Always Fall Forward: Life Lessons I'll Never Forget from

Always Fall Forward: Life Lessons I'll Never Forget from "The Coach"


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“Make your mistakes full speed.” “Always fall forward.” “There are worse things than dying.”

Todd Gerelds, author of the bestselling book and hit movie Woodlawn, believes the most meaningful life lessons he has learned have been on the playing field. The voice of his coach rings in his head when life gets tough or when his day becomes off-kilter. It just happens that his coach’s voice is also his father’s. His dad was Tandy “The Coach” Gerelds, the subject of Woodlawn and the man who led his team to victory in the racially charged atmosphere of 1970s Alabama. The Coach led his team both on and off the field, always speaking wisdom wherever he went. For him, leading his team wasn’t a responsibility he took lightly. After all, the Coach wasn’t just training these boys to be good football players—he was helping them build the foundation to becoming good men.

In Always Fall Forward, join the Coach’s son, Todd Gerelds, as he reflects on fifty-two of his dad’s most formative “coachisms.” From “Your stance is critical” to “One play at a time,” you, too, will start hearing the strong and encouraging voice of the Coach when life hits you hard. Packed with life application, Always Fall Forward challenges men each week to live the way the Coach lived—grounded in faith and willing to stand up for what he believed—no matter the cost.

You won’t want to forget these lessons—both on and off the field.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496424808
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 01/02/2018
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 587,121
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Todd Gerelds is the author of Woodlawn (now a major motion picture) and is the son of legendary Alabama high school coach Tandy Gerelds.  Todd has appeared on The 700 Club Interactive, Fox 6 News in Birmingham, AL, WVTM NBC 13 News in Birmingham, as well as Atlanta's WGCL CBS News.

Read an Excerpt



See What You Hit

I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.


It felt like a lightning bolt had run from the base of my skull, through my neck and shoulders, and down my right arm. The pain was excruciating. I'd just received my first "stinger," or "burner," an intensely painful nerve injury. It was football spring training during my sophomore year of high school. I had taken on a senior fullback named Chris Haynes in a drill known as the Oklahoma. Normally, the Oklahoma drill pits three offensive linemen against three defensive linemen. A coach tells the running back behind the offensive line where to run. The same coach lets the offensive linemen know where to block the defenders. There is also a wide receiver positioned to take on a defensive back several yards behind the defensive line. We were running a scaled-down version of the Oklahoma where it was one on one between an offensive and defensive lineman with a defensive back — me — positioned about five or six yards off the line of scrimmage. My job was to see which way the running back cut from the line of scrimmage and to stop him. Chris's job was to get past me. There was no question who won our encounter. As Chris cut to his left, my right, I came flying up to meet him, head down. He planted me on my back as he continued on to score.

After my stinger, Dad taught me that I need to be looking at the ballcarrier when I tackle him. "See what you're hitting!" he would bark.

In recent years, more and more emphasis has been put on player safety in an effort to avoid catastrophic injuries in football. Dad's coaching was ahead of his time in this regard. Back when Dad coached, it was common to hear, "Put your head down and go!" Somehow, Dad knew this wasn't the best way. Seeing who you are tackling might mean that you don't deliver as devastating a blow as you want, but it also means that you are far less likely to miss the tackle. As an incredibly important bonus, injury is far less likely when your head is up.

God designed us with a yearning to have an impact. We want to make a difference. In our day-to-day lives, this desire for impact needs to be controlled by the Holy Spirit to ensure we have the kind of impact God intends. Scripture teaches us that discipline, self-control, and keeping our eyes on our target (not running aimlessly) help us to avoid missing the mark. When I was managing sales reps for a large pharmaceutical company, I used to tell the reps, "Don't mistake activity for achievement." Oftentimes in the work world we allow ourselves to get very busy with activities that seem necessary but are not actually moving us toward our objectives. Whatever our jobs, seeing what we hit means establishing clear objectives and then aligning our actions with them.

In the Scripture passage from which today's verse is taken, Paul compares his spiritual life to athletic training. He says that he doesn't act without clear purpose in mind.

We need to be like Paul and know what we are trying to hit spiritually. Putting our heads down and plowing through is our natural instinct, but we may miss God's objective when we do that. Let's ask God to give us discipline and self-control. Let us be imitators of the examples of godly character God has given us in Scripture and in the people around us.

I challenge you to read the Gospels to see Jesus' perfect character. I suggest reading a chapter of the Gospels every day until you've read through all of them. Once you've finished them all, you can start again. That's what I do. It keeps the heart and character of Jesus right in front of me. I also encourage you to seek the counsel of a godly mentor in your church. Know what you are aiming for and keep your eyes on your target. You are far more likely to hit it. And you are far less likely to give yourself a spiritual stinger or injure others in your efforts.


"Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

"Read Philippians 3:17.

