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Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love Hardcover – May 13, 2014
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John Feinstein, sportswriter and bestselling author of A Good Walk Spoiled
"Bill Courtney has nothing to prove to anyone as a football coach, as a businessman and as a human being. But if you want proof that his life has been fascinating, Against The Grain gives you all need. Enjoy the ride."
Praise for Bill Courtney
Yogi Roth, Former QB coach at USC and New York Times bestselling co-author of Win Forever and From PA to LA
The role for a coach is often defined by wins and losses. Coach Courtney is a unique coach who understands that his role is not about a trophy, but about developing the next generation of leaders across the globe.Against The Grain speaks directly to that audience, both young and old, and is a must read for anyone who strives to impact others.”
Pete Carroll, Head Coach of Superbowl XLVIII Champions Seattle Seahawks and New York Times bestselling author
Coach Courtney is an ultimate competitor with a passion for excellence. He continues to be an inspiration to coaches and players all around the football world from high school to college to the pros and also those from off the gridiron as well.”
The star of a new documentary is a leader for our times.”
Phil Jackson, NBA Coach and New York Times bestselling author of Eleven Rings, from the foreword
"His success serves as a moving example of what can happen when people in authority care about others - not just about winning the next game or securing the next client.”
Ron Shelton, director of Bull Durham
"The old fashioned values of Coach Courtney come across as revolutionary in the cynical contemporary world, full of detail and anecdotes worthy of a Southern Preacher, but without the guilt.”
Jeanie Buss, President of the LA Lakers
Sports is not the only realm where coaching counts. Bill Courtney has written a book that demonstrates to the beaten down executive that by peeling down to the values of character, commitment and leadership you can find your way back to a successful business and a meaningful life.”
Pam Shriver, International Tennis Hall of Fame & ESPN Broadcaster
I was as inspired, especially by the chapter on perseverance. Everyone faces adversity and if you persevere through the tough times, you will become resilient which will lead to success. ”
About the Author
Michael Arkush has written 12 books, including Rush! and The Fight of The Century. He and his wife, Pauletta Walsh, live in Oak View, California.
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If you're like most readers, you picked this up after watching Undefeated, the documentary of the 2009 Manassas High School football team that Courtney coached against all odds. You bought this book wanting to know more about Courtney's insights on life and leadership so you could apply them to yourself and your own work. Personally, I am a football coach who was impressed at how much Courtney "gets it" and bought this book hoping looking for new insights into the principles that have guided him to the success he's at.
The book doesn't disappoint on those fronts. Courtney lays out the core values that he emphasizes in his teams and his company: character, commitment, civility, service, perseverance, and leadership; and then elaborates on what each one truly means with examples from his own life and the people he's known throughout his career.
However, there really was not enough content here to justify 200 pages. This could have been a series of short articles for less than half of that, but he apparently had contractual obligations to deliver a 200 page book, so the result is very heavily padded. Instead of one or two brief examples to show the point in action, he'll give 4 or 5 and it's not always 100% clear how they add anything to demonstrate the principle he's trying to show. The examples in the chapter, "Daring to Leave Your Comfort Zone," seem particularly tenuous in their connection to the principle being discussed and seem to say more about the power of chance and unexpected occurrences to happen when you do new things than they do about the value of taking risks in the first place.
In the middle of the book, we get a lot of extended digressions on politics, where he comes off like your uncle at Thanksgiving who gets up on his soapbox to grouse about how welfare and a sense of entitlement is ruining America. I agree with most of the points he makes, but these digressions were the kind of thing a good editor would have cut for being superfluous and they get a little tiresome.
The most disappointing thing, to me, is that Courtney doesn't really spend that much time talking about how to connect with people in the way he does. He's an extremely charismatic guy, and to have one of the biggest problem children on your football team say "I would do anything for you. I would die for you!" in a game as he returns from a suspension you put him on... that is simply incredible! How did he get those kids to buy in to that extent share his passion? Courtney gives us bits and pieces--he talked to the kids about their lives and tried to learn where they were coming from, he focused on being respected rather than liked, he wouldn't let kids throw themselves a pity party or let them feel entitled to anything... but these are just glimpses at what makes him such a great coach and leader. What's his wisdom about THOSE things? That's what I wanted to know, but perhaps like any great artist or craftsman it's something he just can't really explain to someone else.
These criticisms are not to say that the book isn't worthwhile My favorite chapters were the ones about the power of Commitment, Service, and Grace, which are powerful. Courtney isn't pretending to give anyone some revolutionary, original new theory to change his life overnight, nor is he pretending to be some Oprah-friendly guru with all the answers. Courtney is simply a man who's successfully coached football and built a business on conservative principles, and with his recent notoriety he has a forum to share those ideas with an audience who was curious to know more about them. This book reads much like what I imagine spending time on his living room couch talking to the man about what's important and who he admires, and that's just fine.
Bill writes about solid principles that DO NOT change and he does it with amazing sincerity. Coach Bill has challenged me to "step out of my comfort zone" and quit waiting for OTHERS to make a difference.
Entitlement is rampant in our society and it is death to the soul. It has no socioeconomic boundaries. Everyone can suffer from entitlement. Presidents of companies, new grads, even a 47 year old guy who is blessed beyond what he deserves (that is me). Bill writes that if we truly understand grace and forgiveness we want to extend that to others and it is our greatest joy. By the Way, if you've not seen the movie "Undefeated", watch it, and I hope the movie and this book together blesses you as much as they blessed me!!!