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Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love

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Bill Courtney is a familiar name to those who saw him in Undefeated, the Oscar-winning movie about the high school football team he coached in a downtrodden section of North Memphis. Now, in his first book, Against the Grain Courtney describes the key principles— including service, civility, leadership, character, commitment, and forgiveness—that have helped young people Bill Courtney is a familiar name to those who saw him in Undefeated, the Oscar-winning movie about the high school football team he coached in a downtrodden section of North Memphis. Now, in his first book, Against the Grain Courtney describes the key principles— including service, civility, leadership, character, commitment, and forgiveness—that have helped young people and adults to live better and more fulfilled lives. Courtney has also passed along these values to his 120 employees at the lumber company he built from scratch. A former drug addict became a line manager and loving family man; an out-of-control cornerback is now a cadet at West Point; a star running back has discovered he can show his emotions and still be strong. Courtney, Esquire magazine’s Coach of the Year in 2012, shares these and other compelling stories to illustrate how readers can enrich themselves their families, their businesses, and their communities. Courtney goes against the grain of today’s mefirst culture, while explaining why these time-tested principles are needed now more than ever. He shows that winning isn’t just about the score at the end of the game, or the profit margin. Ultimately, it’s about the impact you make on your fellow human beings and the legacy you leave behind.


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Bill Courtney is a familiar name to those who saw him in Undefeated, the Oscar-winning movie about the high school football team he coached in a downtrodden section of North Memphis. Now, in his first book, Against the Grain Courtney describes the key principles— including service, civility, leadership, character, commitment, and forgiveness—that have helped young people Bill Courtney is a familiar name to those who saw him in Undefeated, the Oscar-winning movie about the high school football team he coached in a downtrodden section of North Memphis. Now, in his first book, Against the Grain Courtney describes the key principles— including service, civility, leadership, character, commitment, and forgiveness—that have helped young people and adults to live better and more fulfilled lives. Courtney has also passed along these values to his 120 employees at the lumber company he built from scratch. A former drug addict became a line manager and loving family man; an out-of-control cornerback is now a cadet at West Point; a star running back has discovered he can show his emotions and still be strong. Courtney, Esquire magazine’s Coach of the Year in 2012, shares these and other compelling stories to illustrate how readers can enrich themselves their families, their businesses, and their communities. Courtney goes against the grain of today’s mefirst culture, while explaining why these time-tested principles are needed now more than ever. He shows that winning isn’t just about the score at the end of the game, or the profit margin. Ultimately, it’s about the impact you make on your fellow human beings and the legacy you leave behind.

56 review for Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Against the Grain by Bill Courtney is not at all what you first expect when you see the cover. When I first heard about and saw the book I thought, "Oh, it's a football book. I don't get football." That thought could not have been further from the truth. Against the Grain is a tale of perseverance, hard work, faith in humanity, faith in yourself, leadership, business, and giving it your all, every single day. As I worked my way through the 14 chapters--Bill's 14 tenants on living a successful lif Against the Grain by Bill Courtney is not at all what you first expect when you see the cover. When I first heard about and saw the book I thought, "Oh, it's a football book. I don't get football." That thought could not have been further from the truth. Against the Grain is a tale of perseverance, hard work, faith in humanity, faith in yourself, leadership, business, and giving it your all, every single day. As I worked my way through the 14 chapters--Bill's 14 tenants on living a successful life--I found the writing, the stories, and the format resonating with me on a personal level. --The story of the woman who sat outside of the Martin Luther King Jr museum for years in protest of something she believed in strongly; --The heartbreaking and yet uplifting tale of the football player who paralyzed an opposing player during a game-changing both of their lives forever; --And the story of sacrifice represented by Bill's business partner in his lumber company. These were just a few of the real-life examples Bill provides that hit you where it hurts and get you thinking, "I could do more. I could do better." This is not a book that you can walk away from unchanged. Whether you're a sports enthusiast, or you can barely stand sports, it doesn't matter. Bill Courtney's Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love is about life, success, failure, and universal truths we can all understand and relate to.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    Great motivational book that has a great message.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Walker Hawkins

    "Against the Grain" by Bill Courtney, was a fantastic book. He did a great job describing us how he goes through many hardships and obstacles through his book. Also, he sacrificed multiple hours for his kids to help out inner city kids and try to be financially stable. You should watch the movie about his volunteer coaching jo at Manassas in 2009, it is called, "Undefeated." The last chapter ended it well with legacy and that when you die; People should remember you as a person with great charac "Against the Grain" by Bill Courtney, was a fantastic book. He did a great job describing us how he goes through many hardships and obstacles through his book. Also, he sacrificed multiple hours for his kids to help out inner city kids and try to be financially stable. You should watch the movie about his volunteer coaching jo at Manassas in 2009, it is called, "Undefeated." The last chapter ended it well with legacy and that when you die; People should remember you as a person with great character. The final sentences in the book were, "Making the right choice, which can mean taking some difficult steps to abide by the principles that truly matter, will lead you on a path to a legacy you and those close to you will cherish. Even if you have to go against the grain."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Quinn Selby

