Saturday, February 11, 2012


I'm always on the lookout for books that might interest my football loving, book hating sons. In fact, I think I have probably read every football memoir and/or biography published in the last seven or eight years. If you aren't a sports fan, or a sports parent, you can probably stop reading right now. If you don't like when people link their professional lives, and particularly their professional sports lives with their Christianity, you can stop reading now. If you are looking for books to add to your elementary classroom, you can stop reading now.

ALL IN is the story of Auburn football coach Gene Chizik. For those of you who don't know much about football, Auburn, coached by Chizik, won they national championship in January, 2011. The team's quarterback was Cam Newton, who now plays for the Carolina Panthers and was recently named NFL rookie of the year. ALL IN traces Chizik's journey as a coach, including his very controversial decision to leave a head coaching position at Iowa State after only two years. Throughout the book, Chizik integrates his views on football, faith, and family.

I read ALL IN through lots of different lenses. First, I read it through the lens of a high school football player wanting to be successful at the college level. I think Chizik has lots to say to kids in this group-- mainly that there are lots of talented kids, that players need to work hard, and perhaps most importantly, that football is a TEAM and not an INDIVIDUAl sport. I wish I could get my boys to read this book because I think these are important messages.

I also read this book as a mom. On one hand, I wondered what it would like to be an Iowa State parent, who had entrusted your child to Chizik, only to have him leave a short time later. On the other hand, I would like to have my boys playing for a coach who seems to emphasize team over individual, and character over football. I also appreciated that Chizik talked about his role as a man working with a team of young men, more than half of whom have grown up without fathers. As a single mom, I'm so grateful for the role coaches have played in my boys' lives.

Finally, I read this book as a Christian. As a believer, I'm interested in other people's faith journeys, and this one was no exception. Chizik doesn't sugarcoat his faith. He doesn't say that all of his relationships are perfect. He doesn't believe that God "gave" him a national championship. Rather, he believes that it is his job to actively pursue his relationship with God, and to live that out with his own wife and kids, and in his job. That makes sense to me.

A typical sports biography for the football loving crowd…

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