Our football coaches constantly push our student-athletes to reach their maximum potential. We don't always succeed because our student-athletes make mistakes. Those mistakes are found in the classroom, on the playing field and in their social life. We treat every mistake as a learning moment and help our student-athletes find a solution to improve.
The idea of pushing each other to reach our maximum potential begs the question of how we reach our potential as a college. I don't have all the answers to help us thrive at our optimal level, but I do have a very simple idea about how we can improve our Norse Community: unity and resilience. We must work together and find a way to resolve our problems during these challenging times.
One thing I've noticed in my five years at Luther is that a small percentage of people like to criticize every idea from our administration, faculty and staff. People are entitled to their opinion, but when it negatively affects our community those opinions should be revealed in a professional manner. What happened to approaching people in a face-to-face conversation to discuss our issues? Instead people voice their opinion through emails, gossip and student newspapers. This creates negative publicity, which is often an opinion rather than presenting factual information. In turn, people get upset and it causes our Norse Community to resent each other.
I don't understand this mindset. We should be working together to make this the greatest college in the country. The pieces are here to reach this lofty goal. Our faculty is amazing! They push our students to reach their maximum potential by challenging them intellectually. Our administration provides great leadership and works hard to provide the resources needed to help everyone succeed. Our athletic staff and music department work hard to enhance our student experience and make our alumni proud. We all have the same goal, but we often find ways to pull against each other. Why? The student experience and achievement is at the top of everyone's list, yet we often find ways to divert from that priority.
Along with the unification of our campus, we must show great resilience. Organizations show their true colors in the toughest times. When things are easy people get comfortable and often don't strive to reach our potential or recognize what the future might hold. I believe our college will continue to thrive at a high level now and into the future. In order for this to happen, we must show a great deal of resiliency in every department on campus to make sure our future is successful. When things get tough we have a couple choices: find excuses and quit, or grit our teeth and come up with solutions.
Recently, I read a book called "Resilience" by Eric Greitens. The book is a series of letters written to a struggling Navy SEAL and how he needed to become more resilient. The author wrote a letter about creating our identity. He asked the SEAL to write down these three words: Feelings, Action and Identity. He explains that in our culture we always put our feelings first. Our feelings are in control and force our actions. Our actions create our identity. According to the author, we need to put these words in reverse order to become more resilient. We should begin by creating our identity or asking the question, "Who am I going to be?"
I'm teaching a course, "Coaching of Sports: Football," this spring. I found the book to be so impactful that I finish each class period with "Resilience Training." The ideas in the book are challenging, but make complete sense. We discuss the challenges that are presented to students while in college and the roadblocks they will face in the future. Life is hard and it won't get any easier. Create your identity, act that way and your feelings will follow.
How will we handle a little adversity on our campus? We must work together and think outside the box, not pull against each other. It will be important that we listen to our peers and value each other's opinion. Negativity is our enemy. Everyone must take personal responsibility and help the Norse Community come up with positive solutions in a professional manner. We will make mistakes along the way, but it is important that we respond with great resiliency. Let’s start with our identity. "What are we going to become?" The greatest college in the country! Our actions need to reflect that vision. Our feelings will follow with a great sense of accomplishment and pride in the Luther Norse Family.
Aaron Hafner, Luther College head football coach, is in his third year coaching the Norse. He led the team to their first non-losing season since 2010 in 2014. His offensive attack set a single season school record of 3,409 yards and also tied the single game rushing record with 579 vs. Grinnell. Last year, under Hafner's direction, Luther led the Iowa Conference averaging 273 yards rushing per game. He took over the Norse program after serving seven years as the offensive coordinator at William Penn University. During his tenure at William Penn, the Statesmen captured two Mid-States Conference championships, and made the NAIA National Playoffs. He lives in Decorah with his wife, Katy and daughters, Allie and Andie.