Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Two are Down!

Posted by admin October - 10 - 2012 - Wednesday

We had a surreal situation occur during our game Friday night. It was a hard-hitting game for both teams. Mid-way through the second quarter the running back from our opponent broke through the line and was heading downfield when I heard a tremendous “crack!” One of their players went helmet to helmet on our free safety. The flag was thrown and the guy was brought down a few yards downfield and the whistle blew. I looked up to see our player who’d been hit in the helmet laying still in the middle of the field.

As I ran to him followed by our Trainer and Team Doctor, something caught my eye way back upfield. It was another player laying on the field! I didn’t know who to run to first. Since everyone seemed to be gravitating towards the boy in the middle of the field, I ran back to the other player. He, too, was still and not speaking. I got his attention and asked him where it hurt. He said, “Coach, it’s my neck.” He was prone on his back so I said emphatically, “Do NOT move!” I began screaming for the Trainers, doctor.. somebody to get over here. When I finally got their attention, they were in shock to see that another player was down.

Someone got over to me so I was able to go to the other player and see what was going on. What I feared was true: he said that his neck hurt also. Two defensive starters both down with neck injuries at the same time. We got them stablizied and called the EMT’s to get 2 ambulances to the stadium as soon as possible. I kept walking between the 2 boys, about 25 yards apart, to check on them and speak words of encouragement. You could’ve heard a pin drop in our stadium. I was praying as I know a lot of others were too! A friend of mine who is a pastor and graduate of our school happened to be in attendance at this game. What he told me later showed me how God works in our lives when we don’t even realize it.

Burt shared with me after the game that he was soooooooo impressed with the character that our players exhibited. Many of them had joined him on the sideline to pray for their fallen teammates. Burt, too, was trying to keep our players calm. As Burt and I walked off the field together after the game, he said to me, “Most teams would’ve fallen apart at that point, Coach. Seeing 2 of their teammates driven away in ambulances would be devastating. But your kids stayed focused, played hard and came away with a nice victory. They showed a lot of character. You should be proud!” I definitely was. What a great bunch of guys God has blessed me with to coach.

I can’t take much credit, though, for the character these boys displayed. Their parents have had them for 15-16 years… instilling these character traits in them. All I do is try to emphasize to our players the importance of displaying such things as determination, confidence, sportsmanship, intensity. We talk about these and other traits every week. The way these boys “hung in there” was a tribute to them, their parents and our coaches for standing together through a tough situation.

By the way, both boys are going to be fine. No paralysis… just some pain that will resolve itself with time.

Is it worth it to spend time teaching “character” to high school athletes? Maybe this story will convince you coaches reading this that it is:
We had a player last year who was our MVP and an All State performer. He was good enough, at a small private school, to get 2-3 offers to be a preferred walk on at a couple of Div.1AA schools to play football. He turned them down to “try out” at a 1A school in the ACC. He didn’t even get to report in early August with the rest of the team. He had to wait until students reported in late August. He, and others, then went through a 3-phase try out (“audition”) for the coaches and… Bobby made the final cut! He is now a member of their varsity team!

Our local paper interviewed him recently to get his take on things. They asked him what he had gained from having been coached by me. He didn’t mention anything of a physical or athletic nature. What he did say that he learned from me and my staff was self-confidence and perseverance. “When I wanted to give up my dream, I remembered what Coach J and the other coaches kept talking about never giving up nor giving in. It kept me going.”

THAT, in my mind, is successful coaching!

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