I was recently asked by Stan Laing at Northside ISD to speak to their Coaches and Kids about the origins of this year's theme for Northside Athletics which is "Go The Second Mile."
At the height of their power, the Romans were hated by the people they conquered for many things, but they also managed to improve the places they occupied. One of those improvements existed in their road systems. In the lands they conquered, the Romans established roads that would lead to and from Rome. There were more than fifty thousand miles of these Roman roads throughout the Empire. At each single mile was a stone marker. These mile markers pointed directions, determined the distance to the next town as well as to Rome itself, and warned of dangers that might lie ahead. By law, a Roman citizen or soldier could compel a subject from one of the conquered lands to carry his backpack or load for him for one mile, but one mile only. At that time, a Roman Mile consisted of 1,000 paces or steps.
So, imagine being a Jewish citizen under Roman occupation. The Roman soldiers were abusive, rude, and arrogant. One day as you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, a Roman soldier spots you and commands you to carry his equipment for him. The direction he is going is in the opposite direction of where you need to go, and you don’t have time to follow his order. However, if you don’t, he can beat you, throw you in jail, or take it out on your family. So, you are forced to comply. You pick up his heavy equipment and follow him for an excruciating mile. At the end of the mile, your inclination would be to drop the equipment, spit on the ground, and hurry back to make up for lost time. Why on earth would you want to take one more step than you have too? The Roman soldier can only force you to go 1 mile. He knows it and you know it. NOBODY would consider going a second mile, but what would happen if you did?
The first mile is what is expected. The second mile is where change and influence occur. Imagine the rare Jewish man who picks up the gear and walks the first mile. As they reach the mile marker, the Roman fully expects the Jewish man to throw his stuff down and walk away. Instead, the Jewish man offers to go a second mile. The Roman is shocked but agrees. During that second mile, the Jewish man asks the Roman about his home and his family. The Roman, who has been blown away by this rare person with a rare attitude, opens up and shares his story. The Jewish man is then presented with an opportunity to provide some encouragement, insight, or possibly even share his faith. By going the second mile, that Jewish man has forever changed the Roman soldier’s impression of Jewish people. It is only in second mile where we earn the right to speak into people’s lives and make a difference.
How Does This Apply to Coaches?
For coaches, the first mile consists of lesson plans, IEP’s, in-service, staff meetings, practices, parent conferences, and dealing with discipline issues. The second mile consists of conversations in the locker room, character lessons, and connecting the dots between sports and life. You are not required to go the second mile to receive a paycheck. However, it is in the second mile where true coaching occurs. It is in the second mile where you have the power to change a kid’s life and maybe even the life of their family. It is when you go the second mile that you truly earn the title of “Coach.”
So, as we enter this new school year, I encourage you to find ways to “Go The 2nd Mile” with your kids and your co-workers. The unique group that is going to be put in front of you this year has been put there for a reason. They will come with their challenges and issues. They will come with their joys and passions. Amid the ups and downs that make up a school year, find ways to do the extra. Find ways to have important conversations, recognize a kid who is struggling, or encourage someone who seems down. In doing so, you will find that the second mile is what makes your job unlike any other job in the world. Have a great year and we can’t wait to hear the amazing things that will happen as you fulfill the first mile and then dare to “Go The 2nd Mile!”