A typical Friday night in high school would find me hunched on a bench in the locker room anxiously awaiting the kickoff of that night’s game. Our football team, many of us lifelong friends since kindergarten or younger, was ready to listen to the inspiring words from Coach William McElveen. We anticipated something profound and motivational, along the lines of a good Knute Rockne or Vince Lombardi speech.
At the close, Coach would ask us a simple question, “Where would you rather be?”
William McElveen was not only our coach; for many of us he was our hero. He would pose that question to us as our families and friends were in the stands, waiting to cheer us on to victory. Pumped with adrenaline, we were ready to take on any opposing team. At that moment in time, there was nowhere else we would rather be.
Coach McElveen emphatically made the same statement; in fact, he told us he wished he could be right there on the field with us. We were all where we wanted to be and where we expected we would be at that point in our lives. Those words and that vision have stayed with me my entire life.
As the end of each year approaches, we have a tendency to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. We look back and measure the year in days, weeks and months. We list accomplishments, we measure growth and we quantify successes, and if all of these numbers add up, we assume we are in the right place. Those are good disciplines to pursue.
But, suppose we also ask ourselves, “Are we where we expected to be?” and “Are we happy with how we got here?” If the answer is still a resounding “yes,” then we should appreciate it, celebrate it, and enjoy it.
But what if the answer isn’t a resounding “yes”? What if there are some doubts, or some yearnings for something different? “Where” isn’t just a physical space – it is a mindset, it is a time frame, it is our dream. Our level of passion for what we are doing should be a part of the answer to those questions. If the answer does not come quickly and assuredly, then it is time to make a change. It is time to determine “where” you really want to be.
Coach McElveen assured us on those Friday nights that there was nowhere else he would rather be. Teaching and coaching were his passions and he was making an impact on so many of us. It was obvious he was where he was supposed to be. At the conclusion of his pep talk, with a bit more serious tone, he would say, “Let’s take a minute.” He wanted us to take a minute to reflect on where we were, to give thanks for what we had, and to make the commitment to give 110% on the field.
Coach McElveen’s high school teaching and coaching career is not the end of his story, though. In 2008, an article by Roy Roberson appeared in the Southeast Farm Press. It stated, “After a short but successful tenure as a high school history teacher and football coach in Bishopville, S.C., McElveen came to understand he was living the wrong professional dream”.
Coach McElveen was also a farmer, starting out with a few acres and a John Deere tractor. Twenty-five years later, he was honored with the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award for the Upper Southeast States. His farming operation had grown to thousands of acres of peanuts, cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans. William McElveen was still the same person, but he decided to adjust his “where” to realize his full potential and utmost satisfaction.
“Where” do you really want to be? Think about it before you answer. If you can honestly say it is in the here and now, take the time to appreciate it and live it to the fullest. If you come to realize your “where” isn’t where you expected to be, then I challenge you to make the change that will bring you to the place where you will thrive, where you will be happy, and where you will be willing to give 110%.
Happy holidays to all.
Note: William McElveen died on December 17 after an extended illness. Thanks for the lessons, Coach — I’ve never forgotten them.