Legendary coach advises: 'Choose what team you play for'

Coach-turned-mission president counsels high school students


Famed rugby coach-turned-mission president Larry Gelwix shared his championship strategies for life with high school students and educators at the recent 65th Annual California FHA-HERO State Leadership Conference. The event draws top students and educators from across the state of California. President Gelwix of Salt Lake City is president of the California Fresno Mission. His keynote address was titled "Living Forever Strong."

California Fresno Mission President Larry Gelwix speaks with high school students at a recent confer
California Fresno Mission President Larry Gelwix speaks with high school students at a recent conference for young business students. Prior to his mission, President Gelwix coached 20 high school rugby teams to national championships.

Prior to President Gelwix's arrival at the conference, several hundred of the students and educators participated in a college-fair and a special screening of the 2008 motion picture "Forever Strong," which is based on the real-life story of President/Coach Gelwix and the Highland High School rugby team in Salt Lake City.

As the volunteer head coach of the Highland rugby players, he led his team to an unprecedented record of 418 wins and just 10 loses, including 20 national championships in 36 years. When the California FHA-HERO event organizers learned that President Gelwix was living in Fresno they invited him to share his coaching philosophy of honesty, integrity, moral values and hard work with the conference.

"What he [President Gelwix] says is so important and fits in with what we try to teach," said Melissa Webb, an event organizer with the California Department of Education.

President Gelwix shared important championship strategies that he used as a coach and now shares with his missionaries, including "Choose What Team You Play For," which highlights the importance of making a decision to choose what is right and stick with it; "Don't Play With Snakes," teaching that we know what is right and wrong and must have the courage to choose the right; "Attitude and Effort Are Everything," telling the audience that their attitude and effort are more important than natural ability, and "Focus on the Final Score," which helps people keep their focus on their goals.

"Teachers can take his message and use it as a teaching tool in their own individual classrooms and in their own [FHA-HERO] chapters," said Ms. Webb.

Conferencegoers noticed and commented on President Gelwix's missionary name tag, which he wore during his speech. President Gelwix noted in his remarks that he was serving the Church in California.

Following his keynote address, President Gelwix met with students and teachers. One student asked what the basis of President Gelwix's championship strategies are. President Gelwix replied, "These championship strategies are all based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the perfect game plan for a happy and successful life."

When asked about leadership styles, President Gelwix explained that there are two basic styles of leadership — horizontal leaders and vertical leaders. Horizontal leaders multiply the people around them while vertical leaders diminish others. He used the life of the Savior as he taught the students about leadership. "Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a servant leader. His motivation was selfless rather than selfish," said President Gelwix.

"I really liked what he said," commented Dean Schaeffey, a student at Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova, Calif. "He motivated me to want to do better."

The students listened with appreciation while Ms. Webb and other adults standing nearby took notice of the teaching moment.

"I think the best part of the afternoon was him mentoring that group of students," Ms. Webb said about President Gelwix. "His taking that extra time to speak one-on-one was a nice conclusion to his whole presentation."

When asked what he enjoyed most about serving as a mission president, President Gelwix replied, "Seeing the real change that comes into the lives of people and families who accept the gospel. And serving with the incredible missionaries we have in this mission. We love them all."

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