Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Take Him Back?!”

Posted by admin March - 9 - 2020 - Monday

A young HC called me the other day from Arkansas— talking Wing T offense. He said, “Coach, I need your advice. I have a young man who we had to dismiss from the team last year. Now he tells me that he wants to come back out and play again. What should I do?” What proceeded was a great conversation…

When faced with situations like this, the best place to start is: Follow the Chain of Command.

I encouraged him to talk with his AD and Principal first. See what their feelings are about bringing him back. If one of them veto’s the idea, your choice is made for you. Now…. if you really want him back, you can certainly state your case and try to persuade them as to why you want to give the player a second chance; but, normally, if the Administration says “no” then that’s the end of it.

He said, “I’ve already talked to our Principal and he is of the opinion that the player deserves a second chance. But, he was leaving it up to me to decide if I want him back on the team.” OK… on to step 2!

I encouraged him to seek the council of his seniors or veteran players. See how they feel about bringing the young man back on the team. He indicated that the player was dismissed for “general bad attitude” last year. They are building a great team morale this off-season. He has to decide if it’s worth the potential disruption the player might bring. I might add… the guy is a realllllllllly good player! (Of course, that adds to the dilemma!)

I’ve had situations like this where our players wanted the guy back on the team and other times when they wanted nothing to do with him. Their opinion should carry some weight; but, I would not let their “vote” be the final determining factor. You are the leader of the program.

Here is where your wisdom and maturity come into play. The question becomes: what is your purpose in coaching high school players? Certainly, we all want to win! We’re competitors and it IS a game where we keep score! Talented players help us achieve that goal. However, if your coaching philosophy does not include a desire on your part to help your players grow and mature into young men of character then I suggest you consider another profession!

The coach indicated that the player in question comes from a very bad home situation. He hasn’t had many opportunities to be successful in life. The coach told me that he’d like to work with the young man and see if he could help him get it “turned around.” It just worried him that it might blow up in his face.

I indicated that if he decides to bring him back then he needs to sit down with the player and develop a clear-cut “contract” of the behaviors that will be expected and the things that can ultimately cause him to be removed from the program again. We agreed that most teenagers deserve a second chance. They’re still kids. But, this young man needs to know that he is being closely monitored and there are consequences to his actions. Frequent “pep talks” are important. The player (ALL of them!) needs to know that you are with him and for him. You do have policies that must be adhered to but…. for some of your players, you are that male role model or “father figure” that might be missing in their life. I’ve always called it “tough love.”

Think about this: IF he does not accept him back into the program on a provisional basis, he can’t have any positive influence in his life— because he’ll rarely be around the player in question. That is one of your main responsibilities as a high school coach: to be that positive influence. Accept the challenge!!! If he can turn this young man’s life around, what a tremendous success story that will be.

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