“Remember that consciousness is power. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.”
In the summer of 2014, a friend emailed me a link to a video. It was an interview celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of our football program at U.C. Davis. I sat on my back porch, which overlooks the beautiful lake, and reminisced about my time as a college football player.
I was surprised at how emotional I became watching the interview, seeing my old coaches talk about the meaning of Aggie football and Aggie pride. I began reflecting on how much these men and the culture they created have influenced the trajectory of my life. It made me ask myself, “How significant was my time as an Aggie in shaping the man I have become?”
A few months later, I decided to find out. I interviewed my coaches and wrote an article called, Something Significant: One Simple Thing – The Legacy of U.C. Davis Football.
It was great fun interviewing the three coaches. Coach Bob Biggs had been the receiver’s coach during my time at Davis. He and I developed our relationship during his time as the team’s head coach, long after I had moved on. Coach Bob Foster had been the defensive coordinator during my years on the team. He’d had the biggest impact on me as a player. Watching the video brought back great memories of the admiration and respect I held for him. My interviews with Coaches Biggs and Foster confirmed what I thought I knew about these impressive men: they were men of character, commitment to excellence, and selfless dedication to the program and their players.
It was Coach Sochor’s interview that surprised me. He was the head coach during my playing days, and of the three coaches, I knew him the least. The longest period of time I had spent with Coach Sochor was during the dinner we had had at my parents’ house when he came to recruit me to the team during my senior year in high school. Beyond that, I’d had very little interaction with him so, I guess, I really didn’t know him very well at all. I did know he was a very accomplished man, and highly deserving of my respect. I was anxious to meet him again, and I was intrigued about what he might tell me.
As Coach Sochor spoke, I was shocked to learn that the Tao Te Ching had strongly influenced his coaching philosophy. The Tao Te Ching (Tao for short, pronounced: Dow) is a spiritual text of 81 verses that is attributed to Lao Tzu, a philosopher of ancient China. Coach Sochor confided that it was a foundational guide for how he coached. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, an enigmatic, eastern philosophy wasn’t exactly accepted in the rough and tumble world of sports, let alone the physically violent game of football. It would be another fifteen years before Phil Jackson wrote his national bestseller, Sacred Hoops, Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior.
Coach Sochor felt compelled to translate all the messages and lessons he gleaned from the Tao in a way that his coaches and players could understand, and accept. As far as I know, he never, ever mentioned the Tao by name. During the interview, he told me, “The most important thing I taught the team was to be self-referral.” By that he meant that we were expected to take personal responsibility for how we prepared. That our power came from within. Looking back now, I see the groundbreaking experiment he tried, and the great risk he took. He was determined to lead a college football program using inner strength rather than outward force. He believed he could lift an entire team to a higher level of consciousness, and therefore create a giant leap in its power.
Well, his belief paid off. His approach worked on the team. Coach Sochor served as the head football coach at the University of California, Davis from 1970 to 1988, during which time he compiled a record of 156 wins, 41 losses, and 5 ties, and won 18 consecutive conference championships, then a college football record.
It also worked on me. During my interview with Coach Sochor all these years later I suddenly understood why I had been so instantly attracted to the Tao upon buying Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. For four years, during my time as a football player at U.C. Davis, I had unknowingly been a student of it. As I poured through the book, it felt so familiar. It felt so right, somehow. It felt like coming home.
It is clear to me now that the innovative culture Jim Sochor created, and that I immersed myself in during my college years, has greatly influenced my personal evolution, and has had a big part in the creation of the man I have become today. At Happy Living, we recently published our first book, called The Belief Road Map. In our book, we teach our readers how to know themselves better and help them create personal philosophies to guide the way to the life of their dreams. It was my honor to dedicate the book to the memories of Coach Jim Sochor and Dr. Wayne Dyer. They are two men whose teaching of the Tao Te Ching has had a dramatic and very positive influence in shaping the philosophies of my life, and two men to whom I shall be forever grateful.
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