Friends of Chalcedon recently interviewed Walt Williams, named PAC-10 Men's Golf Coach of the year for 2002. Walt lives in Pullman, Washington with his wife, Carol, and their nine children (the last of whom had yet to be born as of this writing.) Walt has been the Head Golf Coach (both men's and women's teams) at Washington State University for four years, while his wife has been a home schooling mom. Friends of Chalcedon (FOC) caught up with Walt when he and his women's team took part in the NCAA Regionals held in Palo Alto, California in May, 2002. The following discussion is a synthesized summary of the interview.
FOC: You've recently been named PAC-10 Golf Coach of the Year. Can you give me some idea how this recognition is decided? What requirements are there? Who does the deciding?
Williams: Every year the coaches of the PAC-10 vote for the coach whom they as a body wish to honor. A primary consideration in the voting is general overall team improvement.
FOC: What are the benefits of being named Coach of the Year for the PAC-10 Conference?
Williams: There isn't any monetary gain attached to it. Were I a football or basketball coach, it might mean a bigger contract, but I'm not. I do get a plaque. I also gain more respect from my players. That's important. Outside recognition gives my coaching directions credibility in their eyes.
FOC: To what do you attribute this achievement in your career?
Williams: The short answer is GOD. I've developed the perspective that it's not my life. Some coaches get bogged down in every score. I am more patient. I have a longer term perspective you might call it a perspective of hope an eternity perspective. Emotionally, I am not so locked into today. There are a lot worse things than having a bad day on the golf course. It's not life and death. I'm around coaches who are in panic mode most of the time. Being in panic mode stresses out the kids. My players know I am not going to yell at them or have them run a mile for every stroke over 75.
FOC: How did you develop your coaching philosophy?
Williams: I played in college under a coach who was low stress and positive, and we won at our level. I played lots of sports under lots of coaches. I noted the ones who seemed to bring the best out of us. I noted the others, too. My dad was a very kind man, but could wield the rod when we deserved it. I am a blend of the coaches I had and my father. My first coach was harsh, and burned up players. There are lots and lots of books on coaching. They don't write books about the non-hard driving ones. It's not as interesting, I guess. The best coaches are the ones who can take lesser talent and win. You expect the coaches who get the blue chip recruits to win. The best coaches are caring people who try to build people up so that they believe in themselves. I try to be more of a father figure than a general, making them believe they can achieve beyond what most people think they can. I think that is a Biblical approach. Like David, God was taking the lesser and overcoming the greater.
FOC: What have been some of the major influences in your life?
Williams: R. J. Rushdoony had a significant effect on my Christian life before I even knew I had him to thank. I was attending a church in Texas (1989-1990). I had very little theological understanding, but was doing okay from my point of view. A close friend of mine left our church but would not give me his reason for doing so. I persisted in asking him why. In response, my friend sent me a copy of the Chalcedon Report. Shortly thereafter, I came across Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar. I then got my hands on books by David Chilton and Greg Bahnsen. I discovered that I was developing a very different perspective on the Christian Faith and understood why my friend had left our church.
At the time I was working as a club pro at a country club in a small Texas town. I was making a pretty good living. After a year's worth of reading, I felt that God had more for me to do than sit behind a counter and sell range balls! I decided to go back and finish my degree. This wasn't as easy as it sounds because, at the time, we already had three children. We lived on savings for about a year and I took odd jobs to get us through. My parents and in-laws thought I was nuts. I got my degree in agricultural science and went to graduate school. As a result of connections I made being a sports writer for the local paper (one of my odd jobs, along with plowing fields, mowing the church lawn, and washing dishes at night at Pizza Hut ), I ended up being offered an assistant coaching position at Sam Houston State University. By 1997 I had the head coaching position and was named Coach of the Year for our conference. We cracked the top 50, ending up 42nd in the national standings.
I made a point to try to have my team's road trips coincide with hearing some of the writers speak whose books I was avidly reading. Although I tried unsuccessfully to hear Rev. Rushdoony speak in person, I did manage to hear Doug Wilson when he spoke in Austin, and R.C. Sproul when we were in Orlando. I was actively looking for a place to relocate that would put my family in a more Reformed, postmillennial church setting one with large families like our own. I was drawn to the Idaho area because of Doug Wilson's church. In looking at a map, I discovered that Washington State (which unbeknownst to me had a coaching position opening up) was in striking distance. That would make me a PAC-10 coach if I got the job.
I have struggled with pride all my life. So, when the job was formally offered to me, I was concerned that I'd be taking it for all the wrong reasons. My wife encouraged the move, offering the perspective that it would be a good move for the family in many different ways. As a result, I now hold a position that has given me the opportunity to have more impact on others than I ever had before. To my way of thinking, a job is a whole lot more than money. I'd have to acknowledge Carol as the real hero in all of this. She has willingly sacrificed her own comforts to help me achieve the things I've felt God calling me to do. Since my responsibilities take me away from home regularly, her faithfulness as a wife and home schooling mom are part and parcel of my achievements and the recognition I've received for them.
FOC: What do you think is the greatest challenge for you in the future?
Williams: I want to be successful at any level that brings glory to God. I pray daily that God would not allow me to be prideful as I achieve this success. My prayer is that the Lord would deepen my message and enlarge my audience.
FOC: Would you encourage young Christians to pursue careers in athletics?
Williams: YES!!!!!!!! If Christians can earn a living in sports they should. Sports is one of the professions we are to move into and take dominion. Right or wrong, anyone successful in sports is given a forum; because of the attention sports figures are given, they can say as much with their lifestyle as they can with their words.
The church has become too feminized. It has lost ground on every front as it has done so. It has compromised in every area there is to compromise. Home-schooled boys are often too soft. Sports help undo the effect from churched families that discourage competition. We are to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Well, who wins in heaven? The righteous. "Thy will be done on earth. Thy will be done on earth!" That means the righteous are supposed to win on earth! This is no job for soft men. Our boys are going to have to be very strong very strong and godly men to win the battles they will be called to fight as Christians in a pagan culture.