Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Injured Players

Posted by admin September - 8 - 2016 - Thursday

The team I’m “consulting” for won their opener on Monday. After getting rained out by the Tropical Storm Friday and Saturday, they finally got to play on Monday. It was gratifying to sit in the press box and see the Wing T that I helped install being executed so well. I made a few suggestions to the HC (who’s the OC) and passed on information about the defense’s reactions. They scored 5 times and did not have a turn-over. A good day’s work!

However, the star RB went out of the game late in the 1st quarter with a knee injury. A low, diving tackle caught him with his leg planted on the artificial turf and he did not come back in the rest of the game. The bad news came later that night when the MRI they took revealed 2 torn ligaments. His (senior) season is over. A bitter pin to swallow for the player and the team.

My focus is: what do you do now? As a coach who cares about his players’ well-being, I think it’s incumbent upon you to make sure 2 things happen. One is from the team’s perspective and the other is from the injured player’s perspective.

First the team. A meeting with the leaders/captains/lieutenants is important followed by a meeting with the entire team. It’s probably better NOT to have the injured player there but it’s not imperative. What needs to be discussed is how the team is to treat their injured teammate now that they know he can’t contribute ON THE FIELD (that’s important!) anymore. They need to go out of their way to make the injured player feels like he is still a vital member of the team. He IS!!! We have a responsibility as coaches to make every player on the team understands his role and… that the role he plays is part of the “big scheme” of things that makes the team function properly. I like the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. Every piece in its proper place is important or the picture is unclear. The same thing with players on a team. It’s easy as the regular season progresses to forget that these are people… kids… who need the same encouragement and reinforcement as anyone else. Make sure that the players include the injured player. Above all else: don’t REJECT him or make him feel like he’s not important anymore!!!

I talked to the injured RB yesterday before practice. I told him that I was praying for him and would continue to do so. It was obvious that he was hurting— physically and emotionally. What I emphasized to him was: you are still an important part of this team. The worst thing you can do right now is to withdraw. You need to stay actively involved. Attend as many practices as you can. Be at the pregame meal. Prowl the sideline during the game by cheering on your teammates. Be a part of the team. Because you’re frustrated and disappointed, the natural tendency is to close yourself off and even feel sorry for yourself. NO! You need to be investing in your team. If he’s a captain, he especially needs to continue to lead.

We had a similar situation occur 3 seasons ago on the team I was coaching. I felt like we had a chance to be a really good team. We had a veteran bunch of talented seniors. The one guy who was not only a great player but kind of the “Inspirational Force” of the team (who we could NOT afford to lose)… of course, went down with a season-ending knee injury in the first game— just like what happened on Monday. I encouraged Jack to stay involved. Even though he was on crutches and recovering from knee surgery, he made appearances at practices (for at least a few minutes) most every day. What I thought was the most critical part of his participation, though, was that his parents would be sure to get him to the games early enough that he could “crutch” out to the middle of the field for the coin toss with the Captains. Our players really reacted positively to that. Jack’s inspirational leadership helped us get to the state semi’s that year… and he played in only 1 quarter of the opening game.

By staying involved, he helped himself and the team. We certainly would’ve preferred to have him on the field for every game but… under the circumstances, it turned out very well for everyone involved.

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