In honor of the imminent return of Friday Night Lights – as announced by Netflix earlier this year – it might be time to return to that influential high school sports drama of yesteryear to digest exactly what it taught us about life, love and football. The show not only brought us some of our most beloved celebrities, to include Michael B. Jordan and Taylor Kitsch, but it informed the world views of millions of young people in the late ‘00s. Here are a few of the lessons of FNL, many of which seem prescient today.
By the way, it should be obvious that this post will contain FNL spoilers – but since it’s been seven years since the finale, you should be caught up by now.
Sports Can Be a Legitimate Career Choice
Though FNL ostensibly focuses on a high school football team – several, actually – plenty of the main characters pursue successful careers in sports. The best example of this is Coach Taylor himself. Taylor might begin as a high school football coach, but he eventually climbs the ranks of football coaching in Texas Methodist University, becoming that (also fictional) school’s assistant coach. Though Taylor never makes it to the professional leagues, choosing instead to concentrate on his family and community, it is clear that coaching is a lucrative and rewarding career for those interested in taking it to the top.
Indeed, athletes aren’t the only ones making money in sports. Administrative positions behind players and teams are so essential to the sports industry that several universities promote specialized degrees, like KU’s sports management master’s program. Coach Taylor finds comfort in his hometown Texas coaching career, but the rest of us can reach for the stars.
Mentorship Is Critical for Career and Personal Success
For each of the young men on Coach Taylor’s teams, Taylor takes on the role of mentor. At all hours of the day and night, Coach Taylor’s door is open to players (and others) who need his help and guidance. That’s not to say that Taylor coddles his players; rather, he gives them exactly what they need, when they need it – and that’s the sign of a good mentor.
Studies show that mentorship increases success rates regardless of a mentee’s status, occupation or goals. Mentors introduce mentees to new ideas, new strategies, new contacts and more, providing them experience and expertise at an accelerated rate. It’s obvious: We all need a Coach Taylor in our lives, and the younger we get one, the better.
Teamwork Is Also Essential for Success and Growth
FNL – indeed, most all sports stories – offers one of the most overt displays of teamwork in modern media. More than other popular American sports, football teams succeed or fail on players’ ability to work together; without solidarity, the ball will never make it into the correct end zone.
However, FNL has other messages about teamwork besides the obvious ones. Though Coach Taylor often comes across as a lone wolf—the one person who cares about his players and the community surrounding them—the truth is that Taylor would be nothing without his support system. Tami Taylor, his children, his fellow staff members, loved ones of players and more form a team of allies who work tirelessly to keep Taylor and his life running smoothly. We should all take a step back to appreciate the teams in our lives and devote more effort to those that need our attention.
Texas (or Wherever You Come From) Deserves Respect
Dillon, Texas, is a small town, and almost once per episode, one of the young students expresses a deep desire to leave as soon as possible. However, given the opportunity to pursue his coaching career elsewhere, Coach Taylor chooses to return to Dillon and devote himself fully to his high school teams.
FNL teaches us that it is natural to want to stretch your wings, especially when you are young. A desire to explore the world is healthy – but so is a desire for comfort and community. As far as many of us have ventured from our hometowns, we might take a minute to appreciate our roots, especially for what they have molded us into, today.
Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose
Coach Taylor’s motto remains as true today for all of us as it was back then for his Dillon Panthers (and later, his East Dillon Lions). As long as we know where we are headed and pay attention to our passions, we can find not only success but also happiness in our careers, our relationships and everything else.