“All In: Driven by Passion, Energy and Purpose” by Porter Moser. Loyola Press (Chicago, 2020). 200 pp. $18.95.
It is not unusual for winning coaches of college and professional sports teams to write books that mix autobiography with a focus on how readers can be successful. Thus, it is no surprise that Porter Moser, coach of the Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team since 2011, has followed suit.
However, what makes his contribution to the genre unique is that his autobiography/success story includes 34 references to God, 87 mentions of love, 23 for faith and 71 for family. Oh, he writes a lot about basketball — his “passion” — but it is frequently accompanied by a mention of at least one of those elements.
Moser came to the attention of a mass audience in 2018 when the Loyola Ramblers made it to the NCAA Final Four. Dramatic wins over higher-seeded teams put him in the national spotlight.
For those looking for words-to-live-by and quote-of-the-day material, Moser provides it:
— “No complaining, no excuses, no entitlement,” which he terms “our team rule.”
— “Choose faith instead of fear.”
— “How you think is how you feel, how you feel is how you act, and how you act is what defines you.”
— “Humility is a way of life.”
— “Adversity is just another name for opportunity.”
But “All In” is not just a collection of motivational sentences. It is a story of faith. Why did he choose to attend Creighton as a walk-on, i.e., no scholarship, basketball player? “My Catholic faith was — and still is — important to me, so I wanted to go to a school that lived that faith.”
Not getting significant playing time at Creighton for his first season and a half, he prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance. “I kept saying to myself, ‘God has a plan.’ I had faith that at some point, there would be a breakthrough,” he writes. “I didn’t know what that breakthrough would be or when it would come, but I trusted that God had a plan and that I would eventually figure it out.”
He calls being fired from his second head coaching job at Illinois State in 2007 “the worst day of my life.” Yet he prayed not to feel bitter about what happened. “‘God has a plan,’ I kept repeating to myself,” he writes. “I realized that whatever God’s plan was, it did not include feelings of bitterness, resentment and anger.”
Each chapter concludes with a section titled “Creating Culture” in which he asks four groups of questions. With Moser’s focus on God and faith, it is no surprise that they read like an examination of conscience:
— What do you truly want for your life?
— What does it look like?
— Do you see accountability as an expression of love?
— How did you make a positive impact on someone today, the past week, or the past month?
Every chapter provides inspiration and encouragement, but the chapter titled “Giving Gratitude” is the basis of a spiritual retreat. Consider how many presentations could be based on these sentences: “Gratitude is a faithful way of thinking. I know it’s difficult to be grateful when things get messed up. It takes faith that despite the problems you might be facing, God has a plan.”
Given how Moser has lived and how he encourages others to live, it is fitting that his list of acknowledgments begins: “First and foremost, I’d like to thank God for the many blessings he has given to me in life, starting with my faith. The strength he has provided me has allowed me to persevere and thrive in my journey. All glory goes to him.”
Is this book for you? Coaches at various levels will find it useful, as will parents whose children are involved in sports, as well as the children themselves. Those seeking a good dose of Catholic affirmation and inspiration will not be disappointed. Why?
One need only consider the words of the team’s chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who became a national celebrity in her own right during the Ramblers’ 2018 finish. She writes in the introduction: “This is easy reading, but it’s deep. Porter writes it that way because it comes from his heart.”
A lot of heart.
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Olszewski is an alumnus of Loyola University Chicago and the editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.