Gross’ departure inspires taking responsibility

Mike Ezekiel

The word “entitlement,” or the belief that someone deserves special privileges, makes me cringe more than any other.

I have noticed people throwing around the word “entitlement” frequently over the last few years, specifically in reference to themselves.

Former UNA offensive coordinator Cody Gross taught me many lessons when I played for him at Wilson High School in 2011, but none stuck with me more than entitlement.

The lesson was simply this: We were not entitled to anything. He held us accountable for our actions, and we earned our success.

Gross left UNA to take the head coach position at Athens High School Feb. 15. When I heard the news, I had two reactions.

The first reaction was, “Oh no, I’m really going to miss seeing him around campus all the time.” My second one was a little more unselfish. I realized that he could instill the same principles at another high school that he did for me when he coached me.

It appears entitlement is bleeding into the sports world more than ever with illegal recruiting running rampant on all levels, including high school. When it comes to players’ egos, it is a feeding frenzy.

USA Today released an article titled “Entitlement an epidemic in sports” April 1, 2010. Writer Christine Brennan foreshadowed what we could expect from athletes, fans and other coaches in the future: The blame game.

Players will blame their coaches and parents will blame the coaches and administrators. As a result, administrators will fire their coaches because of pressure from parents.

Fast forward to last weekend. I turn on FOX Sports Radio and listen to Arnie Spanier, a syndicated late-night radio personality on weekends. Spanier talked about entitlement’s unfortunate growth in sports, questioning why people no longer feel the need to work their way up from scratch.

I am not a prideful person, but I do take pride in one thing: playing in a clean program. If I were to ever feel entitled and my coach knew about it, he would kick me off the team.

I told Coach Gross as he was packing up his office Feb. 17, “I would rather go 1-9 playing for you than feel entitled in a 9-1 program.” He smiled, shook my hand, patted me on the back and told me that meant a lot to him.

The truth is, he means a lot to me and is one of the main reasons I’m writing this editorial. He’s the reason I got my first job out of high school working with the UNA football team, which ultimately resulted in the jobs I have today.

Without him holding me accountable every day and helping me realize I do not deserve anything without putting blood, sweat and tears into it, I would be on a completely different path.

All coaches should hold their players to these standards. Their job is not to just win games, but to mold their players to be productive members of society.

Our society should not feel entitled because we are not.

My advice is to be happy working your way from the bottom because more often than not, the most successful people did. Almost every successful person I’ve met, heard or read all said the best time of their life was trying to make it to the top.

Do not wait on your dreams to come to you. Instead, chase them.