Coach Hays’ Unsportsmanlike Conduct #2
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 second time I may have directly had an influence.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct #2
We started the 2008 season 0-5. We lost our starting quarterback in the first game. We lost a couple tough games when we made a costly mistake or failed to make a key play. But, the worst thing we lost was our confidence. It was a talented group of kids, maybe not an undefeated-type talent group of kids, but not 0-5 for dang sure. I felt bad for them, they’re good kids and we wanted for them to have success. They just zinged when they should have zanged for the first four and a half games of the season. Unfortunately, a bad start as this fuels the fires of overzealous, impatient parents which throws extra distraction on the coaching staff and worst of all, extra pressure on the kids themselves.
The fifth game was our homecoming. Most teams up their game for their homecoming games, but not us. The events and distractions of the week, particularly on game day, always seem to throw our kids for a loop. We were playing the Chapman Irish, a team I was confident we could roll over. We didn’t. We came out flat. We came out with our heads up our collective bootays. At half, we were down something like 26-0, it was so bad I really can’t remember what the exact score was. Unknown to everyone, except a couple of us other coaches, the admins had suspended Coach Lane at the end of the school day for the next game because he told an off-color joke at halftime the previous week. He is as knocked off kilter as I’ve ever seen him, throwing all of us off our game also.
Outside the locker room at halftime, the coaches are meeting with Coach Lane to talk about first half. The kids are all in the locker room waiting for Coach to address them with second half adjustments and his usual pump up speech. I can’t take it anymore. I get so pissed at the whole situation, the way we played, the way the admins treated Coach and I seriously can’t take it anymore, so I go into the locker room.
I don’t consider myself a rah-rah guy. Oh, I get excited, but not in a peppy sort of way. I am more of a “you guys practiced hard, you’re ready to go, let’s go out and knocked the living !@# out of the opponent. Let’s hit them so hard and so often they regret getting out of bed this morning” kind of a speech maker. I know a statement has to be made now with this team, so I pull all the stops. If our AD would have been in that room, he would have blown a gasket. Here are a few things I remember saying.
“What in the HELL do you think you are doing out there? Oh, I know. Embarrassing the hell out of your families and friends, that’s what you’re doing! You all should be embarrassed with your effort. You are better than this.”
Dead silence. I think a couple of the young player’s heads are about to explode.
“I believe in you. The other coaches believe in you. Your parents believe in you. YOU need to believe in YOU. You need to shine up the shillelaghs and go to battle!”
That’s was my Irish Catholic background talking. Growing up, we actually had a shillelagh, an Irish battle club, hanging on the basement walls of my parent’s house. But the teenage boys from Clay Center, who have limited knowledge of ancient Celtic battle implements (and being teenage boys, after all) think shillelagh is another name for a weenie. A few snicker out loud and that really gets me going.
“You need to shine them up boys! Get out there and knock the living !@#$ out of Chapman. YOU need to take care of business! You are a better team than this. Now get your butts on that field and show it!”
Something clicked. They went out and knocked the living daylights out of Chapman in the second half. It was like watching a bulldozer push a pile of dead trees. We rallied, but fell two points short. That was with our star running back fumbling the ball three yards and a huge opening away from dancing into our end zone for a TD, a 60 yard touchdown run getting called back because of a phantom holding call AND an almost completed Hail Mary pass as time expiring.
We were 0-5, but the kids were excited after the game. They found something. They found their confidence. It took a swift verbal kick in the buttocks for that little jump start to get things rolling again. They won the next three games in a row! One coach in particular was, and still is, very proud of this group of young men for the way they held together under so much unnecessary adult stupidity.