By Del Duduit
When I think of a leader, a few names come to mind. In the sports world, the likes of Derek Jeter, John Wooden, Antony Munoz, Roger Staubach, and Tim Tebow round out my top five. When it comes to national affairs, I think of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, General Patton, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham. These people possessed qualities that inspired those around them to be better.
Great leadership attributes include innovation, delegation, accountability, communication, passion, inspiration, and integrity.
Not everyone is cut out for leading others. Come to think of it, not everyone knows how to portray these qualities. Some are born with the ability to take charge, while others must learn. Lessons and experience can assist in the formation of a leader. But can principles be taught?
This past weekend, I was invited to speak at a prayer breakfast at the Wheelersburg United Methodist Church. My audience was made up of about 150 student-athletes from Wheelersburg High School.
Later that morning, I addressed the congregation of about 600 people who turned out to worship and pray for area students and athletes. As they left the service, attendees were encouraged to grab a yard sign to post to let the area know they would “Pray for a Pirate” or “Pray for a Falcon” or “Pray for a Bobcat” and so on.
This is the sixth year the church, pastored by Perry Prosch, has held “Spirit Sunday” before area students return to school.
“It’s an awesome service,” said KeriAnn Thompson, one of the organizers. “The students love it, and some even speak. It’s always motivational and just what we need to hear.”
The service piggy-backed off a leadership breakfast that was started by head football coach Rob Woodward in 2009. Rob took over the football program in 2008 and wanted to make an impact not only on the gridiron, but in the minds of his players.
He had attended similar breakfasts when he was an athlete at Gallia Academy High School. So he thought if he ever became a head coach, he would do the same.
“We teach these kids to block and tackle and be prepared when they go onto the field,” Rob said. “But are we teaching them about leadership? What are we teaching them about life?”
The initial breakfast featured a few donuts, some milk and about six players.
Word got out, and it grew each year. Today, about 120 student-athletes show up for the 7 a.m. meeting each Friday during football season.
Rob brings in guest speakers and also pulls inspiration and direction from Jim Tressel’s book The Winner’s Manual among others.
The husband and father of four capitalizes on this weekly opportunity to talk about what it takes to be a leader in life. He also tosses in some points on faith and what it means to have a moral compass.
“Believe me, kids don’t like getting to school earlier than they have to, but they enjoy these 30 minutes.” he said. “They get to fellowship and visit, share experiences, and learn about life and how to be a leader.”
My audience included members of the football, soccer, and volleyball teams as well as coaches and cheerleaders, and I was impressed with the respect they showed. Later in the main service, I was blown away by the enthusiasm and excitement shown by the student-athletes and the congregation. It was a spiritual pep rally. The high school band even played on the way out.
Some of the students who spoke to the congregation gave inspirational testimonies of their faith in God.
“When you hear these students talk about how they trust the Lord, it makes you feel good knowing they are the same ones in the huddle on the field,” KeriAnn added. “The same ones on this stage talking about God are the same ones in the locker room.”
Some of today’s professional athletes and alleged celebrities need to take time to travel to Scioto County, Ohio and observe what true leadership is about.
Leadership is not about taking a knee during the National Anthem or screaming obscenities at our President or threatening to leave the greatest country on earth because things don’t turn out the way you think they should. It’s about honor, respect and putting the needs of your teammates in front of your own.
“Our leadership breakfasts help me more than the students,” Rob said. “It excites me that these kids want to be the ones out in front.”
Instead of raising the likes of Wooden, Staubach or Reagan, Wheelersburg United Methodist Church is trying to raise up leaders like Moses, David, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Deborah.
I didn’t just see athletes at this amazing event. I saw young men and women who are being taught to be leaders on their team and in the local community. These life lessons will continue to pay dividends throughout their college and career years to the time they will eventually lead their own families.
Maybe this will catch on throughout the state and even the nation.
We need men and women to stand up and do what is right and just. There is too much violence and sin running rampant throughout the land. The headlines from Chicago of all the recent shootings and murders are enough evidence. America needs real leaders. America needs God.
Rob’s simple donut-and-milk leadership breakfasts have turned into home-cooked meals served along with a powerful message.
“These kids want to be leaders,” Rob said. “They hold each other accountable and strive to be the best.”
Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (Philippians 2: 3 KJV)
I encourage my readers to watch the news and reports over the next few years. When you see someone who has put others first, or has done some wonderful act of kindness or bravery, there might be a chance that person comes from Wheelersburg, Ohio or a surrounding community. They are not only teaching them how to defend their state championship in football or how to become the Little League Softball World Series Champions, but they are demonstrating how to be a beacon of hope in a dark and dangerous world.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5: 16 KJV)
When I left the “Spirit Sunday” service, it was with renewed confidence in our area’s youth and with a spirit of hope in this younger generation of leaders.
Are you a leader? What qualities do you need to improve to lead your family or friends? Will you pray for our youth?
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His first book — BUCKEYE BELIEVER – 40 Days of Devotions for The Ohio State Faithful –can be purchased on Amazon here.