I fully admit, I grew up with a skewed view of what a football coach is. This guy. Bud Grant. Stoic; pissed off; the kind of man giants such as Carl Eller bow down to. No muss no fuss. No temper tantrums; knew the rules; grow your men mean. Watching guys like Coach Grant and Tom Landry on the sidelines of NFL teams as I grew up put in my head THAT’s what football coaches look like.
In my opinion, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of youth football coaches who could watch some old film of these legends. Cuz if they didn’t throw temper tantrums? Neither can you.
I’ve mentioned before that Bigg’s dad (four year OT starter at Iowa in his day) said that Oz’s only job this year in football is to have fun. Now is the time you instill a love for the game. Now is the time you begin to understand fundamentals and maybe recognize them here and there during games. But love of game. That’s what youth sports are for. Uhhhhhh…ringing youth coaches; please pick up youth coaches.
At the beginning of Oz’s season, head coach (HC) sent out an e-mail stating his expectations; how he’ll determine play time; scheduling notes; etc. I will say this about HC, he kept us all in the know. Weekly e-mails giving detail of the practice schedule, upcoming game schedule and locations. I for one, not knowing the difference of Brookfield East and Brookfield Central appreciated these notes. We also knew, work hard in practice, you play. Don’t, and you may not. Ok.
Bigg and I watched a very early season practice one night. HC was hanging with the linesmen and a few didn’t want to pay attention. So he yelled at them and walked away. Uhhhhh, ok. I guess that’s one way of doing it. Or maybe ‘sit your ass down until I tell you to get up and if you don’t want to practice hard that little piece of grass is your new home for the season.’ That’s how I roll. No yelling; no whining; play or sit. Establish up front. Harsh? Uhhhhh, have you met me? Lay it out there immediately, then mommy and daddy don’t have to guess why you’re not playing.
Enter game one. Oz played most of the game, offensive and defensive lines, did ok. Not great. Slow off the line, hesitant but overall not bad for his first game. And that was it. The second game went by with him getting in one play in the last minute of the game. Hmmmmm. Interesting. Next game, one or two plays at the end of the game. Hmmmmmm, time to find out what’s what. Oz and Bigg (and by Bigg I mean here was there, didn’t say a word. If Oz wanted to play, Oz needed to do the talking) met with the lines coach and asked what was going on. It seemed he wasn’t paying attention as good as he could at practice and wasn’t learning as fast as the HC wanted him to. Ok. Now we know, what do we do about it? Here’s where this guy came in…
Lines coach Courtright said something to the effect of, ‘Tell you what. I believe Oz can be a good player, a great player even. He just doesn’t have the skills or confidence right now. I can come in before practice and work with him if he’s willing to work hard.’ Boom! Someone willing to put the time in to make a difference. Coach Courtright is the Bud Grant of the junior raiders. Stern, matter of fact, but will do whatever he can personally do to see him linesmen succeed.
Week after week, Oz worked with him while he continued to sit the sidelines. Oz stayed positive, started paying closer attention during the games, cheered on good plays and supported his team. Although my frustration was growing at his not playing, I am proud of the way he handled it. And he stayed glued to coach Courtright. No fucking off and it worked. The second to last game (we were in Lithuania) Oz was listed as one of the Captain’s and won a coveted Crunch bar award for hard work after the game. (Three Crunch bars were given post game for hard work.) At last weekend’s game, he played probably half the time. Did good and had a kick ass block the last play of the game.
Because of coach Courtright, Oz’s first football season was a complete success. We owe him so much and are so thankful and appreciative for his added help and influence for Oz.
Unfortunately, all were not as lucky. Many kids went the entire season getting in on one or two plays a game. A few of the kids screamed at the HC during a game and still stayed in the game. (Uh, little dude? You even think about raising your voice or giving me lip during a game and I Lou Holtz your ass off the field and send you straight to your mommy and you’re done. DONE!) HC was often seen throwing his hat to the ground in frustration; raising his hands to the sky in a WHYYYYYYYYY motion; and his screaming jumped the shark about 3 minutes into each game.
The last practice of the year saw one assistant coach (HC was away on business) get so mad he took the equipment off the field and went home, leaving his kid behind. Uhhhh, what? You what? Wait a minute, let me get this straight…you are so out of control that a bunch of 7th graders that you had no control of (remember, you’ve trained the kids that they’ll be yelled at but not dealt with the first week of the season. Your fault) pissed you off so bad that instead of making them sprint until the non-offenders got salty enough to tell their teammates to STFU, you just took your football and went home? Like, ummmm, oh I dunno…a 7th grader?
Yup. That happened. Practice was declared finished before it was supposed to, Oz jumped on his bike and came home slightly disappointed that the season practices ended so crappy. But we were one of the lucky one’s. We live a couple blocks away and Oz always rode his bike to practice. Those who waited around for rides either went in to watch a girls volleyball game (smart boys;) or walked somewhere else to call for rides. All because a youth coach can’t keep his shit together long enough to understand HIS behavior was unacceptable. (Rumor has it this guy has done this before. Maybe youth sports isn’t for you dude. Ya think?)
I personally know of a couple boys who would come home from games in tears because they didn’t play at all this season. I personally know of at least one person who attempted to discuss with HC why their son wasn’t playing and HC blew them off. I’ve heard rumblings of at least 5 kids who won’t be back. On the one hand, that’s very common in youth sports. Kids realize they don’t like a sport for one reason or the other and move on. But if little johnny isn’t coming back because of poor behavior by a coach? Unaccpetable.
My little rant to shitty youth coaches? You suck. You take all of YOUR youth failures and insecurities and lay them down on kids you can bully and those of us who have been around the block know it. You are a small, small person and the lasting impression of doubt you’ve just left on potential great athletes or just people in general in the form of children will leave a permanent black mark on your heart. It will follow you everywhere and you will continue to show the lack of balls you own in everything you do. Screw you.
As for Oz? He’s stoked to get under the bar; deadlift; press; get his bench to a respectable 7th grade level; play COD Ghost; be a 7th grade dork with the rest of his 7th grade dork friends; guard the perimeter of dangerous tosa; clean dog poop for his Ma (ok, maybe he’s not so stoked about that) and just move on. No scars; no hard feelings.
But we had coach Courtright. OH! When all is said and done with coaches temper tantrums and kids riding the bench all season? We went 3 and 5. I think we only won two games but Oz was pretty adamant that it was three. 3 and 5 dude. HC? You just Jim Harbaugh’d a season for 3 and 5. At least HE made it to the super bowl and his tantrums are kinda funny. Yours crush kids. But not mine. We survived the season of youth football confidence intact.
Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.