Tag Archives: Football

I Don’t Care If You’re Chinese, Japanese Or Turpentine-ese.

It was sophomore football, the entry level rung of athletics at Washington High School. Three feeder junior highs thrown together to meld together as a team in the short pure hell period of three-a-day practices in the sweltering Kansas August heat. In reality, what that entailed was the two poor sophomore football coaches had to try and piece together a starting 11 from a group that came in with three starting quarterbacks, three starting centers, there’s tailbacks, three nose guards.

Well, you get the picture. It was almost like three different teams squabbling every day to be the “one” on the field. To make matters worse, the new head sophomore football coach just happened to be my junior high coach, Coach P. So naturally, every starting position won by an Eisenhower Jr. High player was favoritism and cronyism at it highest.

It was very frustrating and at height of our early season misery, we lost our opening game. The third string QB, a Japanese American kid, lost his temper in practice and stated yelling at the coaches accusing them of discrimination. He said they didn’t like him because he was Japanese. Coach P made us all run and run and run and run for lack of a better spur of the moment solution to that accusation.

Coach P had a temper. Once in Jr. High, he blew up at our lack of focus and execution and kicked us off the practice field. We ran toward the school locker room like convicts on a jailbreak. Our football field was inside the school’s track and when the rambling herd was mere yards away from the track, Coach P screamed, “And don’t you dare step on MY track!”

Forty-some kids in full football gear came to a screeching halt. We froze with fear. What were we supposed to do? Nobody dared look back to Coach P (who was probably back there laughing his ass off at us idiots). Finally, after what seemed an eternity, one of the faster running backs at the front of the group slipped out of his cleats and tip-toed across the track. One by one, we followed suit and when everyone has crossed over and, after Coach P had time to quit laughing enough to yell, he screamed, “I said get off my field!”

Forty-some boys sprinted across campus in stocking feet approaching the locker room at near world record speeds.
Our second game that sophomore year was against Shawnee Mission South at their practice field, which was next door to their expansive district football stadium and track. We fell apart on the first half. Coach P silently walked the team over to the stands of the district football stadium for halftime. The team began to sit on the lower level and Coach goes on a rant. “You don’t deserve to sit on the front row. To the top. Now!”

We marched way up to the cheap seats and sat down. Coach P lets it fly. I don’t remember much of what he said because I avoided potential eye contact by watching normal, happy people walk and jog around the stadium track. Coach pointed to an old man jogging on the track and shouted, “Now there’s somebody who knows the value of hard work. You boys need to take a lesson from him.”

Surprisingly, the old man on the track stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and ran in the opposite direction never passing our section of stands again.

Shortly thereafter, when he’d scared most of the bystanders on the track away, I heard him say something that has stuck with me for years. He talked of teamwork. He talked of common goals and the value of putting the team in front of any individual. His final words were most telling. “Boys, I don’t care if you are Chineese, Japanese or Turpentine-ese, I am going to coach you equally and with all my energy. But, I promise you, I will always start the kids who work the hardest and earn their spots.”

He turned and walked away. We continued to get our butts kicked in the second half, though we did play more like a team. The third string QB quit the next day and with his departure many of our squabbles and internal problems left as well. We probably finished around .500 for the season, I really can’t remember. But I do remember having fun the rest of the season and becoming good friends with former junior high rivals.

I always carried a little bit of Coach P around with me in my coaching career. Coach everyone who walks through your locker room door to the best of your ability, every day. Because…

“I don’t care if you’re Chinese, Japanese or Turpentine-ese…”

I’m going to coach you.

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Resiliency

Resiliency is  vital in tough situations. Resiliency with a little humor and smart-assedness is my favorite. I particularly like these photos from Fayetteville last week after the firing of the University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino for “misleading and manipulative behavior”. (For details of this story of the downfall of one of the absolute worst  character coaches in the profession, see here.)

