Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Talk Is Cheap"

Sam DillardSomeone once said that "what you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say." I have always heard that line issued in the pejorative about someone who talks a good game but is possessed of a failed character. It isn't often that we run into someone whose character works the other way. Sam Dillard is just such a person. He was not a man of many words. He didn't try to impress anyone with his knowledge or status. But his character spoke volumes. He just tried to walk the walk. And he was awfully good at walking.

In 1977 Sam Dillard walked out of Evangel University and onto the playing fields of Cincinnati Christian High School where he, without any previous soccer experience, became the soccer coach. Thirty-one years later, Sam won yet another award for his coaching prowess in the the Miami Valley Conference. "True to form, he accepts that award in front of all these league peers of his, and instead of talking about himself or his season, the only thing he talked about was God," [CCS Superintendent] Dan Bragg said. "He was all about administering and discipling kids. Soccer was just something he did. He wanted to make sure kids grew up with character and discipline and became better people for being part of his program."

That is an understatement.

You could often see Sam Dillard's lips moving when he did the "Sammy Shuffle" around the soccer field. But Sam wasn't talking to himself. He was praying.

You could often see Sam Dillard speechless after a big game -- speechless because he couldn't make himself talk through the flood of emotion he was experiencing. Sam wasn't sad for having lost, and he wasn't elated for having won, he was speechless for being so honored as to serve Christ through the medium of sports -- for making young men good athletes but, more importantly, good men.

You could often hear Sam Dillard giving motivational speeches to his teams. But he wasn't motivating them toward athletic honors or achievement -- he was motivating them to put Christ at the center of everything they did. If they did that, he told them, they would win the game of life. Sports was just an add-on.

You can read about those he touched here but let me summarize: Three of my sons played soccer for this man and none of them will ever forget the impact he made on their lives. They don't call me "sir," but they did call Sam that, and that is just fine with me. I can't think of anyone else for whom I would be more honored to yield that respect. Sam Dillard inspired young men to do more than they ever imagined, to impact their world in all the ways that really matter, and to go out and turn that world upside down. If anyone could motivate them to do that, it was Sam.

This year, the Varsity Soccer team had practice shirts made up that said, "Talk is cheap." It's not an original saying of course, but the story behind having that saying put on their shirts came from Sam's interpretation of Proverbs 14:23:

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Sam worked his teams hard for only one reason: He wanted them to earn the respect and riches of a life that reflects the character of Christ. There is only one right way to do that and it doesn't come by just talking about it. It comes through a life well lived -- a life like Sam Dillard's.

Rest in Peace, Sir.

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