PROVO When E.J. Caffaro was 17, years before he became the director of Brigham Young University's student-athlete academic center, he planned to finish a junior prom group date by staying overnight on a New Jersey beach.
His mother disapproved and asked him to do her a favor and pray about it. The frustrated teenager agreed but went down to his room, put on his headphones and listened to music. He intended to return to his mom later and tell her God said it was OK to go.
Eventually, he did pray. He felt a clear impression that his plans were wrong and had a second impression to read a specific passage in Isaiah.
The date continued on the Jersey shore without Caffaro. No major tragedy befell the party-goers, Caffaro said Tuesday during a BYU campus devotional at the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium, but there were several small tragedies. Many of his friends engaged in drinking alcohol, using drugs and immoral behavior, activities that conflicted with his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"It was not the atmosphere I needed to be in that night," Caffaro said. "But, the most important event was that a 17-year-old boy received an answer to his prayers and gained more faith in his Heavenly Father's game plan."
Caffaro's office helps provide academic game plans for more than 600 student-athletes on 21 BYU teams through tutors, study halls, mentors, academic advisement, psychological counseling, group study and a computer lab.
A former football coach at BYU-Idaho and Snow College before he joined the BYU football staff as an academic coach in 2001, Caffaro urged a nearly full auditorium of about 850 students, faculty and administrators to create their own personal game plan for life.
He suggested students listen to the strategies suggested by their parents.
"Sometimes those that love us may not always present these methods in the right moment or the right tone," he said, but we must use good discretion when receiving this advice. "Those who love us are not perfect, but most times the advice they give us is."
Caffaro listed four essential strategies for life, which he described as a competition against a committed and difficult opponent.
First, he said joy can be found in keeping the commandments, which he said "are nothing more than wise instructions from a loving Father."
Personal prayer and scripture study were the second and third strategies on his list. ("The scriptures are the greatest playbooks ever written," he said.)
And finally, Caffaro said students should arm themselves for the competition against the adversary through small acts of kindness and worthiness.
He also called Jesus Christ the ultimate head coach and said he already has won the most important victory."The battle is won," Caffaro said. "We know the final outcome. We need to choose whose team we want to be on."