Your football season is over earlier than everyone wished it would be. A disappointing last loss. These things happen. Only one team per division finishes the season with a significant victory. One. Other than that, the rest of the players and coaches feel the stinging venom of defeat.
For high school football seniors, this pain is sharp. 95% of them will never play football again. 100% will never enjoy the camaraderie and pure joy of playing with their hometown peers, for hometown coaches, in front of hometown fans. Football for the few who are fortunate enough to move on to play collegiately will find it becomes more like a job and the innocence of the game fades.
The emotional aspect of a senior playing his final high school football game may seem petty in importance, but I’ve consoled many 6′ 3″, 250-pound linemen as they sobbed uncontrollably after they lost that final game and the reality of the end hits them like a ton of bricks. For many of these kids, it is the first time they have experienced loss at this level of emotion. If you have a senior, or know a senior, in this position, give them a hug. They deserve it no matter what their won-loss record was.
For the underclassman and for the coaching staff, that final loss also hurts. You are done. After a year of planning and working and practicing and playing, there are no more opportunities until next season. There is a letdown and probably a sense of failure. If the season went better than expected, there’s a consolation of hope. If the season fell below expectations, there’s often a firestorm of distraction.
What comes next?
Coaches and returners need to collect all the disappointment and the sting of failure. They need to collect the venom, that poison which burns your pride/your attitude/your confidence, bottle it up, and then seal it tight with a stopper.
Because you want to keep that bad taste around as a reminder of how bad this feels right after that final loss. You want to save that feeling to drive you through the next 365 days of preparation for next season.
Coaches need a place that bottle of nasty feelings onto their desk to fuel a deep, top to bottom, and HONEST analysis of every aspect of the program. From the daily approach and philosophy to tweaking the offensive and defensive schemes to best fit the returning roster, all the way to implementing the strength and conditioning programs necessary to physically, mentally, and emotionally develop each player so they will be ready to fill those defined roles to the next season.
Returning players, you have the toughest role. You can’t just forget how bad you feel right now. You can’t forget the pain and disappointment eating away at you after this last loss. You will, though. You are young and you have the ability to turn your back on the reality of what just happen and assume a rosy outlook to the future.
Believe me, you do. In a couple of weeks, you will move forward to the next thing which crosses your path. That’s why you NEED this bottle of nastiness more than anyone. You need to pull that bottle down every day, uncork the bottle, and drink one drop.
Every day, without fail.
You need to feel that drop of disappointment burn as it makes its way to your gut and reminds you of that moment when your season came screeching to a halt. You need that drop to remind you to work harder and to realize changes must be made.
That daily dose of a reminder will help you:
- Get out of bed and to the weight room on the days you feel like sleeping in.
- Work harder than everybody else.
- Accept your role and do it to the best of your ability.
- Be a leader, every day and in every way.
- Develop into a player willing and able to carry the team on your shoulders.
Never give up and never give in to the disappointment of a loss. Approach everything with purpose, pride, and passion fueled by the fire of that pain which follows the final loss of the year. The loss pain you probably feel in your gut right now.
To the coaches and players whose football season is finished for 2014, thank you for your efforts this season. Learn from this past year, rethink everything you are doing, and attack next season with a new energy starting right now.
Get better, one day at a time.
Get better, one painful memory sip at a time.
Everybody gets better, every day.