You may not consider a college football coach scandal is a “tough” situation, but for some of us who are, or were, in the eat, sleep and live your favorite teams category, it is a tough situation. At a proud, tradition-rich football school like the University of Arkansas, there is A LOT of eating, sleeping and living Razorback football.  I do like the humor, the smart assedness, and the resiliency shown by these men. I laughed for an extended period when I first saw them. True, it is a sad, embarrassing situation for all involved, but here are a couple guys who have taken the first step to normalcy in their turned-over-on-its-head college sports fandom experience. I would bet these guys are ready to move onto the next coach, the next season; to put on their Hog hats on a fall Saturday afternoon and head to the stadium. That’s resiliency.

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The Wingbuster Story Finale: Shut ‘Em Down Boys!

The planning is done, the presentation is done, the preparation is about as far as we can take it and now we’ve run out of time. It’s time to take it to the field.

I could never sleep much the week before playing the double wing offense. Around Thursday night and all day Friday, it was tough to even eat. I’d worry about everything. Did our kids know their jobs? Were they physically, mentally and emotionally ready for how tough this game is going to be? Then the litany of “What if’s”. What if they come out in some funky new offense? What if they spread it out? What if they break tendencies? What if, what if, what if…

But the biggest one, what if the Wingbuster doesn’t work first time and our kids lose confidence? That’s is the question that bugged me the most. If it didn’t work, I would have totally let the boys down. And letting the boys down was always the fear which drove me to go the extra mile as a coach.

So it’s game time. I honestly cannot tell you one detail of any of the days we played Rock Creek. Too nervous, too many different brainwaves fighting in my head. My head is about ready to explode, then Rock Creek lines up for their first offensive play.

Here is a clip on the Toss play from my final presentation of the Wingbuster. It will give you and idea of how dangerous the play can be, followed by how the Wingbuster performs. The bad defensive examples are Rock Creek (Black) vs. Royal Valley (White). The good defensive examples are Rock Creek (Gray) vs. The Tiger Wingbuster (Black).

I can’t tell the emotion felt when we made the Wingbuster work like this. I don’t have the video from the first time we played them in 2004, but the first play was just like the second good defense clip above. Here we were, coming off an 0-9 season, playing this powerhouse of a team, pressure is cranked to MAX and we just knock the living $h!t out of them on the first play. I seriously could have cried right there on the sidelines.

Thanks to all the coaches who I begged, borrowed and copied from to design the Wingbuster. Thanks to my fellow Tiger coaches for holding the line and teaching the skills and duties at such a high level. Finally, a bubba-sized THANK YOU to all the Tiger Wingbuster players, from the superstars, to the role players, to the substitutes and especially to the Black Dog scout team players. Without your belief in the system and without your dedication to learning and performing the system we would have failed. Your tremendous level of individual and team pride would not accept defeat, no matter how difficult the challenge.

The Wingbuster: Every man do their job on every play.

Tiger Football.

EVERY MAN, EVERY PLAY

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Sharing is Caring: Football Version

Coaching freshman football with Coach Eric Burks was so much fun. He was the perfect guru for a novice coach, like I was, to start coaching with.  EB was the head freshman coach and coached offense; I was the freshman assistant and did the defense. His offense was simple and effective, but his real talent was connecting with the players.

The kids used to love that he called our best offensive play, 34 Power, “Bread and Butter”. EB told the kids “Bread and Butter” play is the one “go to” play everyone trusted and could execute in dire situations. 34 Power was ours for dang sure. Last summer, at a couple of wedding for kids who played on those teams, I could still walk up to the majority of those players ten years later and say, “Bread and Butter” which to a man would respond, “34 Power.”  Folks, in the coaching world, that is staying power.

Freshman boys are not the most responsible or most aware beings on the planet. I know this is a shock to parents, but it is true. We actually made a list we posted in the locker room to remind freshman football players of the equipment they would need to practice or play. Helmet, shoulder pads, pants, shoes, etc. etc. etc. all essential equipment to play organized football all had a reminder so the young man would not forget.

One Monday at a freshman road game, we unload the bus, dress out in the locker room, and get ready to take the field for warm-ups. At the very last minute, one player walks up to us two coaches and reports the obvious. “Coach, I forgot my pants.”

“Uhhh. Really? I couldn’t tell.” was the official coach reply.

Player number two slides up. “Uh, Coach. I forgot my shoes.”

