No. 757



In case you have not noticed, in America today we have a sports culture. At least to me, it seems like our whole national calendar revolves around one major sporting event or another. Even the people on the Weather Channel tell you what kind of weather to expect the day of the big game, big race, big golf tournament or ___ (and here you fill in the blank).
In school, who do you think has the most influence on a student’s life? If the student is involved in sports, you can rest assured the answer is the coach, even more so than parents, in many cases.
Here is my reason for sharing this with you. Almost from the time we started the “Bookcase for Every Child” project here in Conway back in 2005, I have had a very serious concern. Our goal is to provide children in low-income families with a bookcase and some quality books in an attempt to help them develop a passion for reading, as this is the foundation for long-lasting success. My concern is that we can help a child learn to read, but there is another trait or element that we must help him develop if he is to be successful as a person. This is to help him develop good character. Many people in prison can read.
This is where I believe coaches all across America can be a tremendous help, and I also believe that most coaches have no idea how much influence they have on the attitudes, values and morals of their players. It is really important to reach young players in the summer leagues, junior high and senior high levels. For those who make it to the next level we can’t wait until they get to college, because in most cases it’s too late. It’s hard to change ingrained habits, attitudes and morals of those who need help the most, as it relates to good character.
To be sure, I don’t have much influence when it comes to athletics or coaches, but I have a good friend here in Conway who is a sports icon, and he shares my philosophy. I have asked him to get involved in this effort. This man’s name is Cliff Garrison, well known in our community and state. Together we have developed The Coach Garrison Challenge. In case you don’t personally know Cliff, his name is synonymous with athletics at Hendrix College. The competition court in the new $20 million Wellness & Athletic Center bears his name.
He served as Hendrix men’s basketball coach and athletic director for 31 of his 41 total years in coaching. He is a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Lifetime member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches for 34 years, with other titles, honors, records, awards and leadership positions too numerous to mention. Cliff and I both know and believe in the power of reading great books and the impact the content can make on a person’s life.
Over time, with coaches all across America getting involved, The Coach Garrison Challenge will make a tremendous difference in the lives of many young players. Cliff’s challenge is for coaches to read two fantastic books and then ask their players to read them as well.
These two books are “Gifted Hands” by Dr. Ben Carson (ISBN 9780310214694) and “A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring” by the late Coach John Wooden (ISBN 10-1596917016). These books are available at most bookstores or and
Almost daily we see the devastation and impact of poor character in the lives of many sports celebrities, and this hurts the individual player, their family, friends and the image of sports.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)