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Coaches teach more than football

At this time of the year, I usually take time to reflect on the several years I was associated with the game of football.

Contrary to what some people think, football coaches teach their players much more than how to block and tackle. Coaches are teachers who use football as a vehicle to instill in their players the essential attributes of character, citizenship, and ethics.

My first coach had instructions for almost every occasion. He would recite them and post different ones in the locker room. My favorite was, “Focus downfield. No meaningful action takes place behind the ball.”

Too many of us dwell on the “what if’s” in our past. What happened last year should make us better people as we focus on next year.

Coach expected us to make mistakes. “That’s why they put erasers on lead pencils.” Learn from them and move on. “If you are not making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.” If we concentrate on tomorrow, mistakes make us better people.

Several coaches have used the quote, “Friday night games are won and lost in practice Monday through Thursday.” Coach would drill us until we got it right, then, and only then, were we ready for the game.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Bill Gates spent his teenage years writing and perfecting DOS. The Beatles spent their teen years in Hamburg playing two shows a day and honing their unique style of music, before they returned to Liverpool.

Coach had several other truisms that were applicable to life after football.

• When in doubt do something.

• The worst thing you can do is nothing.

• Play defense in the other teams backfield.

Those who stand around and wait for the action to come to them have already lost. No one can get ahead by standing still. Do something even if it is wrong. Mistakes can be corrected, inaction cannot.

Coach was especially fond of definitions that built on previous ones:

• Football players are average kids who do what they are taught.

• Good football players are average kids who do what they are taught - as hard as they can.

• Great football players are average kids who do what they are taught, as hard as they can - every time.

He defined teams in much the same way.

Championship teams are made up of average kids who... You get the idea. He wasn’t only defining football teams. He defined any team or organization in the same terms. Leadership requires the same skills as coaching. Good coaches, leaders, are able to inspire the people in their organizations to do what they are taught, as hard as they can, every time.

I was fortunate to have played and studied under some great coaches. I am convinced they made me a better man than I would have otherwise have been.

— Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. Email him at [email protected].


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