    Pretty let down with this book.. The reason for 2 stars is because I believe the current average rating of 4.26 stars is unwarranted and my 2 star review is meant to offset that disparity. Pretty self-inflating view of my own viewpoint, but I have read a fair amount of material on leadership. And comparing this book to others, "Against the Grain" was a personal let down. In actuality, this book had hidden gems of insightfulness written in practical language using first hand anecdotes. Of course, t Pretty let down with this book.. The reason for 2 stars is because I believe the current average rating of 4.26 stars is unwarranted and my 2 star review is meant to offset that disparity. Pretty self-inflating view of my own viewpoint, but I have read a fair amount of material on leadership. And comparing this book to others, "Against the Grain" was a personal let down. In actuality, this book had hidden gems of insightfulness written in practical language using first hand anecdotes. Of course, that might be valued by other readers, but this is my review and this is how I am concluded it!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Such a treasure each one of these books is. I love it. You can join in NovelStar writing contest happening this April till the end of May with a theme werewolf. You can also publish your stories in NovelStar, just email our editors [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    Rating: 4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent) Review: Bill Courtney gained fame and recognition as the assistant coach in the Oscar-winning documentary “Undefeated” about a Memphis high school football team that became a winning program through hard work, faith and the teachings of a volunteer part-time coach. That coach was Courtney who also turned an abandoned piece of property into a thriving business. These successes helped Courtney decide to write this book in order to “coach” even more people on his Rating: 4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent) Review: Bill Courtney gained fame and recognition as the assistant coach in the Oscar-winning documentary “Undefeated” about a Memphis high school football team that became a winning program through hard work, faith and the teachings of a volunteer part-time coach. That coach was Courtney who also turned an abandoned piece of property into a thriving business. These successes helped Courtney decide to write this book in order to “coach” even more people on his vies of character, faith and family. In the book, Courtney shares his values and reasons for his success in small doses. He shares many stories about his players at Manassas, his employees, his family and himself on many topics that other books of this nature will cover: hard work, keeping one’s word, service to others, dreams, responsibility and other similar topics. While reading the book, the reader will be caught up in the moment and feel the joy of success or the occasional heartbreak of failure as Courtney’s subject will either learn a valuable lesson or at times even make Courtney stop and think that maybe he could learn from the player or employee. My favorite story in the book is an example of Courtney pausing for a moment and thinking about these values he is trying to teach his players. I believe that makes the message that he is trying to deliver even more powerful, as it shows we all have room for growth in these areas. In the chapter about service, Courtney was having trouble connecting with his players and speaks privately to one of the seniors on the team, asking what he needs to do in order to get the team to listen to him. The player simply said to keep doing what he was doing. Pressing for details, the player eventually told the coach that the team was trying to figure out if he was a “turkey person.” The player went on to explain that he and his teammates would often see “folks who look just like you” drop off turkeys and other gifts and then leave, never to be seen again. Courtney’s players were trying to figure out if he was a turkey person, according to this player. It made Courtney reassess how he was coming across to his team and as a result, the team responded by playing some of its best football. Stories like that make this book a terrific read for anyone looking for a little positive news, for some uplifting and helpful advice or just some nice stories on football and life. The four and a half star rating I gave the book is rounded to five for Amazon and Goodreads that do not have half-stars for their ratings. I wish to thank the publisher for providing an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. Did I skim? No. Pace of the book: Because the stories are fairly short, consistent throughout the book and are varied in topic, the reader will fly through the book. While I didn’t read it at one sitting due to other commitments, the total time to read all 206 pages was not very long at all. Book Format Read: Paperback

