Jared Lankford: A teachable moment

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A simple study of human characteristics often reveals amazing insights.

For instance, a family that has four children, raised by the same parents who grow up in the same house and are taught the same values and principles, will still wind up with children who have their own distinct personalities.


My wife and I were blessed with four children, and they each have different interests and motivations. What excites one child may have no effect on the others. Learning may come easy to another, yet one child might need more of a hands on approach.

While it can be frustrating at times, parents understand that the uniqueness we all possess is what makes up and drives our individuality.

One of the more difficult tasks of parenting is correcting our children when they step out of line or make a mistake — finding that perfect balance of correction, teaching and motivation.

There is no manual or college course you can take that will fully prepare yourself to handle the correction process. It is a skill that is learned by knowledge based upon experience.

Football teams are often described as a family, and Cassville is no exception. Each year, the Wildcats use their summer football camp as a chance to spend some one-on-one time with players to solidify those family ties. Although this year’s trip to William Jewell in the summer was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic the team still found time to bond at practice.

It is during these camps that coaches learn what motivates their players, what their personalities reveal about their character and how they can best influence the 60-70 young men in their lives going forward.

On numerous occasions, Cassville Coach Lance Parnell has said he wants to ensure that his players go on to become responsible young men who morph great fathers and husbands.

One of the ways that Parnell accomplishes that is through correction and teaching when players make mistakes.

One of those teachable moments occurred in the second quarter of the Class 3 quarterfinal win over Buffalo.

The Wildcats held a precarious 7-2 lead, but they had the ball and were driving just over midfield in Bison territory.

After relatively nominal gain, both teams started to assemble in their respective huddles when a flag flew onto the field.

Cassville’s quarterback Hayden Sink had lost focus

and uttered some magic words on the field to draw the penalty. He also drew the ire of Coach Parnell.

“He had every right to be mad,” Sink said. “I was running my mouth and shouldn’t have. I know it’s time to shut up when Coach Parnell gets serious.”

The lesson didn’t stop at Parnell asking Sink to come to the sidelines. The quarterback was taken out of the game and given a lecture by his coach.

The Cliff’s Notes version of what was said was that football is a team sport, and one person’s actions can hurt the whole team.

After the game, Parnell explained the conversation.

“We talked about doing things the right way,” Parnell said. “We weren’t doing things the right way at that time, and it was time to make a statement.”

For the next five plays, Sink was oblivious to the action on the field as his eyes were locked with his coach in a conversation where there was only one appropriate response — yes sir.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats overcame the second-and-20 hole, and four plays later, faced a fourth-and-1.

The Wildcats called a timeout and sent Sink back into the game. Not only did the senior convert the first down, he would score a total of three touchdowns and ran like a man on a mission the rest of the game.

“Coach Parnell is kind of like a father on this team,” Sink said. “He set me straight. If he hadn’t got to me, I might have said something else. He was able to focus me. He cares a lot about us and this team. You don’t want to let him down.”

While it may not seem like much of a gesture, the fact that Parnell and his coaching staff are willing to take the time, no matter the situation, to teach life lessons to their players is something worth noting.

Football is just a game, and the team is a reflection of the coaches that lead the unit. Parnell knew just how to get his point across and the right demeanor to use to get his desired result.

It was a teachable moment instructed perfectly by the experience of a seasoned coach.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at 417-847-2610, or at sports@cassville-democrat.com.

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