Coach Burks lays into a soap box rant about responsibility, etc. He tells the two players to sit down and shut up, he will deal with them later, then we go out for warmups.  EB is po’d during warm-ups. Toward the end of team period, right before we go back into locker room for final meeting before the game, he breaks out a huge smile and elbows me in the ribs.  “Watch this” , he says as the team jogs to the locker room.

Coach Burks addresses the team. “Player One, you have shoes, right?”

“Yes.”

“Player Two, you have pants, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then Player One, you will wear the pants and shoes while playing the first half. Player Two, you will wear the pants and shoes and get to play the second half. Any questions?”

“Nope.” They say collectively and join the team breakdown huddle.

“Let’s get after it then, boys! One, Two, Three…”

“Tigers!” The team yells and runs onto the field.

As I walk with Coach Burks across the field to the sideline, I say, “You, my friend are a freaking genius.”

We had to deal with a couple upset parents, but after explaining the situation, they just shook their heads and walked off. I think we won, maybe we didn’t. Who cares, though, this far down the road? In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter much because what I will always remember most are the lessons I learned on that fall autumn day:

1. Sharing is caring and a beautiful thing (unless one player has pants that fit his 6’2 frame and the other player who must wear the same pair of pants is 5′ 6″).

2. Sometimes one player plus one player does indeed equal only one player.

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Football is NOT Life, A Reprise

I originally wrote this post last year for me, to help me get over myself being down in the dumps over another year not coaching football. I wrote is as a therapeutic reminder that, even though I miss coaching dearly, this great game of football is not, and should never be, the MOST IMPORTANT thing in life.

I am re-posting the blog piece, Football is NOT Life, for you.  You know, you folks out there who have let things slip out of focus in the Fall of 2011. The ones who are half crazed with the emotion and the frustration and the disappointment associated with sports, especially when things are heading south in a hurry.

Everybody wants to win, it is written in the marrow of our bones. However, not everybody can win and we need to remind ourselves there are worse things in life than losing a game of football, no matter how much it hurts.

Respect the kids and respect the coaches. Respect the work and effort everyone invests, no matter how disappointing the outcome is. Please read this post and think about it. If it helps, then pass it on to the next person before we adults take all the fun out of this great game.

Football is NOT Life! (originally posted on September 21, 2010)

I know this may sound highly irrational and maybe even a bit hypocritical coming from me, but contrary to what the t-shirts say, FOOTBALL IS NOT LIFE!.

Football is the greatest damn game ever invented, but it is not life.  Football is intensity, competitiveness, sportsmanship and violence, but it is not life.  Football requires immense strategy and teamwork, but it is not life.  Football provides education, drama, entertainment, and a solidarity which binds communities, campuses and fan bases throughout the nation, but it is not life.  Football is universal, it is played by presidents and paupers, genius and idiot, big and small, aggressive and passive, rich and poor, but it is not life.  Football should not be all consuming.  Football should not be the top priority.  I know this for a fact, I have tripped and fallen down that hole before (see my story).

Football can be like a package of Oreos, both need to be consumed in moderation.  You’ve been there, you open the package of Oreos and leave it out on the counter.  Sooner, rather than later, the whole package is gone and you don’t feel so good.  But if you open that package and only take a couple of Oreos and place the package in the cupboard for a later date, they not only taste spectacular, but last and satisfy for days upon days.  Football is not life.  It should be taken in moderation and/or with a tall glass of milk, (1% or skim preferably).

Football has it’s proper place, it has it’s proper perspective. Football is not the primary reason for the existence of high schools, colleges and universities.

Yes, football is important.  It is important to compete.  It is important to work hard to be the best coach or player you can be.  It is important to compete with purpose, pride and passion.  But I think Coach Paul Lane said it best with his prioritization of the sport, “Faith, Family, Football, in that order”.

Football is important to me.  But football is not life.  Let’s work to keep football in it’s proper perspective and place. I would hate for you to get a football belly-ache.

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Bubba Lineman Tribute:The School of Block

The School of Block

There is Honor on the line.

There is Glory in the trenches.

