Character 1st-Game 2nd

June 28, 2007 — Leave a comment

Tomorrow I’m attending the funeral of a good coach, but a great man.

I met J.D. Hall, the head football coach for Mandarin High School, a couple of months ago and was immediately impressed. It was a Sunday morning and he was with the entire varsity football team. They were at Christ’s Church to present a plaque to our Sr. Minister Dennis Bratton. Every guy was wearing a tie and greeted me with a strong hand-shake, and look in the eye, and a “Sir”.

This was the least of what Coach Hall expected from his team.

In an online report on Coach J.D. Hall, Andrea Butera, a local CBS reporter, wrote this:

When you meet J.D. Hall, the head football coach at Mandarin High School, one of the first things you notice is the collar of his shirt. First of all, he has one — always. Second, it’s buttoned all the way to top. And that’s not an accident. “We wear collared shirts everyday,” Hall says, adding that his players don’t have to button them up all the way like he does, but that they must wear them. The ‘shirt rule’ is just one of many mandates Hall has instituted at Mandarin’s football program. There’s also the ‘no cursing’ rule. And the ‘must-wear-a-belt-to-school edict.’ All of them have been done, Hall says, as a way to instill accountability, work ethic and discipline into his players. “Character first, then the student and then the sports,” Hall says, describing his method.

An article on Mandarin High School’s website offers more insight into Coach Hall’s strategy for building character:

To teach children good sportsmanship that also builds character, Hall suggests:

  • Developing a sportsmanship code. Write a code that defines sportsmanship, then explain it and use it, even with the very young. Coaches–and parents–must live by it, as well.
  • Identifying correct behavior. Appropriate behavior should be explained and appropriate consequences applied if a child displays inappropriate behavior.
  • Discussing reasons for choices. Children should understand why a particular behavior is right or wrong.
  • Practicing good decisions. Create adversity in practice that allows children to learn to handle dilemmas in a positive manner.
  • Always be an active role model. What coaches and parents say, they must do.
    Schedule activities that the entire team can participate in that illustrate real life consequences that result from bad choices and sometimes good intentions. That is exactly what Coach Hall did this week during their off week from football. He planned a field trip to the Jacksonville City Jail. Wednesday he and his volunteer dads took the entire team to see how bad decisions can impact a persons life.

Mandarin High School football coach J.D. Hall, who turned around the Mustangs’ program in just three seasons and who forever impacted the lives of many young people, collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack late Saturday night. He was 35. And he will be missed.


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