Tommy Poynter has Proverbs 16:9 written on his heart: A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps (NKJV).
The athletic director and head football coach at Wills Point Independent School in Wills Point, TX knows more than anyone that we can dream to make a life for ourselves, but it’s the Lord’s leading that takes us where we need to be.
Poynter's Ultimate Motivators:
Will, Love, PassionBetween coaching jobs at 10 schools in 11 years and surrendering to a life for Christ, Poynter and his wife Emily are all-in ambassadors for FCA.
A New Commitment
Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed.
- Proverbs 16:3
It began in college, when Poynter was an offensive lineman for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in Dallas, TX. Chauncey Franks, the Texas Christian University FCA staff person, invited him to FCA Athlete Advance, a camp for college athletes. Poynter had attended Huddles in high school, but was a nominal Christian, attending church functions Sundays and Wednesdays but living out his own life the rest of the week. As the Friday evening speaker asked pointed questions that seemed to be aimed straight at him, Poynter came to his crossroads moment.
“I was living a double life when the speaker John Randall asked, ‘When life squeezes us, what’s coming out of you?’ He was talking about it’s not what we do, but what God puts in us,” said Poynter. “My life was being squeezed at the time, but I was tired of living how I was and surrendered my life to the Lord.”
The next morning, he met Emily, who was a diver at Texas A&M and would become his wife. The two had been paired as co-leaders of student Huddles, and their lives converged with faith and football. “That weekend, I said yes to FCA for the rest of my life, and also to building God’s kingdom,” said Poynter, with amazement.
Poynter's Coaching Philosophy:
To prepare student-athletes for leadership excellence in a family driven atmosphere.Poynter and his coach and mentor Steve Stigall walked through Romans eight and memorized the chapter, keeping accountable and growing in the discipleship process. This spiritual formation would build a firm foundation as his first coaching and teaching job landed him at MacArthur High School in Irving, where he was the offensive line coach and created the student-led Huddle. After taking jobs at other schools over the next couple years with the same pattern of starting Huddles and coaching, he set his sights set on coaching at the college level and becoming a head coach, taking the football graduate assistant position at his alma mater SMU.
There, he and Emily led the campus Huddle and taking athletes to the same athlete retreat they had attended. Remembering the impact Stigall had on his own faith walk, Poynter began discipling his players and challenged them to go deeper in their faith. When an opportunity came to be the offensive line coach at Jackson State University in 2014, Poynter jumped at the chance. “I thought this was my next step,” he said. “I thought I’d be the next Urban Meyer or Dabo Sweeny, but God had other plans.”
Two weeks after he took the job, Emily found out she was pregnant. “I heard God say, ‘I know you want to be a coach, but I made you to be a husband and father first,’” shared Poynter, and he struggled with leaving college football. But he obeyed God’s nudge and took his family back to Texas a year later as they made their way to Lovejoy High School.
FCA Camp Investment
You can make many plans,
but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
While the next season of life had them moving from school to school, the Poynters remained faithful to their FCA involvement. High school Huddles, summer camps and discipleship, the Poynters poured into student-athletes as much as possible. They’ve been involved at the FCA Football Camp at Texas A&M for over ten years, Poynter moving from Huddle leader coordinator, to football coach, and currently as the coaches’ coordinator. Emily coordinates events for coaches’ wives, and they make it a family event and bring their three children. “Camp became a family event and a community with all the coaches and families we got to know year after year,” he said.
Poynter's Coaching Core Values:
Faith, Family, Love, LeadershipAdded Emily, “We love it. It can be hard traveling with kids, but also so worth it. Our kids know this is something we just do. We are raising kids to have a servant-heart so it’s who they are and don’t have to learn how to serve down the road.”
The Poynters have experienced firsthand the incredible life-change of camp, and the desire for their athletes to experience the same opportunity grow great within them. God put it on their hearts to raise funds for scholarships to bring as many football players to camp as they could. One summer, they were able to raise enough funds to send 38 athletes to camp.
“We sat down and thought up big goals for camp, like fully funding 10-15 players. But God was like, ‘No, I have bigger plans. How about 38?’” laughed Emily. “We got all those kids funded. We put limitations on God and He’s like, ‘Ah, no. Let ME show you…’”
Through the years, the Poynters have raised over $40,000 for camp scholarships. “There are people willing to invest and to give and give to camp,” Poynter said, “Again, in Proverbs, many are the man’s plans, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Added FCA North Texas Multi-Area Director Bo Fowler, “He is leveraging his position for God’s glory and the good of His people. He sees opportunity in ministry to make an impact and disciple others.”
An Unexpected Coaching Offer
Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.
Poynter finally reached a point of contentment in the middle of constant shuffle. Happy in his role as offensive coordinator, disciple-maker and Huddle coach at Denton High School, he and his family found a fruitful groove. In May, however, he received a phone call gauging his interest in a head coaching and athletic director position in Wills Point. His desire to be a head coach flared and he quickly put it to prayer.
Strengthen Within, Create a Culture of Character, Built with Teammates, Strive with Competition
The small town in east Texas fit the bill for Poynter and Emily, who always figured if he were to have a head coaching job, it would be in a smaller community. When he became a finalist, Poynter knew God was in the middle. “It was God’s plan to bring us out here,” he said.
Said Fowler, “It’s encouraging to see a coach, one of the busiest people on the planet, step forward in obedience no matter how busy they are.
And no adjustment season is easy. The Poynters are in the process of building a home, enrolling kids in a new school system, and Poynter and his team are navigating the up and down football season during COVID-19. But Poynter’s grounding the 3Dimensional Coaching™ system allows him to see beyond the scoreboard and deeper into the eternal importance of his team.
“3D Coaching prepared me for this job,” he said. In the course he found his coaching statement and values and has built his entire coaching plan around them. While he never expected the athletic director role along with head coach at Wills Point, Poynter can’t imagine life otherwise and credits all glory to God and His faithfulness.
“There have been so many days I have been frustrated with where I’m at in my career or why this hasn’t happened,” Poynter admitted. “I see now why God didn’t keep me in college coaching--He wanted me to have this job and be a husband and father. I look at my life based off one decision back in college at camp--I’m surprised but not surprised at where He’s taken me.”
Fruit of Impact
We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps.
Poynter's impact throughout his journey may have led to Wills Point, but plenty of fruit has developed along the decade plus of teaching and coaching. “It’s been very difficult saying goodbye each year and hard to leave things you built or started, but when I hear a year later that kids are still having their quiet time and remembering what I said, it’s encouraging,” said Poynter.
Emily adds that staying in step with God is the pivotal point on which everything has turned. “He is faithful. He knows what we need far beyond what we know and is working out the details. It’s about trusting Him. When we’re discouraged, He comes back with hope.”
A hope that does not disappoint, and one which the Poynters hold to again and again as they pursue God’s best for His glory.
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Photos courtesy of FCA and Tommy Poynter