Honor in the protection of what’s ours and in the destruction of what’s theirs.

Honor in the 50-79 numbers, invisible to all but the coaches and the blood relation.

Honor in aggressively getting in the defender’s way. Line it up, tear them down, repeat.

Glory in a facemask decorated in turf and mud.  Hands bruised. Fingers battered. Knuckles bloodied.

Glory in watching the backside of your running back move down the field.

Glory in crushing the will of the opponent.

The School of Block

Coach Hays, September 2010

I love blocking. When most football fans watch the pretty boys (the QB/RB/Receivers), I watch the line. Every play, whether in person at a game or watching one on TV, I watch the line play first and foremost. I played the line, I coached the line and, my favorite story, PLATTE RIVER by Rich Bass, is about a lineman. I guess I just view life through the lens of a lineman.

The SCHOOL OF BLOCK is my tribute to the boys in the trenches. It is my interpretation of what it means to be a lineman and my attempt to represent the feel of being a lineman. As football coaches, we know the vital importance of winning the game at the line of scrimmage. As fan, I hope this inspires you to watch the line play more often and come to appreciate the Bubbas.

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Football 2011: Unsportsmanlike Conduct #3

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.

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Football 2011: Unsportsmanlike Conduct #2

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.

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Football 2011: Unsportsmanlike Conduct #1

Coach Hays’ Unsportsmanlike Conduct #1

Good ole Coach Hays is heading into his third football season not being Football Coach Hays.  It is getting a bit easier, I promise.  But, seeing as the season is right around the corner, I thought it appropriate to spew some more Tiger football coaching memories to help get the football juices flowing again.

I was mowing today.  I do some pretty heavy thinking pushing the mower around the yard, so if I fail to wave at you as you drive by the house, don’t take it personally. I mentally drifted to the topic of if and how a coach can 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 first.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct#1

We were playing a JV game at Wamego, a league rival, in 2007. First possession, we turn the ball over deep in our territory. We shut them down first two plays. It is third and long, they snap the ball and their QB rolls out toward their sideline. We have their receivers covered like a blanket, with our pass rushers bringing the heat. The QB steps out of bounds, the umpire blows his whistle and our kids ALL stop. The QB nonchalantly throws the ball to the endzone, where their receiver catches it. Play over, 4th down, right? Not right! They call a touchdown! Their fans are cheering, their sidelines is going nuts, and all our kids are standing there dumbfounded pointing to the out of bounds spot from where the QB threw the ball after the whistle.

I go ballistic! To make the situation worse, the officiating crew ignores me. They line up the two-point conversion. I walk out to the numbers, screaming, but still nothing. Each of those four officials knows they are absolutely, completely wrong, and their solution is to ignore me. All one of them needs to do is tell me they screwed up the call and I will shut up. Not going to happen. As Wamego breaks their huddle and trots to the line, I grabbed my Tiger Football baseball hat from my head and launch it at the umpire. It is the most bush league thing I have ever done as a coach. That hat soars over the left shoulder of the umpire. He blows his whistle, waves his arms for an official’s timeout, then turns toward me on the sidelines. If I were him, I would toss my ass out of the game. Better yet, I would toss myself completely out of the stadium and make me go sit on the bus in the parking lot. Instead,  since he knows he just made a horrendous call on the touchdown, he looks to the ground and slirks over to where I am standing, hatless.

“Coach, you can’t throw your hat.”

“You can’t make a crappy call like that, especially when it is right in front of you AND it’s a touchdown!”

“Uhhh…”

“And YOU blew your whistle and called the play dead.”

“That whistle must have come from the stands. It wasn’t me.”

“Ha ha ha ha…that’s ridiculous. I have four kids who were close to you, and swear YOU blew the whistle!”

He hands me back my hat, still no eye contact.  “Just don’t throw your hat anymore.”

“Just don’t make any more pathetic calls.”

Long story short. We rally from a 6-0 deficit to win 60-something to 6. The boys were so ticked and so fired up after that questionable touchdown play, they completely shut down everything Wamego tried to do.  One series in the 4th quarter,  we were up big and Wamego started a possession on their 40 yard line. The first three pass plays we sacked their QB for big losses back to their 10 yard line. They went for it on fourth down and  we sacked the QB for a safety. Pretty much the story of the game.

