No Excuses

"No Excuses," by Charlie Weiss is a unique book about his life. He begins by telling the reader about his early life as a kid growing up in Jersey. He talks about his love for ...

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"No Excuses," by Charlie Weiss is a unique book about his life. He begins by telling the reader about his early life as a kid growing up in Jersey. He talks about his love for sports, his life in high school and ultimately his life as a student at the University of Notre Dame.

He was very clear that although he loved sports, he really did not play high school ball. In college, he did not play any varsity sport, but did support all of Notre Dame's varsity teams. He especially followed Notre Dame football. As an undergraduate, he was interested in sports broadcasting and also thought about coaching. He majored in English and also thought about becoming an English teacher and coach.

The book gives a wonderful overview of Charlie's life from adolescence to the present day. He shares very personally about his early teaching career and coaching career as a high school basketball and football coach. He is rather candid about the peaks and valleys of those experiences.

He also shares about how he got involved with the NFL. He talks honestly about his rise through the ranks from literally being a go-for to being the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. As he shares about that journey, he also speaks honestly about the loves of his life - his wife, his best bud, Charlie Jr. and his wonderful daughter, Hannah (who was born with special needs).

The last quarter of the book deals with his choice to accept the opportunity to return to his alma mater, Notre Dame, as its' head football coach. Throughout the book, his wit, charm, insight and candor, engage you. As you read about his philosophy on life and sports, you find a refreshing depth to Charlie Weiss.

When he first arrived at Notre Dame, he made it very clear to all of his players that he was not only concerned about winning, but also about their academic pursuits and the men they were becoming both on and off the field. He stressed that character and integrity, as well as hard work and commitment, were critical to his football program. He would accept nothing less. He said loudly and clearly that there were "no excuses."

Shortly after arriving at Notre Dame, Charlie became concerned that a number of players when asked about their performance or lack thereof blamed others and had a million excuses. He made it clear that we all have to be accountable for the choices that we make. We cannot blame others for our failures or shortcomings.

A major component of Charlie Weiss's philosophy is to empower his athletes to reach their maximum potential and not to settle for anything less. He will not accept excuses for non-compliance and/or not doing the right thing.

After reading his book and having a lot of time to reflect upon it, I realized that his fundamental principle of accepting no excuses should be applied in the way that we parent our children.

Unfortunately today, too many parents make excuses for their children's behavior. Recently, I had a conversation with a mother whose son was arrested for possession of marijuana. In talking to her about her son and his use of pot, she minimalized his pot smoking and said, "at least he's not dealing pot." Needless to say, I was very troubled by that comment. Dealing drugs is surely a serious criminal issue. However, the regular use of marijuana by a high school student is not something to be treated lightly.

After speaking with the mother, I spoke with the son. I understood why the son minimalized his arrest and his own pot use. Our children oftentimes mirror our thinking and behavior. In that conversation, he made five million excuses for why his criminal circumstance was no big deal. He further indicated that he was confident that his parents would get him off with no real consequences.

Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is running rampant in our society. It is definitely infecting a lot of teenage thinking. A growing number of teenagers do not believe they should be held accountable for the choices that they make.

If a teenager grows up never being held accountable for the choices that he or she makes, then why should we expect them to think about consequences? There aren't any. It becomes even more complicated when a Mom and Dad rescue their son or daughter from being held accountable for choices and decisions they make.

It starts with very simple things. A high school student cuts class and his mother writes him an excuse note so he won't have to serve detention.

A local public high school has a closed campus. Seniors are allowed to leave campus on free periods and for lunch if they have a signed and notarized letter giving them permission from their parents. JC is a senior, but does not have permission to leave campus during the day. He and some of his friends go out for lunch. Upon his return, he is caught by a faculty person who knows JC does not have permission to leave the campus. His parents cover for him so he won't suffer the consequence, which is after school detention. His mother lies and says she forgot to give him the letter of permission. After she sent that fabricated letter into school, he was excused from detention.

A group of senior football players, after winning their divisional playoff game, went to an unsupervised party. They, along with all the other partygoers, drank illegally. Most in attendance left drunk. On Monday, the coach got wind that some of his players were in attendance. He called them in and suspended them from future athletic competition because they violated the contract they had signed at the beginning of the season. When confronted by their coach, the young athletes admitted their mistake.

However, the coach's actions and holding his players accountable caused a deep rift in that school community. Many applauded his actions but an equal number of people thought he was being too harsh. They felt he overreacted to behavior that is commonplace among most high school students everywhere.

They did not want to hear that the young men were only being held accountable to a contract they signed which very clearly outlined the consequences for non-compliance. The coach knew that in holding his athletes accountable, he was possibly putting the County football championship in jeopardy. The young men in question were all starting varsity players. When confronted by members of the community, he simply said, "There are no excuses. The young men in question must be held to what they agreed to."

Unfortunately, they did lose, but the young men did learn an invaluable lesson. For every choice we make, whether we like it or not, there is a consequence. Most times, one cannot escape the consequences of one's choices. The young men publicly apologized to their teammates for violating their contract and for jeopardizing the County championship.

The young men involved learned a powerful lesson. Unfortunately, many of the adults in the community did not. Too many adults don't believe you should be held accountable for your choices. Rather, it's more about who you know and how you can get out of the uncomfortable circumstances you create. That kind of thinking continues to put all of us at risk for a terrible tragedy.