Sunday, August 12, 2018

Make Them Tough!

I coached college football for many years, and many of my best friends are college football coaches and strength coaches. Love them all, salt of the earth folks.

But damn.

Reading the headlines today in sports, it sickens me when you hear of an athlete dying during a workout. Not having a cramp or two or feeling light headed, but dying. Like no longer exist has his whole life ahead of him but will not breath another breath dying. 

Here is the debate. What is necessary to get a kid ready for the season? It ain't running them until they puke or god forbid something worse. Its intelligent, scientific training, working them along slowly, incremental changes, adapting to more and more stress until the athlete is ready. It's giving them feedback, its nutrition, sleep and knowing what works for that individual.

It's like a sickness, that mentality of crushing the athlete to make them tough.

I really thought that the Junction Boys days were over. That's some BS, anyway. Bear Bryant got lucky that nobody died. Now, you would think that coaches would learn, but here is my opinion on it:

 Back when I was coaching football, especially in college, you had no idea that the outside world even existed. You lost track of the days during the season, you were inside watching films, getting the practice plan together, meeting and meeting and meeting. Your whole life revolved around football. In early, out late. You stressed over just why Rufus can't fight through that damn reach block that he'd been working on for 3 years. That's actually a true story from 1994. I couldn't get him to rip to escape! Damn, Rufus. I would obsess over it, sit in the living room of my tiny apartment drinking vodka and going over different ways to reach Rufus. Doesn't seem so important now, seems silly. 

But you were in it, and deeply in it. And you thought that everyone should shut everything else down while its football season. You really couldn't  believe how folks could not realize the importance of the season. What else was there? When you are in that deep, it feels perfectly normal to think that what you are doing is the most important thing in the world. 

It's as though you went in the Football Cave in August and you didn't reappear until after the Thanksgiving. You had to go to meetings with the whole athletic department and this pissed you off! Don't they know that I had film to watch? Those other sports don't matter! 

That is how deep you got involved in the whole thing.

I hear all the time (Inside stuff) about just how ego filled some of these major college coaches really are, their tantrums and fits that they throw, their treatment of the assistant coaches and athletes.

So sometimes you feel all this pressure for the kids to perform and we need this kid to win and everyone is thinking of ways to get a kid better and somebody says, Oh hell, he's not tough enough. And then it starts.

There is a belief among some coaches that you can "make a kid tough" by pushing the athlete beyond puking and by belittling him and insulting him and making him miserable enough that he either gets tough or quits.  First off, who wants to treat another human being that way? When I first started coaching, I believed in the "get tough" bullshit. It never worked, it just got the player hurt and probably scarred him mentally and well, to this day he probably thinks that I was an ass. And I was an ass. It didn't take me too long to realize that you could be a teacher and offer constructive criticism and the player responds better to that then making them exhausted and mentally torturing them. There was a famous coach who used to tell his strength coach that he didn't care how he conditioned the players as long as he "gutted them like a fish". Oh man, I want my kid to play for that guy. And the funny thing is that most of these coaches weren't worth a damn as a player themselves. Or maybe they didn't play at all.

Remember, you don't need a certification to be a coach or continuing education units to remain a coach, you just say, "I am a coach" and there you have it. Presto.

So "making a kid tough" is archaic and wrong. Some kids will never be tough. Hell, recruit kids that are already tough, because all of their experiences growing up and their genetics and the example that their parents showed them made them tough. If you think that 6 weeks of running at 5 am and making them puke and belittling them in front of their peers takes the place of 18 years of life and lessons that made them who they are as a man today, you have a screw loose. But people still think its cool to do and that Vince Lombardi would love it.

I'm good. I know that some have it and some don't. And if they don't , so what? You recruited them and it was your mistake. Live with it, let the kid live his life with some dignity and respect for himself. And he won't go through life thinking that you are a jerk.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.