“If we can get there, we will win it”…
That was Allan Trimble’s closing line before every semi-final game staff meeting. Every football season is a journey filled with storms of adversity and unknowns. Over Coach Trimble’s desk hung a reminder of what it takes to navigate through these trials. It was a painting of a 17th century ship caught in a storm. There are twenty-two sails harnessing the power of the wind. Each sail has the key word written on it.
On the bow of the ship written in yellow-gold is the word CHAMPION.
The first time that I saw this painting was in the spring of 2005. At the time, Coach Trimble had won 7 State Championships. I was a young coach and in the midst of making a decision that would change the course of my coaching career forever. I had been offered an offensive coordinator position at a rival 6a school in Oklahoma. However, just before I was about to accept the job, I got a call that Coach Trimble had an offensive assistant job open at Jenks High School.
Every young coach starts their career with big dreams and a fast track plan. Mine was no different. I planned on being an assistant for a couple of years, then offensive coordinator, followed by head coach, then parlay that into a college job. I felt I was on that fast track until this opportunity to be an assistant on Coach Trimble’s staff presented itself. Unsure of what to do I called my dad. His words were simple.
“Son, if you have a chance to mop the floor of Coach Trimble’s lockeroom, take it”.
I called Coach Trimble to set up an interview. I had a playbook and resume filled with information that I hoped would impress him. However, I was surprised at the direction the interview went. We sat and talked about life, fishing, our faith and being raised in the Church of Christ. There wasn’t much talk of football at all. I walked out of the interview unsure of what to think.
Thankfully, he called back a few days later and offered me an assistant’s job to coach wide receivers. I decided to get off the fast track plan and accept the job. I never could have imagined how that small decision changed the course of my life. I was about to get a thirteen-year doctorate of learning to lead under Coach Allan Trimble.
From 2005 to 2017 I had a front row and behind the scenes seat next to the Hall of Fame coach. I watched him lead from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Every season was a puzzle of problems and I watched as he moved the pieces to make it all fit together. The challenge is sometimes all the pieces don’t fit together. Sometimes the puzzle just doesn’t make sense.
The puzzle didn’t make any sense on July 8th, 2016. It was a Friday morning of our summer pride workouts and the players were arriving for our twenty-play drive competition. The workout consists of twenty grueling stations on the field that require players to do strenuous activities for one minute with all-out effort. It makes a cross fit workout seem easy.
It was on that morning the Coach Trimble called the staff into his office and broke the news that he has ALS. The wind was sucked out of our sails. Everyone was in shock. We all knew what this meant. Coach Trimble’s time and our time together was soon coming to an end. All the while that painting of the ship in the storm was still hanging over his desk as a reminder of what CHAMPIONS do.
CHAMPIONS do what they are called to do. No matter what the storm. I will never forget how Coach Trimble responded on that day. He went out to the football field and coached. This video clip will be forever seared into my memory. This is Coach Trimble coaching his station in the twenty play drive after breaking the news to us all that he has ALS.
Anytime I have a bad day, not sure what to do, or don’t feel like serving, this video plays in my mind. My hope is that it will replay in your mind as well.
We were fortunate enough to get to coach together for two more seasons after his diagnosis. Every day the storm got stronger, but Coach Trimble continued to fight. He retired from coaching in the spring of 2018. After his retirement, I decided it was time to take the thirteen-year education I received from him and become a head coach.
In my first season we had a lot of success. We started out 6-0 and began to enter the toughest part of our schedule. I asked Coach Trimble to come out and speak to the team early in the week. He was now in a motorized chair. He wheeled onto the field and gathered the players up.
Everybody responds, “Great!”.
He then says, “Well, you haven’t experienced any adversity yet, have you?”
Everybody looks around and mumbles quietly, “No”.
He replies, “When the storms hit (and they will), don’t focus on the storm, Steer the ship!”.
Little did I know how prophetic those words would be. We would go on to lose our best receiver and safety the next game to a non-contact ACL injury. The following game we would lose our starting QB to a non-contact ACL injury. The next game we lost our backup QB to a sprained MCL injury. Anytime a new storm appeared I would look at our strength coach and simultaneously we would say, “Steer the Ship”. That phrase became a mental anchor and reminder to us all of what we are to do as leaders.
Coach Trimble’s words, example and that painting will never leave me. The most difficult part of steering the ship in the storm is not giving up. It is making a way when there seems no way. The willingness to keep moving forward and getting everyone on the team to move forward requires every key concept that is written on the sails of that ship. Many can go hard, focus, give maximum effort and be all in when the water is calm, and you can see the port. Very few can do it when the waves are roaring, and there is no land in sight. I think that is why Coach Trimble always said, “If we can just get there (State Finals), we will win it”.
He knew that it’s the journey through the storm that is the hardest part. It’s bringing the ship into port that is the easiest. I have watched Coach Trimble steer the ship through the undefeated storm of ALS. It has been remarkable to see how he continues to navigate through it. The secret is written on one of the sails of the ship. FAITH. You cannot be around Coach Trimble for very long before you realize the faith he has in Jesus Christ. It is the only sail on the ship that defeats the storm. It’s the only sail that brings the ship into a heavenly port that lasts for eternity.
I greatly miss the time I had on Coach Trimble’s ship. There are so many storms that we endured together. So many stories to tell. I look forward to replaying them all together again someday. In the heavenly port that never ends…
Coach Trimble created the Trimble Strong foundation as a ship that will continue to serve others in need. If you are looking for a cause that is committed to empower others then please consider giving to this outstanding foundation.
Coach Trimble is also releasing a book that will document his legacy and leadership traits that built one of the most dominant football programs in history. You can pre-order the book here: