With a blistery winter firmly in the rear-view mirror and spring well upon us, the Northside Christian Church has a special treat for locals. Jim White, the celebrated cross country coach who inspired the now-playing Disney film “McFarland, USA” starring Kevin Costner, will be speaking at Northside during the upcoming Easter weekend.
Coach White will be speaking to the congregation during three different services over the course of of the weekend, with the first taking place at 6 p.m., Saturday, April 4, and the last two services starting on Easter Sunday (April 5th) at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively.
A fellow Central Valley resident, White gained notoriety as he led MacFarland High’s cross country team to an unprecedented nine state championships during his 20-year career as head coach. In a small-town with a population of only 13,500, White is affectionately known as “Blanco” to the people of McFarland.
The Disney film “McFarland, USA” primarily focuses on White’s impact on the town of the same name, largely through his leading role in jump-starting the local high school’s cross country team. Coaching at what is known to be a predominantly Mexican-American high school, White was instrumental in inspiring his runners, many of whom came from modest backgrounds, to overcome obstacles and become champions.
In a February interview with the Huffington Post, White was quoted as saying that attitude is one of the things he emphasizes the most.
“You have to have a good attitude about what you want to do. And that leads into goals; you have to be able to set some goals.”
While he certainly emphasizes technique and form when coaching, White goes the extra mile in making sure that his runners are not only good athletes but also good people. He pushes his teams to understand that building character takes priority over winning championships.
“Taking first place all the time is never going to happen. For me, the great coach is teaching some lifelong skills. That to us is more important than all of the championships that we won.”
And with all his emphasis on character and attitude, White’s cross country teams still turned out to be some of the most successful in the area with their nine championships in twenty years.
Coach White was gracious enough to speak to us in advance of his appearance at Northside Christian Church, and he was able to explain how he derived many of his philosophies and coaching practices.
“I read a lot about Charles Swindol, and he talks about how attitude is more important than your job, more important than church, and more important than school, and I really bought into that.”
He went on to say that some of his methods of coaching stem from how he was brought up as a young man competing in high school and college.
“A couple of my coaches helped me develop a better attitude by not treating me the way I wanted to be treated. They never really gave me an opportunity to show what I could do to excel. I made an effort to coach [my boys] better, and I didn’t want them to experience what I went through.”
Self-realization and fortitude play a big factor in how White preaches about dealing with obstacles.
“I talk to a lot of teenagers and I tell them, ‘In life you are going to have problems, and there’s no way around these problems. 90% of it is controlled by just you and how you let them affect you. Regardless of what is going on in your personal life, you can still have a positive influence on the people around you.”
With regards to the Disney film, White said he was happy with how the movie turned out.
“Disney did us a big favor,” he said. “They didn’t portray [some aspects] like I would’ve liked, but it’s really good.”
With his track-record, pun-intended, and storied history of success, White’s message at Northside’s Easter weekend services will surely be one you won’t want to miss. And if you feel intrigued enough to check out the Disney feature film, you can find “McFarland, USA” playing at theaters all over town.