I have coached football at many levels and for a long time in Manitoba. This includes bantam, junior, university, provincial teams and high school all-star games. I hung up my whistle a couple of years ago.
And then I got a call from Dennis who was the head coach for one of the teams in the Winnipeg High School Senior Bowl. The honoured coach was someone who I have known for decades (Rick has more tenure than me) and I said I would be happy to work with the young men for a few days.
The experience was mostly excellent. And this is based on the quality of the other coaches (Rick, Dennis, Dom and Kito) and the enthusiasm of most of the players. In a short period we cannot install many defensive formations. We want to establish some key rules for a basic structure and ensure the players can showcase their athleticism and football ability to perform at their best.
And the vast majority did just that.
But, there were some exceptions.
Let me point out a couple of situations that don’t leave me with much confidence that the player and person, as demonstrated in these moments, will be successful in the future. Yes, this may be harsh on my part. However, I believe that if they cannot understand some of the fundamental values of respect and resilience at this point in a game, their other actions off the field are also not the strongest indicator of future success.
- The night before the game each coach was given a couple of minutes to address the team. Given the circumstances of limited prep time, I asked the players how they defined success. One immediately said “it is all about the numbers”, to which I said, “how many of you won the top-level championship last year (knowing the answer was 0)”? I asked them to focus on doing their best on every play, good or bad, and getting ready for the next play. It was no surprise to me when this same player made a major assignment mistake during the game but helped on the tackle. I corrected what he needed to do and he just said “I made the tackle.” Apparently in a team game with individual responsibilities it is better to pad your own stats. He made the same mistake on the next play and I left it alone as it was near the end of the game.
- A talented young defensive lineman and his buddy from another high school team decided to not listen to the defensive coordinator and they just did their own thing. Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t. While I am all for making a play with your ability I am not for diminishing the structure of the scheme just for your own purposes.
- An athletic defensive player was inserted on offense in the fourth quarter to help us with his speed. He took a late hit on a ball he dropped. The ref flagged the defensive player and this was great for us. Unfortunately our player stood up and punched the other player in the face. Nothing happens because of the facemask. Our player got ejected and we lost yardage as a result. The players noted above were all fired up when the ejected player came off the field. Sad state of affairs when we reward and support foolish and selfish play. No respect for the game.
I want to finish today’s post on a high note.
- A young linebacker worked hard each practice. He is not the most physically gifted but he worked hard. While he missed two tackles that would have helped us he made two great plays that did help us. He showed moire resilience and mental toughness than the other athletes mentioned above. I was proud of Riley.
- Eryk is a really fine linebacker and is going to a great school on scholarship. He showed leadership, hustle, and support every time he was on the field. And he never complained when he was off due to the rotation. His attitude about school in the fall will serve him well both on and off the field.
- Chris and Easton made plays, worked hard and had a lot of fun. Great young men that will do well in their next phase of life.
- Kieran’s love for life and the game showed and he led by going 100 MPH on every play. Another great young man who will use football to help pay for school and gain a valuable university education.
This four-day event was a microcosm of any organization. There were:
- goals set by the coaching staff and game plans made.
- training and practice plans communicated to achieve the goals.
- corrections and encouragement.
- highs and lows. Never get too high, and never get too low.
- robust battles and great individual effort with the accumulation of these to make great team plays.
- winners and winners. The score was just a score.
For some players this was their last game. And they went out with their heads held high. I was grateful to be invited to coach and honored to spend time with so many terrific young men.
I know most will be successful in their life’s work.
Thanks Rick and Dennis.