One person's thoughts may change the world
Season 3 completed. Dang, season 3. It’s going fast. The third season of coaching high school football, and, the third season for him too. During the off-season, the head coach and I made a promise that we were going to have fun this season. Fun fun. Fun like in I like coming to practice every day after work. Learning a new offense. Teaching the running backs that running back “stuff”. Coaching up defensive backs. Sweat equity. Getting to know new coaches. Forgetting last season. Putting it all together and trying to make a football team. That kinda fun stuff. This team has a designation. They are call team 83.
I got that slogan from going to the University of Michigan’s coaches workshop. Coach Hoke kept talking about team 138, or whatever he named the current University of Michigan’s team number. It’s a point in time. A team identification. A number that reflected what team it was that represented the University of Michigan. That resonated with me, and when I brought the idea to Cranbrook’s head coach, he liked the idea. But before I talk about Team 83, I’m going to reflect briefly on Team 82.
There was a lot invested in Team 82. A lot of sweat equity. Those ugly mornings of 14 weeks of weight training at 6am. We had determined one of our major weaknesses was strength training. Our players weren’t strong enough. That translated in confidence of the football field in the Catholic league. Translation..courage. So to get that balance into our favor, we worked them, and hard. The results had shown in many ways. Better leaping ability. Better weight lifting ability. Better agility, and more speed. Also getting moved down a level in the Catholic league helped as well. Add on top of that, my speed and conditioning over the summer, and the grueling three-a-days at football camp. We conditioned them hard, and we pushed them very hard. We pushed ourselves as coaches. And… the result of negligible. Frayed nerves amongst coach’s. Team 82 was a good team but could not put anything together. A constantly hurt featured running back. An inconsistent quarterback. A receiver that just couldn’t catch the ball in the clutch. And.. the Letterman, starting at running back in his second year. Team 82 was over worked and under achieved. Their football IQ was still low. And even though they were stronger, they couldn’t translate it into better football on the field. They floundered. It left a mental scare on all of the coaches as well.
So, we took a step back. Re-evaluated the program, and ourselves. Turned the notch down in intensity and up in positive feedback. Three a days were tough but more manageable. We promised ourselves we would have more fun. That was a tough promise to keep. Each one of the coaches has a spirit of winning within him. They’ve won before. I have always believed that it doesn’t matter what kind of kid we have, experienced or not, I can coach them up. The most challenging aspect of coaching these kids is trying to get them to understand how to win, consistently. Having that expectation of winning. Being focused and relentless. Going hard in practice and harder in the game. If only we could bottle that winning spirit it would be just as simple as drinking Vitamin water. Winning my friend, fixes everything. Our results? Depends on who you ask. We played much better defense. We took out the West Coast offense and installed the I formation. More ball control football and less of a passing team. A new offensive coordinator. A new defensive coordinator. An additional coach. We only had 18 varsity players. Practice had to be planned with more purpose. Less hitting and more going against “air”. Did we win more game? No. Did we have more fun? Yes. So you might think the season wasn’t much of a success,and that’s where the Letterman made the difference.
The Letterman, version 2.0. #22 is his number. His third year at starting on varsity. His breakout season. Featured running back. 45lbs heavier than he was as a freshman and came ready to play, ever yard, every down, every quarter, every half, and every game. He ground out 700 yards rushing. Played offense, defense, special teams. Didn’t come off the field and played multiple positions on defense. Second strongest on the team. Was it fun for him? I don’t know, but my goodness some of the runs he made this season was more of an act of courage than a responsibility of a running back. When a running back I have coached starts doing things I could not have coached him to do, that’s when I know he’s got it. Spin moves, jump cuts, even jumping over an opponent. He played hurt and got yards even when his line didn’t do all they could to block for him. He earned every freakin’ yard and them some. In his last game for the season he rushed for 233 yards and two touchdowns. When I was in the 11th grade I was hampered by an ankle injury and gained a total of about 2 yards.
We may not ever do another season together again. He has to go his own way. I need to let go of the rudder, and he needs to set his own sail. I’ll still work him out in the off-season and get him ready physically and mentally for the next year. I’ll still coach, but probably somewhere else, somewhere I can make a difference. Somewhere that I can shape the minds of those who may need a little more discipline, more courage, and set goals to succeed beyond the challenges in front of them. I sent some video of is runs to some friends who played football many moons ago and one said this:
“He doesn’t have your speed yet, but my goodness he has your determination”.
Determination is what it takes in everything. I was fast, very fast, but his running reflects of taking the gifts you’ve been blessed with and doing what you can with what you have. He’ll have the speed he needs to play at the next level, if he chooses to, trust me I’ll help him achieve that. But he has a whole lot more going for him, and determination is one of his greatest assets. And courage is the other….