1. What are some situations in which you might be tempted to plow forward without seeing what you hit?

2. Who are some possible mentors you could seek out for counsel in your life?



Outwork Your Opponent

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.


As my junior year of high school approached, my friends and I spent the summer in the weight room and on the football field, preparing for summer practice. When the day came for practice to start, we boarded buses in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and set out for the remote, rural town of Cullman, Alabama. The destination? St. Bernard Abbey. That's right — a monastery located almost smackdab in the middle of the state. We would spend the next week practicing twice a day in the August heat. At night, we would retire to our unair-conditioned dorm rooms. Dad wanted us to develop an unrivaled work ethic.

The demands Dad placed on his team were met with varying degrees of acceptance. Some players were eager to please the new coach, doing whatever they could to catch his eye. Some were going to do their best regardless. It was just the way they were wired. Others were more skeptical. I think they may have wondered if the ends justified the means, so to speak. Some probably didn't think they needed the extreme level of conditioning required by this new coach. For me, it was a little easier. I knew this coach. I knew his track record. I knew that he knew what worked and that his plans were for our good.

Since I was a little boy, I had heard my dad emphasize the importance of hard work. He felt that this was the one variable that his team had a say in when a game was on the line. Out in the isolated heat of Cullman, Alabama, Dad explained to us that hard work might actually allow us to beat a more talented opponent.

If you have thirty-five players and your opponent has a hundred, there's nothing you can do about that. If your opponent's offensive line averages six feet four inches and 285 pounds and your defensive line averages six feet and 210 pounds, you can't change that either. Those are objective variables that you live with. What you can change is how hard you are willing to work for your goal. If you have trained yourself to work harder than your opponent, you may be in a better position to win. Dad's motivation for the legendary conditioning of his teams was not punitive. It was so that fatigue would not hinder his teams from accomplishing their goals.

More than halfway through that first season, our hard work finally paid off. First, we fought from behind on the road against a rival team, Brooks, to win a 20–14 victory. Two weeks later, our scrappy, 2–5 team faced off against 7–1 Lauderdale County. They definitely appeared bigger and stronger. Nonetheless, when the final horn sounded, somehow we had eked out a 9–7 win. Hard work had prevailed!

Since graduating from college and moving out into the real world, I have found that Dad's philosophy of hard work applies equally in business. Work ethic often separates people of similar aptitude in the workforce. I have worked with people who were enormously talented but lacked a strong work ethic. They never lived up to their potential. On the flip side, I've worked with people who weren't as gifted but got everything they could out of their ability. I believe a team has a better chance at success with the latter type of person.

Our motivation for work should be to honor our Lord in everything we do so that we can accomplish those things for which He designed us. In New Testament times, people who owed a debt could sell themselves to the lender for the purpose of paying off their debt. The term for this position has been translated as "bond servant," "bond slave," or simply, "servant" or "slave." The one to whom they'd sold themselves would be their master. Today Paul's words would equally apply to anyone who has a boss who oversees his or her work.

In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul tells these servants to give all they've got in obedience to their earthly masters, knowing that they are really working for their true Master, Jesus. He reminds them that their real payday is the eternal reward they will receive from Him.

Paul makes no distinction in what type of work we do. Whatever work we are called to can be a means for us to honor God. Our work shouldn't be good only when others are watching or done to win praise from other people. But instead, our motivation should be to glorify Christ because He is our true boss. As we do this, it is essential that we keep in mind that Christ's work on the cross is sufficient for our salvation. Our work "for the Lord rather than for people" should be freeing, as we are no longer bound by the opinions and expectations of people, but instead are able to joyously work from a heart of gratitude. Today let us approach our work with a grateful heart, seeking to bring honor to our Father as we excellently labor in whatever work He has called us to do.


"Read Colossians 3:22-24.

1. In your daily activities, what are some things you can do to remind yourself who you're actually working for?

2. Can you think of times in your own life where you have seen hard work overcome obstacles?



Couch Sessions

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.


A concerned father was sitting on the couch in the head football coach's office. My dad was sitting at his desk, listening. The man's son was a backup on Dad's state championship defense. Most of his playing time had been relegated to late in games when the outcome had already been decided. The player's dad loved his son and wanted to see him succeed. He pointed out that his son had made several interceptions in his limited playing time. "Coach, I'm just wondering why my son isn't playing more." Coach paused, then explained to the concerned father that, indeed, his son had made plays late in games when teams were launching Hail Mary passes. "But," he explained, "football is a violent game. When the game is on the line and things get really physical, we're not confident that he is hard nosed enough to come sprinting up to where bodies are flying around." With just a few words, Dad had given insight from his broader perspective that included hours of practice time. I'm quite sure that this conversation was eye opening for this father. It most assuredly helped him better deal with the real issues.

As believers we are called to "speak the truth in love." When the parents of Dad's players were unable to do this with their sons, Dad had to hold what he called couch sessions. During these sessions, caring yet often disgruntled parents would come into his office to voice their concerns. Dad would always listen. He loved the kids who played for him. But he also knew that allowing them to believe things that weren't true wasn't helpful for them. In fact, it would hurt them in the end.

