“Attitude Reflects Leadership”


The movie Remember the Titans resonates with me on many levels. Like Coach Bill Yoast’s daughter, I was nine years old when integration was initiated in Alabama and our small school closed.  My dad, the head football coach, had to find a new job and we moved to a new town. The movie depicts the atmosphere of the time well and it brings up many emotions every time I watch it. One of the most powerful scenes is at a football practice. Things are heated because players are divided and not playing as a team. Julius Campbell and Gerry Bertier, the team captain, are having a heated exchange. Gerry accuses Julius of having the worst attitude he’s ever seen. Julius responds, “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.”

The movie was a fictionalized version of a real story. In reality, Julius and Gerry were close friends throughout their lives, but the emotional scene builds the tension as the players navigate a difficult and necessary process. Both Julius and Gerry have valid points. Real teamwork requires both good leadership and the good attitudes of everyone involved. When that comes together, it touches something deep inside of all of us. It resonates at the core of us, our heart. Eventually the team works out their differences and their leaders, Coaches Herman Boone and Bill Yoast, lead them to win the championship that year. Having grown up as a coach’s daughter, I love this movie.

My dad was a good coach. When I was in ninth grade he was having a feud-of-sorts with the band director because several of his players wanted to play football in the fall, then return to concert band for the remainder of the year. Our band director had given them an ultimatum–be in the band year-round or quit. Dad felt they should be able to do both.

While dad never forced my brother and me into the discussion, it was frequently conversation around our dinner table and we could not help but be affected by the climate in our house over the whole situation. Like most kids, we were paying attention to how he handled his displeasure with his fellow teacher. I don’t think he realized the affect his attitude was having on me.

I was a junior high cheerleader. I loved sports and cheerleading was the only option open for girls in my small school at the time. I also played alto saxophone in the high school band. I loved both cheerleading and band. As of yet, there had been no conflict with my marching band commitment because our games were on a different weeknight as the varsity. But, I quit band midyear.

In my fourteen-year-old mind, I thought I was being loyal to my dad. I gave up my first chair spot before concert season even began. I have always regretted that decision. Music is one of the things I enjoy most. As much as I love athletics, music is something I could have enjoyed participating in many more years than in sports.

My daddy really didn’t fight me much on quitting. I think it made him feel good that I was on his side. But looking back I think he got so caught up in his conflict with the band director that he missed how deeply his attitude was affecting me. In fact, he sold my saxophone. It was used when I got it, but it was a nice instrument and it hurt my heart to see it go.

What’s my point in telling you this story? I guess I want to gently remind myself and other parents that we are shaping our kids and grandkids even when we don’t realize it. Our actions, our words, even our thoughts are having an impact on those small people in our lives all the time.

We’re human. There are going to be things we struggle with, things that are unfair, people that treat us and our kids in ways that are unkind and hurtful. But how we handle those situations models to our children how to behave toward others, toward life, and may have a long-lasting impact.

We all mess up. I have behaved badly myself more times than I would like to remember. But in difficult situations, by watching my attitude, by asking forgiveness and moving on with grace both for myself and for others, I model to my kids and grandkids how to deal with life and people in a positive way. If I pretend everything’s all good, or justify a bad attitude and make excuses, I send the wrong signals to my kids. And it’s true, “Attitude reflects leadership.”

Dealing with other humans is often challenging. I may not feel like forgiving. I may not feel like being slow to anger. I may not feel like returning good for bad. I may even be justified in my thoughts and actions, but the long-term result of how I handle things affects both me and my children and will only work out for the best if I trust in my Creator instead of my own feelings, my “own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Attitude reflects leadership.” Just a few thoughts from a could-have-been musician.

And, I think my dad felt bad in retrospect about the influence of his attitude on me in the band/football player situation. He bought my saxophone back years later and had it refurbished. I can still play bits of Proud Mary and the theme song from the Pink Panther cartoon, but I don’t think our community orchestra is ready for the likes of me yet. I still hold out hope. One day, maybe. But my sax will always be a reminder to me that “Attitude reflects leadership.”

Happy Spring!



ww1.0du.edu Remember the Titans Historical Fact or Fiction? by Amy S. Tate

northernvirginiamagazine.com 50 years Later, the team and its Supporters Reveal the Real Story of “Remember the Titans” by Tony Rehagen, Sept 23, 2021

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Beverly Smith
With three adult kids and two preschool grandkids, Beverly stays busy keeping up with her family and loves it. She likes to learn new things, be outdoors, and travel. You can frequently find her running with her dog Jack, reading a good book, or watching movies, crime dramas, and Auburn football. She met her husband Kent at Troy University and they moved to Auburn one month after they were married. Originally a Medical Technologist, she obtained a second degree from Auburn University's School of Education and taught Physical Science and Biology at Opelika High School until she decided to become a full time mom. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she'll say, "A writer for children." She has written preschool activities curriculum and is currently writing middle grade fiction.


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