A high school coach decided there was a greater “purpose in life” than just teaching teens to play ball. Realizing the boys desperately needed education on how to be men, he and another coach pulled the team from the field for a “manly” life lesson.
Cody Gross, an Alabama football coach, wanted his students at Athens High School to be more than just athletes. He wanted to build a team of successful future adults and decided that being on his team would involve more than learning to score a touchdown. Determined to train the boys to become men, Coach Gross recruited 62-year-old Assistant Coach Steve Carter to teach the students what they might not get elsewhere.
The Golden Eagles football team was armed with car jacks, screwdrivers, and transmission fluid after their coaches decided Monday practices would start with a life lesson for the players. Called “Manly Mondays,” the coaches’ curriculum involves practical real-life tutorials, including how to tie a tie, change a tire, perform basic plumbing, give a proper handshake, and other skills Coach Carter believes are indispensable.
“As coaches, we can have a big impact on young men,” Coach Gross said. “That’s why I do what I do,” he added. “I felt the need to be more intentional about some things we do. We try to model the behaviors we expect.” Describing one of many lessons his team received, Gross explained, “We taught them how to look a man in the eye and give a good firm handshake,” adding, “they couldn’t leave the locker room until they did that.”
When Coach Gross posted a video of Coach Carter teaching his team how to fix a flat tire, it went viral, making the Athens football team the talk of Twitter. “That’s part of the thing with social media,” Gross said. “You never know. Our deal was we’re not doing it to get publicity at all. We’re doing it to help these young men, but I put it on Twitter just because I kind of want folks in our town to know what is going on.”
The students have really appreciated and enjoyed the “Manly Monday” lessons. “I love it. I love it so much,” sophomore Jacorey Harris said. “It makes my week a lot better to come up here once during the week and learn something I never knew before.”
Coach Gross admitted the players have been “pretty pumped” and “fired up” after the lessons went viral. But, the boys were moved by Carter’s tutorials well before they became an internet sensation. “Every week when he finishes, they clap for him,” Gross said. “It’s like he is putting on a show for them. You can see in the video some of the players’ mouths are open, like ‘Wow, how did he do that?'”
“I’m pretty sure everybody wishes they had a coach and someone like him in their family to be able to teach them those things and to show that he cares and he wants you to be successful in not only football and life,” junior Kevin Jurado said, calling Carter a “good coach” and a “good man.”
“It was coach Gross’ idea,” a humble Carter said after his Monday lessons received so much positive attention. “I have always been mechanically inclined, jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. I enjoy doing stuff like that,” he explained. “A lot of kids these days don’t have father figures. They don’t have people to show them things. I was blessed with a father that showed me how to do a lot of stuff.” And, he’s passing that blessing on.
“He teaches us things you might not think that you’ll need but it could come in handy,” Jurado said, explaining that the team learned to cut PVC pipe with twine and to work with car jacks during the Monday lessons. Carter also taught them how to plug a tire, use jumper cables, and check a car’s oil and transmission fluid.
Carter also showed them how to magnetize a screwdriver, which even baffled Coach Gross. “Making a magnet out of the screwdriver was impressive,” Gross laughed. “Coach Carter’s amazing. He can do anything, literally. He is a mechanic. He can build a house. He’s a plumber. You name it. He can do it.”
Proving just that, Carter even taught the guys to make women’s jewelry when Mother’s Day was approaching. “I said, ‘Guys, that doesn’t seem to be a really manly thing to do,'” he admitted, but this lesson was about a lot more than gift giving. It was definitely about being a good man.
“This is about how you treat women, how you treat your mother, how you treat your wife. You don’t have to make jewelry. You can do other things for them. Women love when you are creative,” Carter told the boys. “Learn to treat the women in your life – your wife, your mother – with respect and do things for them.”
Coaches have an opportunity to be an immeasurable impact on their players beyond training them to be athletes, and Coach Cody Gross and Coach Steve Carter recognized that truly successful young men need skills that are useful off of the field. Gross is calling on others to do the same.
“What’s important?” Coach Gross asked. “Whatever is important, you are going to do. Are you going to talk about developing kids and say it is important and not really do it? Are you really going to do it?” he furthered, encouraging others to help our youth develop into productive adults and not just provide lip service.
“Molding young men” isn’t just a saying. It’s a way of life, and these coaches live it. “We’re here to try and grow them up and grow them into being a man,” Coach Carter explained, according to Inside Edition. “That’s what we’re here for. That’s my purpose in life; I think that’s why I live and breathe is to spread the good news,” he added.
“We’re trying to teach them life lessons,” Coach Steve Carter said. “It’s not just about coaching football. Any sport teaches you about life, but I don’t think any sport teaches you the hard knocks of life more than football. You get knocked down. You get back up. It’s a great lesson, but there is more to it than the winning and losing and coaching a kid how to play football.”