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coaches change people

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Sports works best when coaches change people for the better.

A coach new to youth football talks about fun.

“Football is fun, but more fun when you win,” he says.

The new coach played high school football on a championship team.

He knew winning.

Coaches change people from ordinary to extraordinary in the short window of a season.

He knew this, knew football, but didn’t play after his senior season highlights.

Going out on top made him feel good about the time he spent getting there.

His Super Bowl came in a different title game. The College Football Playoff National Championship he won was a state championship trophy.

And it was enough until now.

In his thirties he picked up a whistle and stood before his first team, before his son.

“Why are we here?” he asked.

“Because our parents drove us.”

“To play football.”

“To have fun.”

More arms raised up.

“All good answers, Bulldogs,” he said, “and fun is the best.”

The team meeting speech he memorized for players and parents also included this:

“Yes, we’re here to play football, have fun, and most of all to learn.

“The first thing to remember is fun. I like to have fun.

“When I’m having fun, everybody has fun

“If I’m not having fun, we need to play harder. Is that you? Are you a hard playing football team?”

Every ten year old in the room screamed yes.


Coaches change people more than they think.

Over one season the players learned to block and tackle and throw and catch better than ever.

“Now that’s fun,” the coach said. “Fun is the first syllable in fundamentals. Fun-da-mental. Doesn’t it sound easy? Block, tackle, throw, and catch better than the other team and you win a game.”

No mention of playing time, money, or recruiting.

The team he drafted included his son’s friends. Just a bunch of kids and a football.

It was a simple time with a dad coach, a few dad assistants, and an organized team mom.

No one threw a playing time tantrum. They all knew they’d play.

One dad offered coaches a few hundred each to help his kid play quarterback. They gave him a list of quarterback camps.

The fun changed when high school men came to practices. They wanted a close up view of the new crop to channel them to the right teams and coaches in middle school.

Parents from other schools showed up to watch practice.

One of the kids’ older brother chose to play for another high school. It happens when choice is an option. He played with his friends one year, against them the next.

The youth coach roamed the sidelines long enough to see the game change.

He saw high school coaches leave after parents complained about their kid’s playing time.

The local athletic director called it something else.

He saw the same AD leave after player eligibility issues.

A town takes it hard when the high school team forfeits a winning season from administrative mistakes.

Further up the football ladder he saw a college assistant take the head coaching job and lead his team to the top. He won so often the fan base thought it would never end.

Coaches change people, change their perceptions and expectations.

Another assistant took over, won big, then took a dip. A bright guy, he knew from the start how it would all end.

A shadow staff listened in and made suggestions. They joined winning celebrations, disappeared after losses.

After a downer season the coach disappeared too. That’s football.

The next time you watch a game at any level, ask yourself, “Is it worth the pain of defeat to chase the thrill of victory?”

You know the answer.

So does that future youth coach standing in front of his first team.

Is it worth it? Every time.

Just know when to hand the job to the next man up.

About David Gillaspie


  1. Mark Mullins says:

    Very appropriate, nice piece. However, as always, I have a suggestion. Fundamental has four syllables, not three. Yours, anal as ever, Mark

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Four syllables it is, but not when the focus is on ‘mental.’ And that’s the key to good coaching once everything else is equal.

      The big question is always, “Who wants it more?” Usually the winning team gets credit.

      Coaching has more impact on players than other players. Even though the hits come from other players, who is more memorable?

      The coach carries the load whether they know it or not. And it’s not light.

      It’s a mental thing and not always fun at first. Thinking of Vince Lombardi’s affect on coaches to treat players his way. I’m thinking of one in particular.

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