My dad also loved me and my two sisters. And from the day he came to know Jesus, he made sure to tell us every day that he loved us. He also made sure to teach us things that frankly, as young people, we didn't always want to hear. Dad was committed to helping us become the adults God intended us to be, and he wasn't seeking to win a popularity contest with me or my sisters. Dad knew that God loved him. That was enough for him. Winning the approval of other people, even his children, wasn't as important.

As a father, I have found that, in dealing with my four daughters, there are times when it would be much easier to let things slide. There are definitely times when I know that I'm going to have to be the bad guy, by speaking the truth in love.

One such situation concerned a relationship one of my daughters had developed with a young man. The relationship seemed fine at first, but over time my wife and I began to notice behaviors from the young man that really concerned us. As I began to talk to my daughter about it, she definitely thought of me as the bad guy. Still, she needed to hear the truth. At various times over several weeks, I vacillated between speaking the truth in love and totally blowing it as my temper and pride got the best of me. Ultimately, God worked out the situation — sometimes by using me and my wife, and sometimes by lovingly working despite us.

In Ephesians 4:15-16 Paul describes the results of speaking the truth in love. Paul calls the church the body of Christ. He teaches us that speaking the truth in love allows this body to grow and work properly. This means that when I lose my cool, or avoid conflict, I may be depriving someone of the encouragement, correction, or instruction God intends them to receive through me.

The critical factor in these conversations is love. Love has the other person in mind. Love allows truth to have its intended impact. As we live, work, and love this week, we will inevitably have opportunities to be used by God to reveal truth to those around us. As these opportunities arise, let us ask God for the ability to put the other person's interests above our own. Let us look for opportunities to encourage and facilitate growth. Despite the discomfort these kinds of conversations may sometimes cause, God tells us that as we "couch" them in His amazing love, they will be used to help His children "grow up in every way" (Ephesians 4:15, ESV) — into Christ.


"Read Ephesians 4:15-16.

1. Can you think of a situation in your life in which someone spoke the truth in love to you? How did you respond? What was the impact?

2. Are there any "couch sessions" you need to have with anyone in your life at this time?


Excerpted from "Always Fall Forward"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Thomas Todd Gerelds.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction xi

Week 1 See What You Hit 1

Week 2 Outwork Your Opponent 5

Week 3 Couch Sessions 9

Week 4 Your Stance Is Critical 13

Week 5 Always Fall Forward 17

Week 6 Scrape! 21

Week 7 Go around the Fence 25

Week 8 Two Whistles 29

Week 9 The Importance of Vision 33

Week 10 We, Not Me 37

Week 11 Deliver the Blow 41

Week 12 Leave It All on the Field 45

Week 13 Givers and Takers 49

Week 14 Loving versus Liking 55

Week 15 Knowing the Whys 59

Week 16 No Excuses 63

Week 17 A Proper Handshake 67

Week 18 Characteristics of a Winner 71

Week 19 The Little Things Matter 75

Week 20 Something Worth Cheering 79

Week 21 Better Plays Don't Win Football Games 83

Week 22 Follow Your Blocks 87

Week 23 That and Twenty-Five Cents 91

Week 24 The Value of a Friend 95

Week 25 Evidence of a Life Well Lived 101

Week 26 Being a Great Teammate 105

Week 27 Honor Women 111

Week 28 Avoid Negative Plays 115

Week 29 Keep Your Feet Moving! 119

Week 30 Ignorant versus Stupid 123

Week 31 Do Your Best, and Let the Results Take Care of Themselves 127

Week 32 Blue Chalk 131

Week 33 Yes, Ma'am; No, Sir 135

Week 34 Your "Want-To" 139

Week 35 It Ain't Complicated 143

Week 36 There's Only One Who'll Never Let You Down 147

Week 37 Building a Clock 151

Week 38 One Play at a Time 155

Week 39 If They Don't Score, They Can't Win 159

Week 40 Born on Third Base 167

Week 41 Don't Be Defined by Your Losses or Your Wins 171

Week 42 Leadership Can Be Lonely 175

Week 43 Make Your Mistakes at Full Speed 179

Week 44 Love 'Em When You Don't Get Anything from It 183

Week 45 That Ball Takes Funny Bounces 187

Week 46 Look the Ball All the Way In 191

Week 47 Just Do It! 195

Week 48 Every Day Is a Good Day; Some Are Just Better Than Others 199

Week 49 When They Stop Coaching You Is When You Need to Be Concerned 203

Week 50 All That Matters Is the Color of Their Jerseys 207

Week 51 You Don't Have to Be the Best; You Just Need to Be Your Best 211

Week 52 There's Worse Things Than Dying 215

Acknowledgments 219

About the Author 221

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