Take a Lesson in Dedication

August 24, 2008

I’ve been glued to the TV watching a good deal of the Summer Olympics and I hope a lot of parents are doing the same with their kids.

I can’t think of a better way to let them see what true dedication is all about. We kind of get lost in this world of football, basketball and baseball when there’s a whole world of athletes out there pushing themselves in so many other wonderful sports.

We’ve been pre programmed to accept what happens and “get’em next week” if we don’t win. But when you see a runner like Lolo Jones, favored to win her hurdles event, having trained for four years and leading with two hurdles to go when she hits the hurdle, almost falls and loses any chance at a medal, your heart breaks. She lies there on the track in shock knowing that at the age of 30 she’d probably never have another chance to win an Olympic medal.

All that training and dedication gone in a flash. But the lesson wasn’t over, because she picked herself up and walked over to do a TV interview where she conducted herself with class and dignity. Later they got a camera shot of her crying in the tunnel way beneath the stadium, but that was private.

Sports is a vehicle to teach youngests how to cope with real life issues. Don’t ever deny them that privilege and, as a coach, remember that you have a powerful hand in shaping that life.


Don’t Forget Your Injured Players

August 15, 2008

I got an email the other day from a woman with a son who she said was very depressed because he’d injured his neck during practice with his high school football team. It wasn’t life threatening and there wasn’t any fear of his being paralyzed, but he was told by doctors that surgery, to fuse two discs, was required and that he would never play football again.

She told me the surgery went well and he couldn’t wait to go out to football practice just to see his teammates. As he was standing on the sidelines, wearing a neck collar, a number of his teammates came over on their way out just to wish him well, but only one of seven coaches stopped to ask him how he was doing and it wasn’t the head coach.

The mother told me it bothered her son a great deal and her as well. The coaching staff went straight out onto the field and got busy “coaching”. This young man was no longer any use on the field, so he was no longer important, or so it seemed.

I don’t want to be overly critical because I don’t know the coaches, but it’s a stark reminder that anyone in the the coaching business is “Coaching for Life” and to get so wrapped up in the game could mean that you’re leaving behind a trail of tears.

Is that worth it?

A Memory Burned in His Mind

August 8, 2008

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day, asking him about his high school football days in the early 1980’s. He went to a smaller rural school and was the leading rusher on his team in both his junior and senior years, but what floored me was when he said that even though he loved playing the game, the only memories that were burned into his mind were bad ones because of his coach.

He said he played for a tough guy who seemed to have picked him as his personal whipping boy. No matter what he did it wasn’t good enough. In fact my friend said he was literally pulled by his face mask and slapped in the face on a number of occasions. Once, while playing linebacker, he cut through the line on a goal line stand and tackled the runner for a 5 yard loss, but when he got to the sidelines his coach screamed at him, and slapped him because he hadn’t followed his proper “read” on the play. Never mind that it saved the game.

My friend said the only reason he stuck it out was because he loved the game so much and he knew that he’d never be able to play again after high school. But he also said that he developed into a tough skinned, sarcastic young man with a chip on his shoulder as a defense mechanism.

Can you imagine having nothing but bad memories about playing a game in high school that should have been a joy and a building block for becoming a man? If you’re a coach, what kind of memories are you building in the minds of your players?

Smart Is The New Tough

August 7, 2008

I was watching the Tennessee Titans at training camp yesterday. It was 95 degrees and they were in full pads with extensive live contact work, but right behind the line of scrimmage and at different places around the field, trainers were moving around with golf carts that were loaded down with water buckets and energy drinks. They handed cups out to players continually and the coaches called for water breaks after every session.

What a change for those “good ole days” when coaches refused to let their players drink water. I remember getting salt tablets and told not to be a “candy ass.” It was all about being a tough guy. Who in the world was dumb enough to think that was going to make them into better players? I’m surprised more players didn’t die.

Thank goodness times and coaches have changed, or at least the smart ones who’ve learned that in order for an engine to run right, it has to have fuel in it.