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    I was one of the students at Rosemark Academy during Coach Courtney's time there. I count him among the greatest teachers I had at any level of education, elementary through doctoral. He was the man who taught me as an eighth grader how to read a novel, what the "elbow" is on a basketball court, why a "knight on the rim is grim", and gave me a base for developing leadership. One of the things I really enjoyed while reading Against the Grain was seeing how Billy's thoughts on leadership have coale I was one of the students at Rosemark Academy during Coach Courtney's time there. I count him among the greatest teachers I had at any level of education, elementary through doctoral. He was the man who taught me as an eighth grader how to read a novel, what the "elbow" is on a basketball court, why a "knight on the rim is grim", and gave me a base for developing leadership. One of the things I really enjoyed while reading Against the Grain was seeing how Billy's thoughts on leadership have coalesced since I knew him in his 20's. Even then as a fresh college grad his focus was on character. Many of the principles he presents resonate with what I'm learning about leadership: the fundamental importance of serving those you lead, the power of grace, the importance of understanding responsibility versus duty. What gratifies me most about seeing the differences between Coach Courtney at age 22 and Mr. Courtney in his 40s now is this: he developed. It's not that he's a better person now than he was then; it's that he's more effective. He has reflected on his principles and values, he's focused his choices based on those reflections, and he's become more effective at everything he does now. His articulations of those lessons in Against the Grain are his gift to us. Many of us have heroes from our childhood, and Coach is one of mine. That said, I don't want to be like Billy. His life, as far as I can tell, has always been a ridiculous hurricane of activity and risk that I have no appetite for. I do, however, want to develop like him. I want to take advantage of the privileges I have, the knowledge I've gained, the grace I've been afforded, and the values I've developed. I want to use them to raise my own four children to become Christ followers, to make life a little better for the men and women who work with me, to be a worthy husband, and to fulfill better all of those responsibilities tomorrow than I do today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Anderson

    I got about 2/3 through the book and then had the opportunity to watch the documentary. What was interesting to me is how although both were good, they didn't quite match. For example, in the book he indicated he didn't tolerate the use of the "N" word on his team. Yet in the documentary, the word is used and tolerated. The messages, in both the book and the documentary were good - but nothing you probably haven't read somewhere else. But, I guess that is part of his point. Building a team or li I got about 2/3 through the book and then had the opportunity to watch the documentary. What was interesting to me is how although both were good, they didn't quite match. For example, in the book he indicated he didn't tolerate the use of the "N" word on his team. Yet in the documentary, the word is used and tolerated. The messages, in both the book and the documentary were good - but nothing you probably haven't read somewhere else. But, I guess that is part of his point. Building a team or living a life to be proud of isn't complicated - but takes dedication and character. In the end, good messages in the book but it just didn't resonate with me as much as others have.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debby

    I won this book in the goodreads giveaway. I had previously seen the documentary, Undefeated, and I was glad to see Coach Courtney had written a book. I was thrilled when I won a free copy. The information in this book is material we all know, but Coach Courtney provides his own personal interpretation. The book is truly inspirational and I feel it should be mandatory reading in our Middle Schools, High Schools, and Universities. This would be a great gift to give to anyone. Read it with an open I won this book in the goodreads giveaway. I had previously seen the documentary, Undefeated, and I was glad to see Coach Courtney had written a book. I was thrilled when I won a free copy. The information in this book is material we all know, but Coach Courtney provides his own personal interpretation. The book is truly inspirational and I feel it should be mandatory reading in our Middle Schools, High Schools, and Universities. This would be a great gift to give to anyone. Read it with an open mind. You are sure to glean something from it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This book is a guide to a solid foundation to understanding what we have personally lost in this country and what is necessary to gain it back. It challenges us to servant leadership in everyday life based on a foundation of faith and examples of others. This book was a Goodreads giveaway and I want to say thanks for your story. I will certainly pass it on to others.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Finney Moore

    I loved this book and this story! It is a great read and a true story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Boyd

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pyang

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark Wood

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  16. 5 out of 5

    Clay

  17. 4 out of 5

    Farrel

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Carney

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Semonis

  20. 4 out of 5

    Susan Dooley

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sisa Wang

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lyle Johnson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Moran

  25. 4 out of 5

    Collins Coltharp

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Hale

  27. 4 out of 5

    Trisha Kaub

  28. 4 out of 5

    Apuca

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kirstin Venn

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

  32. 4 out of 5

    Brian Boyd

  33. 4 out of 5

    Duncan Platt

  34. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Perez

  35. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Scolaro

  36. 4 out of 5

    Abel Yock

  37. 5 out of 5

    Ricky Aha aha

  38. 4 out of 5

    James

  39. 4 out of 5

    Matt Gregory

  40. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Mills

  41. 4 out of 5

    Ali

  42. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  43. 4 out of 5

    Sean F

  44. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  45. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

  46. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

  47. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

  48. 5 out of 5

    Donna Schubert

  49. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Tegtmeyer

  50. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Bingham

  51. 5 out of 5

    Alaina Maxam

  52. 4 out of 5

    Haven Gordon

  53. 5 out of 5

    J

  54. 5 out of 5

    Janet

  55. 4 out of 5

    Kim Coomey

  56. 4 out of 5

    Michele Holifield

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