach Graham is hard on Pausch, and often he has to repeat the drills or stay after practice to do push-ups. One of the assistants explains that this kind of attention is a good thing. If someone keeps “screwing up” and no one says anything, it means others have given up on him. This is a lesson Pausch remembers and has benefitted from in every area of his life. People do not want to hear criticism but the critics are often the people who care and want to help them improve.

Contrary to popular belief, self-esteem is not something that can be given; it must be taught and developed by setting goals and working hard to achieve them—and then repeating the process. Coach Graham helped Pausch, a rather wimpy kid with no skills, realize there are things in life that he cannot do today but will be able to do tomorrow if he continues working diligently. A coach like Graham would probably not be a popular coach today; parents and boys would both complain.

Pausch is discouraged that today’s kids are so coddled. It has been more than twenty years since Pausch has seen Coach Graham, but the lessons he taught Pausch force him to work harder when he feels like quitting—force him to be better. Kids are not generally in organized sports to learn the intricacies of the game; they are there to practice teamwork, perseverance, sportsmanship, hard work, and overcoming adversity. These are the hidden objectives—the vital, lifelong lessons—parents want their children to learn.