In 2013, the WMU football program had a record of 1-11. One win, and 11 losses. This year, the team has gone undefeated with a record of 13-0. Fire up the bandwagon, and jump on! The Broncos are rowing to the 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on January 2! You may be wondering, “What does the football record have to do with the law school?” The similarities may surprise you, but I will use some Bronconese to explain it to you.
Bronconese is the language created by head football coach, PJ Fleck, to articulate life lessons to his players and to create a culture of success. While there are over 200 words and phrases in Bronconese, I’m going to use just a few to illustrate how the attitude of success on the football field mirrors the attitude of success in law school.
“Row The Boat.” If you’ve heard anything about WMU football, you’ve likely heard the team’s mantra—“Row The Boat.” It is everywhere here in Michigan, but not many people understand its true meaning. According to Coach Fleck, “Row The Boat” has to do with the amount of effort you put into your task, the constant drive toward your goals, and the teamwork necessary for a team, a community, or a cause to succeed. It also refers to the idea that everyone has a choice to make every day—you can give up and pull your oar out of the water, or you can keep your oar in the water and persist toward your goal.
Here at WMU-Cooley, we expect our students to never give up—keep their oars in the water. We expect them to keep driving toward their goal of succeeding in law school and passing the bar exam. While law school appears to be a solo effort, there are multiple people helping, encouraging, and driving students toward success. We – faculty, staff, and alumni – all have an oar in the water for every one of our students.
“Change your best.” This phrase is just what it sounds like – you can always do better. If you are simply doing your best, you are staying the same and not growing. In law school, your best isn’t limited to grades. As an attorney, you will need to constantly gROW and change in order to keep up with changes in the law, growth in your practice, and personal growth as a dedicated member of your community. We encourage our students to always strive for better: better grades, better careers, and better, more fulfilling personal lives. Your best can always be better, and we’ll help you continually find a new “best.”
“F.F.F.” Fuel. Fierce. Finish. Fuel comes from within. Each student at WMU-Cooley has a reason for being here. They have a goal, maybe even a dream, and it is that goal, that dream that fuels them every day. Fierce refers to the attitude of a champion. Without a fierce determination, law school can be overwhelming. We encourage our students to be fierce in their pursuit of their dream. Finishing is the hardest part. Finishing only happens by grit. Finishing is the drive to push through setbacks when fuel is low and success seems unattainable. We know that one of the greatest indicators of success in law school is a person’s grit and determination, and we challenge our students to finish every day.
“Heartwork.” Hard work with pride and passion. The pursuit of a law degree and the practice of law are as much about taking pride in your work and having a passion for what you do as they are about simply working hard. Everyone has the ability to work hard, but those that have a passion for what they do and the pride to do it well are what set WMU-Cooley students apart. Our students pursue their goals with purpose and a work ethic that leads to success both in the classroom and in life.
So while you may not think the intellectual pursuits of law school have much to do with football, the WMU football team and the law school share many of the same core values. We both seek excellence, self-determination, and we’re willing to sacrifice to achieve our goals. We put our oars in the water everyday so that we may live the life of champions.
Go Broncos! Good luck in the Cotton Bowl, and always ROW THE BOAT!
Blog author Professor Emily Horvath currently serves as the Director of Academic Services where she works with students and faculty to develop programming to improve student success.