Bill Courtney Booksigning 

Manassas High School coach, subject of Oscar-winning Undefeated, signs Against the Grain.

"You must absolutely be beside yourself," said the reporter to the man on the red carpet. "How will the movie winning the Oscar change your life?"

"It won't," answered the man. "Tomorrow, they're going to roll the red carpet up and next year, another great movie will come out, and I'll be an afterthought."

The man being interviewed was Bill Courtney. The movie about his coaching the Manassas High School football team in Memphis was Undefeated, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2012. And an "afterthought" Courtney may be in some quarters. Don't tell that, though, to the inspired audiences who hear Courtney on the speaking circuit. And don't tell that to readers of Against the Grain (Weinstein Books), Courtney's book of life lessons (co-written with author and journalist Michael Arkush), which Courtney will be signing at the Booksellers at Laurelwood on Saturday.

The book draws from Courtney's own life; the lives of the students he coached; the lives of his workforce at Classic American Hardwoods (the local lumber company Courtney owns); and the lives of fellow Memphians, including Dr. Scott Morris, Jim Strickland, Fred Smith, and Jacqueline Smith. The book's subtitle covers the territory: "A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love."

Courtney covers his coaching philosophy in just a few words too. Never mind the standard X's and O's. Courtney "starts with believing that players win games and coaches win players." And elsewhere in Against the Grain: "I didn't coach football. I coached kids who played football."

And no, winning isn't the only thing, according to Coach Courtney. There's something to be said too for commitment, civility, perseverance, personal responsibility, and dignity. Grace, too, and forgiveness when times get tough, on or off the field.


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