David Bishop has learned the true definition of two words this season: adversity and family.
Both have played major roles and are rallying moments for the North Hall High football program this season.
The Trojans’ coach Bishop, among many others in his program, has been forced to deal with the sadness and grief that comes with the death of a family member.
Still, the Trojans’ coach has remained as focused on football, as possible, as they are currently on a three-game winning streak.
North Hall (4-2, 2-0 Region 7-3A) looks to continue its winning streak against Lumpkin County at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Dahlonega.
While preparing for the game and competing for a region title has been the Trojans goal all season, the focus has been working through adversity and instilling the irreplaceable value of family.
“Football is a game that we use to teach (life lessons) and I think sometimes we get it backwards,” said Bishop, 54. “Adversity makes you grow or gives you excuses.”
Adversity has hit the Trojans program head-on this season.
Bishop dealt with the crushing blow of his mother’s death from cancer in August.
One of the Trojans’ assistant coaches experienced the death of his father-in-law last week, Bishop added.
Also, one North Hall player lost two really close relatives in the last three weeks.
Three other players have dealt with the death of a grandparent throughout the course of the season.
Combine that with a substantial number of injuries North Hall’s players have endured so far and also managed to keep a winning record to boot is impressive.
“Some people will focus on what you don’t have and not what we do have,” said Bishop, who is in the 21st season at North Hall. “What’s important to me is to teach these kids how to handle adversity because they are going to face it in life. It is going to get tough.
“This little piece (football), while it seems big, is more of a tool than anything else in my mind.”
During the summer, Bishop was flying back and forth to South Florida to visit and assist with his parents’ needs.
Then, the night before the second scrimmage against Flowery Branch, the Toms River, New Jersey native got the devastating phone call that his mother had passed away.
Bishop gathered his program at school to share with them the news of his mother’s passing and that he would be absent for a significant amount of time.
After telling his players he loved them but had to leave, one of them stood up and asked, ‘Can we pray?’ Everyone in that locker room, at that time, surrounded the veteran coach praying over him and his family. It was a moment Bishop will never forget.
“It was a great moment,” he said, as tears filled his eyes. “That’s the kind of stuff that means more to me than anything in the world.”
He means just as much to his players.
“He means the world to me,” senior running back Kevin Rochester said. “I love him very much. I know he loves us because he lets us know that. Coach Bishop invests so much into our team and not just with football. He talks to us about life and different things that are going on. He has been through a lot this year, but that has not affected him (as a coach). It has not affected his attitude at all. He is still an amazing hard worker and loves us.”
Balancing family and football responsibilities, during a personal tragedy, was not easy for Bishop.
Bishop returned to coach against Paulding County in Week 1 of the regular season before getting on a flight to South Florida the next morning.
He did this for three straight weeks.
Bishop tried to help with game preparation as best he could, with Stuart Cunningham serving as interim head coach, while planning arrangements and tending to his grieving father.
“Every Friday night, you’re going to go through it, but the adversity in the game is never what you’re going to feel in real life,” Bishop said. “If we can teach and use moments to teach, that’s important. You never get another shot at family.”
This is something he not only employees with the players, but with the rest of the coaching staff.
Since becoming the Trojans head coach in 2014, Bishop’s focus has been to make sure his coaches focus on being the best fathers possible.
North Hall’s staff does not have long coaching meetings.
Bishop tells them to take care of the things they need to handle with regards to football-related matters and then head home.
Every one of the Trojans coaches has gone through a traumatic moment with their family.
Bishop has had to gently push many out of the office or practice so they can attend to their family’s needs.
He has told them, “You have one day. One lifetime.”
“I can’t talk about family, unless I can show my coaches I care about your family, too,” said Bishop, who is father of two North Hall graduates.
The message of adversity and family is cemented in the players’ mind.
“It has been the talk this season,” Rochester said. “Making sure you don’t allow it to stop you or slow you down.
“At the same time, taking care of it and not just neglecting adversity completely, but recognizing it so what we know what to do better.”