There are fewer things in life more powerful than a good pep talk. A handful of articulate words strung together like fairy lights have the power to illuminate the path we'd be missing on our own. While we may tune into TV for bloody sword fights and steamy love affairs, every now and then comes a character so wise, so in tune with the human experience, the viewer finds themselves just as inspired as the other characters.
One of these motivational unicorns is none other than Coach Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights. The gentlemen of the Dillon Panthers and East Dillon Lions are lottery lucky to have him. Sure, Coach Taylor is great at his job and his teams rack up the wins, but his players are also getting invaluable life advice they'll take with them long after they've hung up their shoulder pads. With the winning combination of Tony Robbins' intensity and Oprah's eloquence, Coach Taylor isn't just a coach to these kids; he's a father too. Here is Friday Night Lights: Coach Taylor's 10 Most Inspirational Quotes.
10 There are more important things than football
This may seem like the worst thing for a coach to say, and that's exactly why it's the best thing for a coach to say. Coach Taylor's boys wrap up their whole identities in being football players. In youth's quest to find themselves, labels can be comforting. In Dillon, Texas there's no better label than "football player".
These guys are treated like celebrities, as restaurants give them free food and girls line up around the block to date them. Being a football player is great... as long as you're winning. If you only identify as a football player and you fumble a ball or lose the game, that can be way more devastating than it should. Through football, Coach Taylor teaches many life lessons, but one of the best of all is that sometimes you have to leave it all on the field.
9 6 AM sharp means a quarter to 6
As skilled as Coach Taylor may be, not every one of his players respects his authority. That's why he lays down the law, succinctly stating his expectations. This particular rule may seem a little rigid, especially to a teenager who would rather be sleeping off a hangover, but it's sage advice for life after football as well.
Coach Taylor is telling the boys that being the best isn't about being the fastest or the strongest. It's not just about showing up either, but showing up before you're expected to, before everyone else. That is what makes you an asset, not just to your team, but yourself.
8 Women are to be respected
This isn't coming from Eric Taylor the football coach, rather Eric Taylor the dad. When he walks in on his daughter having sex with quarterback Matt Saracen, Eric could have handled this a number of ways. He could have flown off the handle, brandishing a shotgun, threatening Matt with all sorts of physical and psychological violence. But that's not the kind of man Eric is. Ultimately, all that behavior would do is show that Eric thinks of his daughter as an object meant to be protected. Instead, Eric loves her and wants her to be treated properly. Yes, the mood between Eric and Matt is understandably tense, but Eric is calm and collected as he says his piece. While Matt has never been anything but a gentleman, it's important to have this conversation all the same.
7 Stay away from dumb, gentlemen
Coach Taylor can only instill so much wisdom in his players. He's not their coach 24/7. He can't be there to blow his whistle every time somebody gets drunk, or assign push-ups if they have unprotected sex. Nor would he want to be. As much as any coach or parent wants to encourage good judgment in their kids, sometimes the best way for them to learn is to screw up.
While he may have a way with words, Coach Taylor isn't a verbose kind of guy. He doesn't hand out a playbook of every mistake a teenager can possibly make. He sums it up with this short and sweet speech. Coach Taylor isn't dumb. He knows this speech will fall on more than a few deaf ears. But he's planting a seed in these boys' heads for when they grow to be men.
6 I can't give you the answers. You gotta make the answers
This one is for the players who do listen to Coach Taylor, who hang off his every word. There are way worse people out there to take advice from than Coach Taylor. Following his philosophy sets players up for a responsible, meaningful life. But at some point, everybody has to think for themselves. Life isn't a drill where you just do what you're told.
Eventually, these boys will have some big decisions to make: to continue playing football after high school, to go to college, to leave their families. They can't be banging on Coach's door at all hours of the night looking for approval. While Coach Taylor is always there to offer guidance - and sometimes even a place to sleep - everyone needs to learn to stand on their own two feet, including his players.
5 I want you to let yourself off the hook, son
Coach Taylor can be a hardass. He's doesn't like your attitude? You're benched. You're not pulling your weight? Guess what, you're performing grueling drills before dawn in the pouring rain. But Coach Taylor always knows when to put down the whistle and offer his heart. After Jason Street suffers a career-ending injury, Tim Riggins blames himself, going on a self-destructive warpath. Coach Taylor steps in, offering this advice. As hard as Tim may beat himself up, he'll never be able to change what happened. He's drowning himself in a sea of should-would-coulda, but Coach Taylor will always offer a lifeboat.
4 You listen to people that love you and you listen to people that you trust. Most of all, you listen to yourself
Every single person should internalize this before they reach adulthood. For the Panthers and the Lions, there is no shortage of people telling them what they should do with their lives. Parents, girlfriends, and talent scouts are all ready to offer their unsolicited opinion - many of them conflicting.
Listening is good, especially when you're at the precipice of a major life event. But as much as the people who love us want what's best for us, deep down, only we can determine that. Coach Taylor demands discipline and preparedness from his players, but above all, he wants to teach them to hone their gut instinct.
3 Success is not a goal. It's a byproduct.
Being an athlete, one can adopt a very results-oriented mindset. Coach Taylor wouldn't be much of a coach if he didn't want his players to win. But what he really wants is for his boys to appreciate the value of effort. It's a hard lesson to teach, especially in Dillon, where one loss can turn the town against you.
Coach Taylor can be especially hard on his more naturally gifted players. To them, this is frustrating and illogical because they're delivering wins. However, Coach Taylor is trying to teach the difference between a cheap and easy victory and one that was earned by giving it your all. For Coach Taylor, to work hard is to win.
2 Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He's gonna fight and he's gonna lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of the battle, he does not lose himself.
Friday Night Lights was on during the age of the anti-hero. Coach Taylor's TV peers were Don Draper and Walter White. While Coach Taylor definitely made some fumbles over the course of five seasons, he never loses himself, something that's so easy to do when the chips are down.
The viewer witnesses other coaches or players playing dirty and resorting to underhanded tactics all for the sake of a win. But Coach Taylor wants his players to be comfortable accepting loss. That doesn't mean they want the win any less, but some lines should never be crossed to get there. Coach Taylor may be determined, but he never broke bad.
1 Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
Coach Taylor works his players hard. He pushes them to their physical brink, he yells, and if you mess up, you're getting an earful. But Coach Taylor is no iron-fisted dictator. At his core, he exudes sportsmanship and passion. To him, football is about the love of the game. Why put so much blood, sweat, and tears into something if you don't love it? It's rare if ever that Coach Taylor's pregame pep-talk is about crushing and destroying the other team. That's because Coach Taylor has no room for hate, in football or in life. The Panthers' motto isn't a silly, magical incantation guaranteed to bestow a win. It means that playing with focus and love will always make you a winner, no matter the numbers on the scoreboard.