posted on Thursday, January 9, 2020
Pay Attention to the Little Things
Watching someone jump from an airplane is exciting, but when I actually did a tandem jump, it was an outstanding experience. As you know, a parachute is connected to the harness with hundreds of small lines. When the chute opens, you are supposed to look up to make sure all of those lines are in the correct position. If there is just one string caught on top of the parachute, you should cut away and open the emergency chute.
It seems to be an overreaction to cut away a perfect parachute if only one line out of hundreds of lines is out of place. Here’s the problem: when one line is over the top of one of the panels on the chute, it will look fine while you are in the air, but when you try to land, you will not have control of the parachute- making for a HARD landing. Life is similar to this story. Things will be good some of the time, but unless you pay attention to the details, you will have problems and a “HARD” landing other times.
Coach Thomas understood the importance of details. Each and every line on “his parachute” was in the correct position. He was so committed to every detail that every little thing would be on a checklist. Whether it was his organization for football or the details of a tournament or track meet, he would try to cover every item, situation, or potential problem. For example, before the season started, he had an outline and sequence when each play would be taught to his team. Each practice was planned to the minute. Each coach had a drill booklet that explained each and every drill the team would use during practice. This would ensure that every special team would be taught, practiced and reviewed. When Aplington-Parkersburg hosted a track meet and as the track athletes came through the gate, he would check each shoe to be sure they did not use spikes that were too long and would ruin the track. Athletes were also not allowed to be on the infield (football field). These are some examples of his attention to details or the strings on his parachute. In most cases, not only did Coach Thomas have a plan and a back-up plan, he had a plan C just in case.
Those details also included his faith. It was very important to him to give his time to those details. He served the church in many capacities including teaching Sunday school. FFF (faith, family, football) became a statewide reminder to keep those details in the proper order. After his death, nearly every football team in the state had an FFF decal on their helmets.
"If you take care of the little things, the big things
will take care of themselves."
So many of Ed’s ideas have become an important part of me. Just like the lines of a parachute, we must take care of the details. In life, ignoring the details generally causes our problems and difficulties, just like that “HARD parachute landing.” Paying attention to the details was a valuable lesson from Coach Thomas. My clipboard with a checklist became a part of me- as a coach, activities director, and teacher. On a personal level, I even made a list of jobs for my own kids to get done during the summer or on weekends. (Note - It doesn’t work as well with my wife though.) I try to keep my faith in order as well.
Make a list of the four or five important things you need to get done each day. Do that for a week. I think you will find that it will help you complete the priorities of each day. Plus, crossing out each task gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to get the next one done.
Neil Phipps & the Ed Thomas Family Foundation
This post is written by Neil Phipps. Neil taught and coached for 39 years, and worked with Coach Thomas at football camps, football clinics, on the Iowa Football Coaches Association Board of Directors, and as a coach in the Shrine Game. Neil and his family are also close friends to the Thomas and Kerns families.