“Well?” I asked assertively, “what have you managed to come up with? What is your answer?”
Several enthusiastic hands shot up at once and so I nodded my head in the direction of our Quarterback. “We need better blocking”, he said.
“Good start” I proclaimed, “that certainly identifies one of the more obvious problems”.
“Now then, how do we accomplish this?” I then asked. The unanimous answer was “work harder during practices and focus more during the games”.
Okay – not a bad summary. Nobody it seemed was directly blaming anyone else and collectively, they all seemed to hold each other accountable. How is it that this group of young men, who had only known each other for a few short weeks, were so readily able to come together and commit themselves to the necessary sacrifices required to be successful?
At the start of the season, I had asked my players one question, giving them two options to choose from. Did they want to learn how to play football? Or did they want to learn how to be football players?
Playing up to the obvious fantasies of children, it should not surprise you to know that the entire team chose to become ‘football players’. “The difference” I had told them was in “attitude and work ethic”. I knew from day one that I would never be able to get these boys to give me 100% of their best effort if I did not have a solid commitment and understanding from each of them first. The motivation of a coach can only push a player so far. Self-motivation however, holds unlimited power.
Last week, I was reflecting on one of my proudest moments as a coach this year. Subsequently, it also happened to be slightly unpopular (at the time) with ‘some’ of the parents. We ran a 4th quarter drill which was designed to push players to their maximum effort for a total of about 15-20 minutes at the end of a practice. Everyone participated to the best of their abilities and nobody held back.
By the end of the drill, some of the players had nearly brought themselves to tears and I remember thinking to myself, “wow, these guys must really want this. They must really want to be football players, because there is no way that I could have pushed them that hard, if they really didn’t want to be pushed.”
As a youth football coach, it is important to remember that you can never get players to do what they ultimately do not want to do. Not on a continuous basis that makes them feel good about themselves anyway.
In the case of the player-only meeting, a little bit of peer pressure and a reminder of their own personal goals was enough to light a fire under these guys that lasted to the end of the season. We spent the entire week in practices working as hard as we could. No one complained. No one groaned. No one was willing to give up.
What more can you ask for as a Coach?
These are my opinions. If you don’t like them…I have others. Check them out at www.coachjamesryan.com