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4.9 out of 5 stars
Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2014
Against the Grain by Bill Courtney is not at all what you first expect when you see the cover. When I first heard about and saw the book I thought, "Oh, it's a football book. I don't get football." That thought could not have been further from the truth.

Against the Grain is a tale of perseverance, hard work, faith in humanity, faith in yourself, leadership, business, and giving it your all, every single day. As I worked my way through the 14 chapters--Bill's 14 tenants on living a successful life--I found the writing, the stories, and the format resonating with me on a personal level.

--The story of the woman who sat outside of the Martin Luther King Jr museum for years in protest of something she believed in strongly;
--The heartbreaking and yet uplifting tale of the football player who paralyzed an opposing player during a game-changing both of their lives forever;
--And the story of sacrifice represented by Bill's business partner in his lumber company.

These were just a few of the real-life examples Bill provides that hit you where it hurts and get you thinking, "I could do more. I could do better." This is not a book that you can walk away from unchanged. Whether you're a sports enthusiast, or you can barely stand sports, it doesn't matter. Bill Courtney's Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love is about life, success, failure, and universal truths we can all understand and relate to.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2014
I was one of the students at Rosemark Academy during Coach Courtney's time there. I count him among the greatest teachers I had at any level of education, elementary through doctoral. He was the man who taught me as an eighth grader how to read a novel, what the "elbow" is on a basketball court, why a "knight on the rim is grim", and gave me a base for developing leadership.

One of the things I really enjoyed while reading Against the Grain was seeing how Billy's thoughts on leadership have coalesced since I knew him in his 20's. Even then as a fresh college grad his focus was on character. Many of the principles he presents resonate with what I'm learning about leadership: the fundamental importance of serving those you lead, the power of grace, the importance of understanding responsibility versus duty.

What gratifies me most about seeing the differences between Coach Courtney at age 22 and Mr. Courtney in his 40s now is this: he developed. It's not that he's a better person now than he was then; it's that he's more effective. He has reflected on his principles and values, he's focused his choices based on those reflections, and he's become more effective at everything he does now. His articulations of those lessons in Against the Grain are his gift to us.

Many of us have heroes from our childhood, and Coach is one of mine. That said, I don't want to be like Billy. His life, as far as I can tell, has always been a ridiculous hurricane of activity and risk that I have no appetite for. I do, however, want to develop like him. I want to take advantage of the privileges I have, the knowledge I've gained, the grace I've been afforded, and the values I've developed. I want to use them to raise my own four children to become Christ followers, to make life a little better for the men and women who work with me, to be a worthy husband, and to fulfill better all of those responsibilities tomorrow than I do today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2014
I loved, loved, loved this book. I was given it by a friend and once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. Bill's tenants and real-life are insightful and illustrate what it takes to be a leader. If you're looking for a great read then get this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2014
I'd actually recommend this book, and even if you're not from the South (like me), you'd read it in a Southern Accent. That's because Bill is humble and honest in his testimony about his own failures and successes. You can hear and understand his own humble beginnings and how he uses his own experiences as teaching points. I read the book after watching Undefeated, which is the documentary he's in. If you watched and liked the documentary, you'd love the book.

Don't think that you need to be a football fan or even understand football to enjoy the book. He just uses football as a way to explain his lessons and wisdom, which makes sense since he IS a high school football coach, after all. If you ever played a sport in high school, the book feels like your old coach is sitting next to you, having a heart-to-heart.

This is a great book and an easy read. Courtney paints a clear, vivid picture accented with his Southern, Football-loving charm. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better and clearer book on defining character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2014
If you are looking for a book that is politically correct and never makes a point-move on because this is NOT that kind of book! This book is full of truths and pearls of wisdom....I got my copy and read the entire book in one night.

Watching the film Undefeated inspired me-and this book put it all into written form.

INSPIRING and a great read....two thumbs up-or in this case 5 STARS!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2014
As a transplanted Memphian I have often wondered about the backstory of some of the traditions and cultures that set Memphis apart from other major American cities. Bill's details about the people, the community and the history of Memphis have enlightened me. This is a great read and I recommend it to anyone in leadership.

Don Glays
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2014
Bill Courtney's story is encouraging as well as motivating to all readers. He has immediate effect simply due to the fact he doesn't just talk about it or write, he DID IT!!! With the direction our schools and society are headed in, there has to be somebody or someone that has to step up and do something about it, and in this book, his focus is that YOU are that somebody! I highly recommend this read and challenge you as well to "Go Against The Grain" in ALL that you do!
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on May 29, 2014
This book was inspirational and will certainly change the way you think about your future decisions when it comes to Family, Work Environment, Politics, our Country, and ultimately the Legacy you want to leave when you're gone. In my opinion, it is a must read for all age groups, gender, and social statuses. It touches on subjects that all members of our society can relate to and benefit from. The stories told by Bill regarding people that shaped his life are truly remarkable - Paralympic athletes, intercity athletes, his step father shooting at him down their hallway, Fred Smith, Dr. West, the Dean of the University of Mississippi, to a homeless lady that fought with everything she had to defend the historical value of the Lorraine Hotel.

Before reading this book, I knew the core principles that drove Bill in his everyday life of coaching and running his business, but it was never exactly clear to me what drove and inspired him. After reading the book, it's perfectly clear. So much can be learned, after reading this book you will be looking at yourself in the mirror and what you see will not the be same as before. You will be taking a closer look at your past, present, and the possibilities for your future.

It's a clear simple message that will forever change your family, work, and the overview of how you lead your life. Through the acts of getting out of your Comfort Zone, Serving, and leaving a real Legacy, not material things that are fought over at a yard sale by total strangers.

"Undefeated" was a touching movie that showed us what the core values of Character, Hard work, Integrity, Selflessness, and Civility can do to a group of kids, being reached on the common ground of football.

"Against the Grain" is a book that echos those same principles, but on a much more personal level that relates to your everyday life, society, and our Country.
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on June 9, 2014
In this book he takes the wisdom he’s gained from several different influential sources in his life growing up and couples that with faith, heart, commonsense and an open minded, no nonsense approach to becoming a better person. Chapter titles like, “The Meaning of Commitment,” “How Leaders Are Defined,” “The Dignity of Hard Work,” and “The Gift of a Legacy” are motivation enough to quickly become a part of what he has to say.

You’ll get the story of several of the football players that have touched his life as well as anecdotes on how he’s handled life situations with his own family, friends and employees. This is a book to show the world that you don’t need to have money, you don’t need to possess fame to be a better person and to touch other peoples lives and to move them. These are teachings for the every-man or every-woman.

Realizing and showing our true character and making a difference is inside of us all and through this book Coach Bill helps to crank the old generator and blow out all the cobwebs and dust to give you his insight on these things. Hopefully we’ll walk away with a better overall view and appreciation for ourselves and what we’re capable of.
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on July 21, 2014
Bill Courtney writes with that winning combination of knowing his subject matter, having some real life experience and knowing how to get his point across through the use of engaging and meaningful life stories. Against the Grain is more than just another book of football stories told by a coach. Bill talks about things that really matter. He talks about living a life of significance, about character, and about the kind of commitment and investment in young lives it takes to really make a difference. He can write about it because he has lived it.
My favorite part of the book is when he explains why he gave up coaching. Like most things in his life, he did it after much thought and the decision was consistent with his values and character. I wish every person who works with young people would read this amazing book.
Mr. Courtney has been to my work place to speak. He is as engaging in person as he is on paper. I would STRONGLY encourage you to invite him to speak at you place of work or your church. He has an important message for all of us. Buy copies of his book and give them to the people in your life you care about.
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