All week long, I have been ruminating on the events in Washington, D. C. and my reactions to it.
I don’t want to write about that. I want to write about why I’m a football coach.
- Football is the ultimate team sport. It takes lots of little guys, big guys, slow guys, fast guys, and everything in between. It takes lots of smart guys, tough guys, coachable guys, not-coachable guys, gifted athletes and non-gifted athletes, and everything in between. The key to success is to be able to take a lot of differences and come together as a team that works towards a common goal.
- Football requires sacrifice. It isn’t about one player, or one person, or one group. It is about the TEAM.This isa key lesson that they will need when they are fathers, husbands, and workers. Nothing can be bigger than the team, and teaching young men how to sacrifice for something greater than themselves is unnatural in our world.
- Football requires us to come together and pursue a goal. We may not all agree on the best way to do that, but only by putting ourselves second and focusing on the goal in front of us, will we have success.
- Football requires us to put aside our differences. I played college football with several kids whom I played against in high school. I HATED those kids before I met them. I HATED them because I had been competing against them for four years. Once I started to know them, I realized I hated them because they were just like me — they competed to win and that’s why we were now playing in college. They ended up being awesome teammates in college. See, football makes us get past our own egos and learn about ourselves. Football makes us become self-reflective and learn about other people that maybe you didn’t want to learn about.
- Football makes us stay even-keeled. This seems like a really weird lesson given the stereotype of football and football players, but the less reactive to emotional situations players and coaches can be, the better. There are always bad calls by referees and bad bounces of the football. The more a team can take it in stride, and stop reacting emotionally to every situation, the more success the team is going to have. Similarly, people have heard of players being “in the zone.” That usually means the player is very calm and the game is slowing down for them. Players talk about how the game has become slower and easier, which usually means they are calm and focused on their job. This calmness gets upset with dropped passes, interceptions, fumbles, and missed tackles. Nobody is perfect, so the less emotional we can react to these inevitable plays of a football game, the faster players can move on to the next play.
- Football teaches us to focus on the next play, not the last play. If we just messed up, we better not focus on that negative, because the next play is about to happen. Football is unique because a play lasts about five seconds and then takes a 30-second break. There is a lot more thinking and planning in a football game than actually playing. If we dwell on the past, we are going to miss the present. And if we worry too much about the future, we are going to miss the present.
- Football gives us a chance to redeem our lost opportunities. In the course of my coaching career, I can’t count how many defensive backs have gotten beat for a touchdown and been down in the dumps. I always talk to them about forgetting that play and getting on to the next play because the ball is going to come their way again. At least half of the time, that same game, that same DB gets his hands on a ball and has a big pass breakup or interception. If he was still kicking turds from the previous poor play, he would not be in position to make the current play. We can’t dwell on the past or we will miss current opportunities.
- Football makes us be honest with who we are. A team that is 0–3 at the beginning of the season can’t hide from the fact that they aren’t good. A team that is 9–0 going into the playoffs can’t hide from the fact that they are good and there are expectations. If a team is undisciplined and there are major problems, everyone in the stands can see it. We have to deal in brutal honesty and truth about who we are. And we are either coaching it or letting it happen.
We are either coaching it or letting it happen. We are either coming together or breaking apart. We are either focusing on the present or focusing on the past. We are either learning from our mistakes or not. We are either staying logical and calm or reacting emotionally to every setback. We either are all working together towards a goal, regardless of differences, or we are going to let the differences rip us apart.
I tell my students I’m not very smart and all I know is football. And now, I need to go watch some playoff football games. But maybe I was writing about this week in politics, after all.