Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Do Something Hard”

Posted by admin June - 23 - 2020 - Tuesday

I just finished one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time! It is by former Navy SEAL and current representative from Texas Dan Crenshaw (the eye patch guy!) and titled Fortitude. If you are looking for a new guide to leadership, this book is for you!

There are soooooooo many points that Crenshaw makes that will help you as a head coach and a leader that I don’t know where to start. So, I’m picking one that I think will cause each of you to pause and think about it. The title of Chapter 8 is: “Do Something Hard.”

Crenshaw talks a lot about his SEAL training… particularly the brutal BUD/S training that all SEALs have to complete to earn their trident. The things that the instructors put the SEAL trainee’s through is legendary for being challenging— both physically and mentally. Crenshaw does NOT encourage his readers to go through BUD/S training; but, he does challenge his readers to do something hard! Here’s what he says:

“I won’t suggest everyone go throug BUD/S, but I will suggest that a life unchallenged by hardship is a missed opportuinty and you should therefore seek to do something hard. Something really difficult. Something that takes you from a place where you’re not the kind of person who could rise to the challenge— to a place where you’re the kind of person who did.

As football coaches, we work with young men who, let’s face it, are pretty pampered— not all of them but a lot. I believe that part of our responsibility as high school coaches is to challenge our players to go a little further; stretch a little higher; or try a little harder than they ever have. How will a young man ever know what he’s capable of if he isn’t “pushed” a little bit?! Unless a coach is willing to do this, most people lack the intrinsic motivation (the inner drive) to make this happen. Crenshaw points out that this is why not many people want to be SEALs!

Now…. I am not advocating a “Junction Boys” boot camp like Coach Bear Bryant used when he first went to Texas A&M! (If you haven’t read that book, you need to! It’s a great example of how NOT to lead a program! Different era; different culture.) What I am advocating is, as Crenshaw says, “Scatter challenges throughout the season.” Build confidence in your players that they can overcome small obstacles. This, in turn, will lead them to want bigger challenges.

When I first took over the high school program that I led for 22 years, I knew after one season that we had to build 1- mental toughness and 2- self-confidence in our players if we were ever going to get to the championship level of play that we desired. That next August, we packed up everybody and headed to Chowan College in North Carolina for a week away from home— where we could build toughness and confidence for 5 days without outside influences creeping in.

We were up at 5:30 am each morning for a 3 mile run. The day didn’t end until 10 at night. There were plenty of breaks and we ate in the school cafeteria so there was lots of good food 3 times a day. But, we challenged our guys to overcome obstacles. We challenged them through team and individual activities to develop what I call an “overcomer’s attitude.” We wanted to build healthy thought patterns. Crenshaw says that “doing something hard is the habit of building mental calluses so that when life happens, you are better prepared for it.”

We went to Camp for 4 straight years until Chowan could no longer accommodate us. So we started having our Camp at school. Same daily routine as we had when we went away… just when we got to supper time, we sent them home to eat and sleep. (I let Mama fix their evening meal and make them go to bed!) By the 5th year, we were competing with the best teams in our area. And that continued for the next 17 years! Why? Because I felt it was important to teach our players NOT to avoid the hard things in life but… to face them head on. And…. overcome them!

In the Bible, Romans 5:3-4 probably says it the best, “We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials for we know that they are good for us— they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.” As Crenshaw points out, “In short, suffering has both moral and spiritual worth.” Do something hard!

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