Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Bouncing Back or….. Keep On Bouncing!

Posted by admin March - 31 - 2014 - Monday

I talked with a young coach this week-end who’s had a lot of success at 2-3 different small to medium-sized high schools as a Head Coach. This past season, he jumped up to the “big time.” He took over a program at a relatively new school in a conference that is loaded with state-caliber talent! Needless to say, the season did not go well.

As we talked, I could sense that he knows that there is work to be done and he’s not being deterred. I explained to him that sometimes “turning things around” is kinda like turning around an aircraft carrier… progress is being made but— it’s so slow, that sometimes you don’t see it when you’re standing on the deck of the ship!!! From a distance though, the change in course can be seen more clearly. Step back and get a different perspective.

I shared with him that the “change in course” is really a 2-phase process when you’re dealing with people. First, you have to change attitudes. Then, and only then, can you begin to change behaviors. A change in heart and mind must precede a change in actions.

I read something this morning that ties in with this very well. Because… while you’re working on making these changes, you have to be resilient. That’s how I came up with my “catchy” title!!! ha ha! We have to “keep on bouncing” when the road gets tough.

For instance, during the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, their party faced extraordinary hardships. Upon reaching the Missouri River, they thought that the worst was over— only to have to face the Rockies a short time later! Instead of the easy ride downstream that they’d expected, they faced their biggest obstacle of the whole trip. The challenge was: retreat or start climbing!!! Looking back, they noted in their diaries that in conquering the Rockies they gained the confidence they needed for what they had to face later.

I’ve shared here before… I’ve had a lot of success in coaching football over the past 39 years. The first 5 years of my head coaching tenure were miserable. I inherited a program that hadn’t had a winning season in 4 years. Very few of the players even thought they could win. That was the first battle: winning their minds. A lot of times we “lost on Monday!” That is, they walked into the locker room on Monday, saw who they were playing that Friday and “cashed it in” before Monday practice even started. For me, that was very frustrating. But, those first 5 years of struggling to reach first a winning record-level and then to move to championship-caliber play was like Lewis and Clark facing the Rockies.

Sociologists who study resiliency— the ability to bounce back— report that people handle trauma in two ways. They either give up because they’re afraid or… they grow up by developing the capacity to handle it. What makes the difference? Instead of acting like victims— feeling sorry for themselves, blaming things on others (including God!), resilient people: 1- take charge of their lives; 2- refuse to relinquish their core values; and 3- refocus on their goal. Quitting is always easier than enduring.

It’s become something of a running joke around here. A young coach gets his first head coaching opportunity. He comes in with a lot of swagger and confidence and then BOOM! He gets his tail waxed during the season. 0-10 or 1-9 can be a real wake-up call. This continues for 2 or 3 more seasons and then he abruptly tenders his resignation! The usual conciliatory excuse is “I want to spend more time with my family.” Would he have resigned to “spend more time with his family” if he’d been 10-0 or 9-1 instead of the opposite??!! Somehow I don’t think so!

The problem with quitting is that it produces an attitude and then a pattern of behavior that is hard to break… one you most likely come to regret. For example, if you’re thinking right now, “This relationship is too hard, I want out,” or, “This job isn’t what I expected it to be, I’m quitting,” remember this: you develop resiliency by remaining faithful to the task in situations you don’t like and can’t change. That’s why the Bible says, “We give great honor to those who endure.”

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