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In part two of the Inspiring Athletes interview with Gene Chizik, the Auburn head football coach talks about the importance of family, what he expects out of the 2011 season and what he hopes people take away from his book All In:
Bonham: There’s a lot of cynicism amongst the fans and the media these days due to the college football scandals. Do you understand why that cynicism exists but at the same time maybe bristle at the fact that there’s an assumption that all of the big, successful programs must be cheating to get ahead?
Chizik: I don’t try to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what everybody’s opinion is about everything. I know that we try to educate our players to the best of our ability and make sure they’re doing the best job making choices. At the end of the day, as you educate them and do your best to make sure they’re compliant with all the rules, they have to make the right decisions themselves. I’m not focused on what the outside world’s opinion is about that. We’re just trying to spend every day trying to educate our guys.
Bonham: Does your faith and what you stand for make it even more important for you to do things with integrity?
Chizik: I don’t live it or do it for that reason. I do it because it’s what I choose to do and it’s what I think is the right way. Obviously when you’re a head coach at a major university, eyes are on you all the time just like they’re on your players. It’s important that you are trying to do things the right way. That will always be the case.
Bonham: I enjoyed the fact that your wife wrote the afterword of your book. You really can’t understate the importance of having a strong companion supporting you in the high-pressure position that you’re in.
Chizik: Oh absolutely. It’s imperative that you have a strong family, that you have a wife that understands, that can be with you every step of the way, and children who sacrifice so much from their dads when we do what we do. The family element, which again is so important in my life, is an extremely big part of what we do, and if your family isn’t all in, so to speak, it’s hard to do what we do. That’s really important.
Bonham: How important are organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes and local church ministries to your personal growth as a believer?
Chizik: It’s extremely important to have that as a resource for us as coaches if that’s what we choose, and for our players if that’s what they choose. Again, for us at Auburn, we’ve got a great team chaplain in Chette Williams. It’s a huge part of what we do, again, it being a resource for our young guys if they want it.
Bonham: How much pressure is there to meet the expectations placed on your program after winning a national championship?
Chizik: Well, there’s always pressure in the SEC to win. There’s pressure in any job to win. There’s a high expectation out there and, although we lost a lot of players and we’re going to be playing with a lot of young ones, our standard hasn’t changed and our goals haven’t changed. That is to win a championship. That will always be our goal and our standard. That hasn’t changed. It won’t change. The pressure of winning in college football is there for everybody. But again, we try to stay focused on things we can control and that’s preparation and what it takes to win.
Bonham: Was the successful season personally vindicating in light of those who originally didn’t think you were the right coaching hire or was it more of a confirmation that God had you in the right place at the right time?
Chizik: I don’t live my life trying to feel vindicated by success or proving people wrong or any of that. I feel blessed to be in the position that I’m in and that’s how I live my life.
Bonham: What are some of the key themes you want people to take away from reading your book?
Chizik: If you read the book, I talk about how everybody has their own 5-19 season of life. That could be the loss of a job, the loss of a spouse, the diagnosis of an illness—something where the outside world looking in may say, “Wow. It’s going to be real difficult to overcome that. I don’t know how you’re going to do it.” This is a book of encouragement and a book of hope for people that are going through their own 5-19 season. Keep believing. Keep the faith. Set a plan and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t accomplish it.
Bonham: Obviously you understand how the business works and that coaching jobs are never guaranteed for life. So how important is it for you to have that healthy perspective or perhaps even an eternal perspective of what you’re doing as a head coach?
Chizik: Oh absolutely. Day in and day out, we all know that we have to win ballgames, but at the end of the day, I want to make sure I’m making an impact on young guys’ lives. You know in this business that, like I said in the book, you could be at a place one more year or you could be at a place 20 more years. You don’t know how that’s going to unfold, but God’s always got a plan for you. So whatever that plan is, it will unfold the way He wants it to and in His time.
Click HERE for part one of the Inspiring Athletes interview with Gene Chizik.