Maybe, just maybe, knowing their coach had their collective back that day affected the way the kids performed,  and, ultimately, the outcome of the game. What do you think?

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PLAY CALLING

Play Calling by Coach Hays

One of my all-time favorite things about football is play calling.  I loved it as a coach, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  As I was a fan long before I was a coach, I learned the bleachers are the perfect place to appreciate the fine art of play calling.

One solid fact about play calling I learned in my time as a fan was this little nugget of wisdom; Plays called from the stands AFTER the actual play is over have a 100% No-Fail Rate.  Seriously, if a 4th and short iso run play gets stuffed at the line of scrimmage, there are at least 50 guys in the stands hiking up their jeans, sucking in their gut and exclaiming to everyone within a 12 row radius, “I’d a passed right there, a quick slant.”

Now, let’s take the same 4th and short situation.  If the call of a quick slant pass falls incomplete to the turf, those same 50 guys hiking up their jeans in the stands are saying, “Shoulda run the iso, that’s what I called in my head while they was still in the huddle.” This still cracks me up today as a fan and used to cracked me up as a coach.

One JV game night, we played after the freshman squad’s game at our home stadium.  We arrived in the 2nd quarter of the freshman game and we had time, so we let the kids watch some of the game from the endzone before we began warming up.  The double wing team the freshman were playing were moving the ball well.  After a couple long runs, what sounds like a older gentleman from our home stands started screaming “WATCH THE RUN!  WATCH THE RUN!”, in that maniacal voice one often finds in the stands of sporting events.  Very next play, the opponent threw a long play action pass that put them inside our 10 yard line.  Guess what the older gentleman screams now.  “WATCH THE PASS!  WATCH THE PASS!”  Classic.  And the best part was he kept this up well into the fourth quarter.  I giggle just to think about it.

Another play calling story.  We hosted the opening game of district playoffs with our rival and challenger for the district championship in town.  We control the first half against their highly potent (and relatively rare for that time) spread offense, thanks to the secondary gameplan of Coach Smith.  We get the ball back with a lead less than two minutes in the first half and with Coach Smith calling the offensive plays, we methodically move the ball down the field.  We don’t call any timeouts, the clock is running down to half and our plan is to score or hold the ball until the half runs out.  We know we don’t want to give their offense a chance to score.  So, we’re moving the ball, not calling timeouts and for the first and only time I become aware of a fan in the stands screaming, “YOU STUPID COACHES!” over and over again.  Well, screaming is too nice a term.  As I look to the action on the field, the voice I hear emulating from the stands sounds like Mama Alien from Alien 2 if she were to sit in the stands of a high school football game and scream, “YOU STUPID COACHES!” at the top of her lungs.  Well, to make a long story short, led by us “STUPID  COACHES”, we score with less than 10 seconds left, run the clock out on the kickoff and go on to win the game handily.  Not bad for stupidity.

Want  to know what it is like to call plays?   I give you this representative scenario to describe what it is like.

Stand up and hop on one foot around the kitchen while a pot of spaghetti noodles boils over on the stove next to the bubbling pan of sauce and the garlic toast sits on the white hot griddle.  You are hopping because you dropped the heavy pasta pot lid on your big toe.  Then your three year old sextuplets knock over the 20 gallon aquarium and are currently “bathing” in the fish juice soaked carpet.  Next, the doorbell rings and in marches a gaggle of Girls Scouts hawking the world’s best thin mint cookies. Broken toe, dead fish, wet kids, houseful of precious little angels selling fattening discs of chocolate heaven, soggy pasta, charred garlic toast, smoky sauce and …THE PHONE RINGS.

It is Alex Trabec saying that if you can provide the correct question to the clue “65 Toss Power Trap “ within ten seconds you win 1 million dollars.

You get excited, you know this answer and shout into the phone, “Play Hank Stram called for a Chiefs TD in the Super Bowl IV”.

“Sorry, correct answer, but it was not in the form of a question.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that is play calling and that is why I liked it so much.

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