My 10 ‘Men’tors – #9, Darrell Sutherland

Darrell Sutherland is the head football coach at Bartram Trail High School, and the only coach BT has ever had. When I played for him for 2 years (2000-2001), I realize I learned a lot, and the way he led and coached impacted the way I would coach 7 years later.

Football is by nature a violent game played by large men. High school football not as much, but when you play in a hotbed like Florida, they’re plenty big and fast enough. The pressure to win is big, and can really wear on a person. Many choose to do whatever it takes to win, and pass that pressure on to their players.

What Coach Sutherland did, and has done for hundreds of young men since, is provide an emotionally safe environment for young men to continue to go out and play a game, and the coaching expertise to teach them to play it well.

This applies to almost anything we can do in life. Many of our jobs, relationships, even hobbies are under pressure, and people rely on the managers to get the job done. Do you transmit that pressure, or allow it to be transformed through your beliefs and coaching? In addition, we need to provide the support and instruction that helps others do their jobs well.

Here are 5 other lessons I learned from Coach Sutherland

You Need to Care about the Ones You Lead – Beyond our role as players, Coach cared about us as students and people. He checked up on our grades, helped us find tutors, and has been an active leader in the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes group since he arrived. He cared about the the whole person, not just what you could do on the field.

You Can be Passionate without the Vulgarity – If you’ve watched a college football game lately, you may have noticed there is a good amount of cursing coming from the coaches. Now, that’s just a way they get fired up, show their passion, and it works to motivate some players. I’m not going to get in to the morals of bad language, but I can respect a coach that can get his point across, and show his excitement without dropping f-bombs.

A Man Who Stays – I don’t know if Coach Sutherland has been offered other jobs, frankly, I’d be shocked if no one has tried to pluck him from BT. The guy has taken a small school in the sticks of Jacksonville to the playoffs 11 out of 12 years on the job, coached several D1 athletes, and headed one of the most successful offensive attacks in the state many of those years. Yet he has stayed. Stayed despite some personal attacks, other jobs, and probably more pay. He has stayed because his family is happy in their home, and because his job is important. Coach Sutherland has not fallen in to the routine of chasing the next job, the bigger role, and more money. And we all benefit from that commitment.

Stands for What He Believes – As I said before, Coach is a strong christian and active leader in the school’s FCA. He came under fire a few years ago for his beliefs, for praying with players, and whether or not that was his “role”. It was quite a process, but throughout it all, Coach Sutherland stayed firm in his beliefs. Another important aspect is that he also believed that he did not have the right to attack others in response. It would have been easy to do that, but he turned the other cheek, and kept living and coaching as he has been called.

Integrity – This trait really integrates all of the others. Coach Sutherland has taken all of his beliefs, experience, successes, failures, and passions, forming them in to the whole man he has become. I’m sure it’s been a wild ride at BT, he came to us from Virginia, and made his home in Northeast Florida. He is a pillar of the community and someone people could rely on to take care of their sons, teaching them about more than just football, but life.

Thanks again Coach, it takes a while for your ex-players to integrate all we’ve learned, but I know there are many like me who feel the same.

So Coach Sutherland, please keep coaching, leading, and teaching. We need it!

10 ‘Men’tors is a series of posts I’m writing to recognize the men who have impacted me through their involvement in my life. Read the others here

Be Heard!  Who has been a mentor in your life? What kind of impact have they made in your development? Please share in the comments, but mostly make sure they know how much their mentoring means to you!


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