Coach Hays’ Unsportsmanlike Conduct #3
Can a coach directly affect the outcome of a football game? Besides the obvious methods of scouting, preparation and play calling, I am not a big believer in giving the coach too much credit for players execution on the field (it happens way too often in the NFL and NCAA). I wondered if I could remember a time when I possibly had a direct coaching affect on the outcome of a football game. I thought of three. Here is the final installment. Enjoy!
Unsportsmanlike Conduct #3
The Tiger football team in 2006 had talent, enough talent to possibly go undefeated. There was one thing they lacked, the “I am going to put my foot of your throat and press down until you give up” mentality. I wouldn’t say they lacked a killer instinct; they could smell the blood and attack as well as the next guy. But, they had a tendency to let their opponent hang in a game and keep a glimmer of hope alive. They just couldn’t smash that ray of hope until the opponent surrendered in defeat. I could never really get them to buy into one of my favorite coach sayings, “If the opponent puts it’s head on the chopping block, do them a favor and CUT IT OFF!”
As coaches, we coped with this group of kids by trying to keep pressure on them in order to keep them focused and on task. We used intense practices, stringent rules, power veer offensive football, an attacking 3-3 Stack defense and performance challenges to help keep them collectively on task. I remember constantly working to teach them to keep the foot on the gas pedal until us coaches pulled them back. No mercy, no letdowns, no BS, once you step inside the white line.
Here is the third and final example of the times I felt, as a coach, I had some affect on the outcome of a game. This is my personal favorite. If #1 and #2 were maybe’s on me as a coach affecting the outcome of a game, I think I definitely affected the opponent on this night.
Our 4A district in 2006 was selected by the Topeka Capital Journal as the toughest district in the state. One of the four teams in the district was not very good, but the other three all were ranked in the top 10. To add to it, the league team we played the week before districts started was also ranked in the top 10, so we knew we had a challenging schedule come crunch time. At 4-0 heading into our home week 5 league game against a sub-.500 team, I felt the kids were ripe for a letdown. They practiced okay during the week, but I could just sense in the locker room and during the down times in practice, they were not very concerned about the upcoming game. The more loosey-goosey they got, the more cranked up I got. I was nervous and edgy the day of the game. I had a terrible headache, a stomach ache and was bone tired from twisting and turning instead of sleeping the night before.
Game starts. The first time we have the ball, it might have even been our first play, and one of our running backs takes a toss or an outside veer off the corner and breaks free down our sideline for a 40+ yard gain. Not a bad way to start a game, right? Crowd is cheering, band is playing, players are hollering and coaches are fist pumping in the air. All is good, right?
Nope, not right with me. You see, I have been trying to get our running backs to finish runs, to lower their pad level and inflict some pain to the defender making the tackle. This particular running back is a great kid and talented athlete,(and the infamous Boy-who-started-his-leg-on-fire) but I was always riding him about finishing his runs. Well, at the end of his 40+ yard run, with only a little defensive back prepared to attempt a tackle, our running back just kind of glances a blow off the defensive back and stepped out of bounds.
Okay, back to everyone being happy, fist-pumping, etc. I run down the sidelines and help the little defensive back up off the ground, then just start screaming the following tirade at our running back.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“RUN HIM OVER!”
“YOU GOTTA FINISH THE RUN!”
“YOU GOTTA LOWER THE BOOM AND KNOCK THE BEJESUS OUT OF THIS KID! YOU GOTTA BURY HIM!”
“COME ON! GET WITH IT!”
I stop just as my voice echoed off the trucking company shed a block away and back to the field. Our running back shakes his head, “I know, I know.” As he trots back to our huddle.
I look up at the opposing 10 players stopped dead in their tracks on the field as I gently guide the little defensive back toward his huddle. Their jaws are hanging wide open, they are wide eyed and their shoulders drooped down low.
I turned, smiled and walked back to my position in our sideline coaching box. I could tell right then and there that we would win, those kids on the opposite side of the ball wanted no part of what was coming.