The other day, Mr. Gossi walked into my classroom and handed me a sticker. It read “It’s a Great Day To Be Alive And A Mustang.”
I loved it! I felt like I was being quoted in the newspaper. That was my phrase! I say that all the time!
For the last few years, I have been saying and posting It’s a Great Day to Be Alive and A Mustang. I have done it so much, it has kind of caught on around school this year. Students and football players say it. Other teachers and admin have commented on how positive I have been and how much they like the phrase. Then, one of our teachers created a sticker of the phrase and started posting it on hallway doors around the school.
I put my sticker up on my whiteboard. I love it. I look at it every day.
Sometimes, I’m not having a great day and it is my physical cue to change my attitude. Generally though, I am trying to be positive about my school when I say it. I make no lies about loving where I teach and coach.
Actually, it has cost me some social media unfriends because people from other high schools don’t like to see it, or so I’ve heard. That’s okay, too.
I can’t claim authorship of this phrase. I know exactly where it came from and the impact it had on me. That’s what I want to write about today — the power that has come from that one phrase in my life.
When I was an 8th grader about to enter South Umpqua High School, home of the Lancers, I met Brody Guthrie for the first time. Coach Guthrie was the head football coach and assistant baseball coach. I wish I could remember if he said it during that first junior high football meeting. I think he did; I at least like to believe that he did because it adds to the ethos of this story if he did.
“It’s a Great Day to Be Alive and Lancer!”
As I progressed through my four years at South Umpqua, I heard Coach Guthrie state this a lot. I heard other teachers and coaches state it a lot. When a teacher looked at you and said “It’s a great day to be alive and Lancer,” you were expected to answer back more emphatically and enthusiastically “IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BE ALIVE AND A LANCER!”
A funny thing happens when you tell yourself this all the time. All of a sudden, the day is great. All of a sudden, you develop a deep love for your school. All of a sudden, you create a culture of school spirit in yourself that just kind of bleeds out to others.
Frosty Westering, the longtime legendary football coach at Pacific Lutheran University, wrote a book titled Make The Big Time Where You Are. It’s a great book, and one I encourage every coach to read, about loving the place you are in and not looking and wishing for the next big thing, or the next big place, or the next big job. It’s a great book that reinforces that lesson we have all heard — the grass isn’t always greener — but sometimes we forget.
I was lucky enough to play against PLU and Coach Westering once. They came to our place in college, kicked the living shit out of us, and then got together and prayed for us. It was a very unique college football experience that I will always remember.
I mention this book because it reminds me of my phrase and how it worked in my life: if you tell yourself enough — and believe enough — that where you are is awesome, it’s a good day, and good things are going to happen for your team, you start believing that you can make the big time where you are. You no longer wish you went to another school. You no longer wish you coach or teach somewhere else.
I see this positivity in our Stang Gang and crowds at football and basketball games this year. This year is like it used to be around here. Kids are excited to be a part of the school. Adults are happy to support others’ programs and truly wish them well. I have seen more school support for all of our athletic teams than I have in a long time. I see kids happy and proud to be part of a program and part of a school.
Now, I’m not trying to take credit for this. But, when I started seeing stickers in the hallway saying “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive And A Mustang,” all of a sudden I was in high school again, being bombarded with positive messages about my school. And the little problems that I was having throughout the day became a little less and my internal positive feeling became a little more.
And my desire to beat the other school I needed to beat that week grew. And I can’t say I always won or that we always win now, but I sure like our chances a lot more with a solid, positive feeling around the hallways than if I was looking around, wondering if the grass was really greener somewhere else.
I used this phrase in college at Southern Oregon (It’s a Great Day to be Alive and a Raider) and now Eagle High. I have always thought it to myself, but now that I am older and don’t concern myself with how dorky I look to others, I have found out how to verbalize my internal catch phrase. And interestingly, by “found out how to verbalize,” all I did was start saying the words in my head out loud. There is a certain level of comfort that comes with age and knowing who you are and what you want to say to others.
When I catch myself getting negative and cynical, I return to this phrase and either believe it or fake it until I make it through whatever challenge is before me.
With the current divisiveness in our world today, maybe people need a simple positive message beaten into our heads each day to convince us that it is going to be a great day and our job, or our school, or our family, or our place, is the exact place to be.
Maybe we all need our own Coach Guthrie to help us and inspire us to be positive and make the place we are the place to be.