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New BYU Basketball Coach and His Wife, David Letterman’s Former Assistant, on What It Means to Be "All In" the Gospel

by | Jun. 29, 2019

At the end of April, I interviewed Sheri Dew for All In. After our interview, Sheri was helping me brainstorm possible guests for future episodes, and she highly recommended new BYU basketball coach Mark Pope. The following week, I was covering BYU Women’s Conference for work and, because I love sports, I wanted to attend Lee Anne Pope’s talk. I didn’t even notice until right before her talk that it was about being “all in.”

As I listened to Lee Anne share her experiences working as David Letterman’s personal assistant and navigating the challenges of being a coach’s wife, I thought, “This woman is a powerhouse!” And then she put up a slide that cemented my desire to interview her. It said:

“Being ALL IN can be so hard and it can hurt sometimes. It hurts when you give your whole heart to something and it doesn’t go the way you thought. It hurts when you give your whole heart to something or someone and it ends . . . a mission . . . a career . . . a marriage . . . . the life of a loved one. Being ALL IN makes us vulnerable. It’s a lot easier to hold back a little and NOT give everything and protect yourself from the pain. But when you look back on your life, the greatest moments will be moments when you went ALL IN.”

As I stood up to make a beeline for Lee Anne to ask if she would be willing to come on our podcast, I heard women walk past saying, “That was the best talk I’ve heard this week.”

Lee Anne and Mark Pope were kind enough to make time in their busy schedules, and I loved being able to delve deeper into this idea of being all in and how choosing to be all in makes us vulnerable. Read a portion of our conversation on the topic below.

Listen to the entire interview with the Popes in the player below or by clicking here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

Morgan Jones: First of all, what has your involvement, both of you—in sports and in the sports world— taught you about being all in, buying in completely?

Mark Pope: I think that when you're all in, it's a guaranteed success because even your worst failures turn out to be these incredible moments, right? The key for me is, and I talk to my players about this all the time, we talk about (this) as a team all the time, is that when you're willing to fully invest, (and) hold nothing back, win, lose, or draw, the real victory is in the experience. And the meaning it's going to have in your life is completely dependent on how much you invest in that experience, right?

And so, . . . the guys that come to the [basketball] game, and they withhold—they hold onto their own agendas. they don't sacrifice everything for their team, they have their own vision of what they're supposed to do, they don't work as hard as they can, they don't bring it every single day—those guys don't get as much out of the game, the game doesn't mean as much to them, they don't get a chance for this game to teach them everything it can. The guys that kind of turn their whole being over to the game and the team—they come every day and they work hard to be mentally prepared to go compete as hard as they can, they work hard on finding how they can grow bonds with their teammates every single day, they put everything they have into this experience—those are the guys that win, lose or draw. They learn something about themselves.

I talk about this all the time. The day that Larry Bird brought me into his office and fired me was one of the most . . . I was devastated. And I was embarrassed. And it made me feel like a lot of things I'd worked for my whole life were just down the drain. It was such an awful moment, right? And then looking back, I'm like, it's one of the moments I treasure most in my life. I'm crying in front of Larry Bird. And then I walk out of the locker room and there's Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson, and tears are streaming down my face. And how embarrassing is that? I'm a bad player in that league and I just got fired by my all-time hero, right? But the thing is, that goes away really quick. And then you're like, you know what? I put everything I had into that, like I dedicated everything I had to that. And obviously the correlations to the gospel are so clear. . . . If you'll go all in, then the richness of the reward and the richness of the growth that you get to experience is really, it's really incredible.

Lee Ann Pope: I think it translates 100 percent to our testimonies and to the relationships in our life. I mean, we fought for the opportunity to come here and have this earthly experience. And I'm just like, "What's the point if you're not going to give it everything?" And I think, what you said when you asked the question, Morgan, it's different for everyone, and it is personal. And we are all at different places in our lives, different circumstances. But I do believe that what that means to you, I think is an easy question. Because it's between you and your Heavenly Father. It's not for me to tell you what all in looks like. But I know what that is for me. And I know that, at different times in my life, it looked really different. I mean, when I had little toddlers, my all in was very different. And, of course, I didn't have this perspective at the time, but when I look back, you're like, I did my best then and how I served and my marriage is different than having four teenagers and the freedoms that I have. And I have a little more choice of time. . . . Sometimes making it to the temple was really hard when you have little babies. That's not a struggle I have now, so that all in is going to be different at different times in our lives, and I think we need to be forgiving and soft with ourselves. But I think it's a really personal decision. And I think what Mark just so eloquently said translates beautifully to our relationships, our testimonies, how we serve, our talents, and how we develop those. And if you give it everything you've got, then when you walk away, it's an experience and it's sometimes painful. I mean, you can give your all on a mission, but it ends and that's hard. Our oldest is leaving for college in a week. . . . That is my girl and it is brutal, but I would have it no other way. I mean, I've given everything I have. It's all on the court, and she's ready to take this next step. And it's how it's supposed to be. But it doesn't mean it's easy; it stinks actually.

MP: And all in has nothing to do with perfection. It has nothing to do with it; it has to do with trying as hard as you can.

Listen to the rest of our interview with the Popes, including their answer to what it means to them personally to be “all in” the gospel of Jesus Christ, by clicking here. Read a full transcript of our interview here.

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Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones comes to LDS Living after writing for the Deseret News since 2014. She published more than 480 stories and served as Senior Web Producer prior to her departure from Deseret News. Jones is a passionate storyteller and loves having the opportunity to share stories that deserve to be told. She is the host of the All In podcast. 

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