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Mormon coaches and callings: How they balance serving in the church with pressure-filled profession

Published: Thursday, Aug. 21 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Kaufusi feels fortunate to work in such an environment. The BYU defensive line coach is currently serving as bishop of the Provo 226th Young Single Adult Ward. When he was called, “Everybody looked at me like, ‘What? How are you going to do that?’ ” Kaufusi said.

The longtime assistant coach, who played at BYU and started his coaching career at the University of Utah, explained that at most schools, particularly outside of the state of Utah, Sunday is a full day of preparation for the upcoming week. Coaches break down and grade film from the previous game and then break down film of the next opponent.

"They get a lot done," Kaufusi said.

Having Sundays off allows him to to serve in such a time-intensive calling. He's learned that it is possible to balance work and church responsibilities.

"Coach Mendenhall has an understanding of what we do here and what this place is all about," Kaufusi said. "It’s just been amazing how it all works. You find the time to do it all. And that’s what I tell other people: ‘Hey, you’re next. You’ve got to do it. You can do it.’ ”

Another exception to the typical coaching Sunday is Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where Stubbs gives his players and coaches Sunday completely off. This policy has at times scored points with recruits and their parents, Stubbs said. One of his assistant coaches, Justin Anderson, is the bishop of the ward that they both attend in the Houma-Thibodaux area.

Aside from required NCAA compliance meetings, the Weber State staff and players don't meet on Sundays, Hill said. Staff and players at the University of Utah gather for meetings each Sunday at 5 p.m., Scalley said.

Ed Lamb, the head coach of Southern Utah University and who is not an LDS Church member but attends services regularly and serves in his family's ward, also limits team activities on Sunday. Giving the team a chance to physically and mentally recuperate is beneficial, Lamb said.

“In addition to taking care of church commitments, it gives the players a chance to purge the game, which is so important in their lives,” Lamb said.

Recently, Tidwell attended his church meetings and spent the afternoon visiting his father on his 90th birthday.

“It’s nice to have the Sabbath for what it was meant to be — a day of rest,” Tidwell said.

Mission factor

Bevell is coming off a Super Bowl victory and entering his third year with the Seahawks. He said his mission to Cleveland helped him grow up and learn to handle difficult situations. Playing at Wisconsin after his mission also provided plenty of unique missionary opportunities. Bevell occasionally relates mission experiences and football-related life lessons when speaking at firesides and when interacting with the priest quorum in his ward as part of his calling.

“When I got to Wisconsin, I wasn’t in awe of the massive stadium crowds or scared of being chased by huge defensive linemen because I’d had dogs sicced on me in Cleveland,” said Bevell, whose wife, Tammy, served in the same mission. “I was the only married player on the team and every (news) article mentioned my mission. It was great to be in Wisconsin and generate some publicity for the church.”

Missionary service can be a powerful experience to build on in both coaching and church service.

It was in the streets of Puerto Rico that Hill learned the meaning of sacrifice, hard work and how to handle adversity. He also learned how to get along with people and help them through their problems.

“You learn to give your all to one cause," Hill said. "You wake up early, go to bed late and work your butt off. And there is rejection, and you have to learn how to overcome those tough times. You help couples through marital problems and other issues. All those lessons carry over into football.”

Fesi Sitake, Weber State’s wide receiver coach, said serving a mission in Riverside, California, helped him learn to speak in front of large groups with greater confidence.

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