Teaching our Kids to Persevere

Teaching our Kids to Persevere

by Joey Link

September 2015


(Johnny Unitas-photo credit google images)

Johnny Unitas was one tough football player. He played quarterback for the Baltimore Colts from 1950’s – 1970’s. For 52 years he held the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (which he set between 1956–1960), until New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke this record in 2012. Johnny Unitas was the prototype of the modern era quarterback with a strong passing game, media attention, and widespread popularity. He has been consistently listed as one of the greatest NFL players of all time.

I recently read a biography about this football legend and I was surprised to read he couldn’t get colleges to notice him. No major college was interested in a 5’11”, 130-pound quarterback. After being turned down by most colleges to play football, only the University of Louisville took a chance on him. It took a lot of drive for Unitas to persevere and not give up on his goal.

Johnny Unitas was drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers but was cut before the season started. He could have given up, but that is not what this young man was made of. Johnny’s father died when he was still a teen. His mom went to night school and scrubbed floors during the day to provide for her family. While in high school, Johnny helped bring money home for the family shoveling two tons of coal every day after school.

Do your kids have goals that they will pursue in spite of the constant “No’s” they get? We know of one young man who set his sights on going to Annapolis Naval Academy and he spent all of his teen years working towards and preparing for this dream. When he was turned down when he applied, he didn’t give up and went to a preparatory military school instead. The following year he received his letter of acceptance and is in his first semester because he persevered.

How hard are your kids willing to work for what they want? How hard are they willing to work to help the family? Are they willing to do their chores and responsibilities at home first before doing what they want to do? Teaching your kids to prioritize their responsibilities and time will help them learn the determination they will need to make their dreams come true.

Rather than give up on his dream and quit football, Unitas decided to keep his skills sharp by playing semi-pro ball. Johnny played so well the Baltimore Colts called and invited him to spring camp where he made the team as a backup quarterback. When the starting quarterback went down with a leg injury, Johnny was inserted into the game. His inexperience was obvious. He fumbled three times and his first throw was intercepted. However, failure was not something Johnny put up with.

The coaches and team hung in with young Unitas, and he kept working and improving. He put the same work ethic he learned at home and from shoveling coal into practice with the football team, which turned him into one of the most successful players in NFL history, appearing in 10 Pro Bowls and winning 3 league MVP awards.

The image of Johnny Unitas is a picture of a determined warrior who pressed on to achieve his goals and persevered through the obstacles in his path. Some people dream of success and expect it to come to them, while others work hard to get it. Which are your kids characterized by?

Johnny Unitas’ determination reminds me of the description of Jesus in Hebrews 12:2

“Who for the joy set before him he endured the cross,

scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Teaching our kids to persevere could keep them walking with the Lord! Listen to these words Paul told Timothy:

Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted.”

(II Timothy 3:12)

What kind of obstacles do your kids face that help them learn perseverance? Even little ones have obstacles in their way every day. A bossy sibling or Mom telling a preschooler to pick up his toys when he isn’t done playing are obstacles that stand in their way. Kids in school certainly see subjects they have difficulty with as obstacles that must be overcome. Think about how you can help your children learn the character trait of perseverance.