Beyond The Scoreboard
Hold the Mayo
By Eddie Fields, Teacher and Coach
Space Coast High School, Cocoa, FL
I love cheeseburgers…irrationally love the things. The best one I ever had came from a Mexican joint in Fayetteville, North Carolina. When I show up to a restaurant, I don’t even look at the menu. I order a water-no-lemon and a cheeseburger-medium, ketchup and mustard only.
Last week, my wife and I decided to try our luck on a local diner we haven’t had time to sneak into yet. Prior to sliding in, I did my usual preapproval process on Yelp and Tripadvisor to avoid the bust potential. Multiple reviews boasted, “best burger in the city”, so I was excited when we arrived.
The girl at the greeting station seated us friendly. The young man that served us, dutifully brought us our drinks. My wife perused the menu. Our server eventually made his way back to our table to take our order final order.
I can’t remember what my wife ordered, but I do know our server let me know about an offer I couldn’t refuse. The bacon cheeseburger was on special and it was no extra charge to add the wonderful pork goodness to my usual.
We would have waited an eternity for our meal. We don’t rush the weekend. It didn’t take an eternity. Our meal, with my burger, arrived in just a few short minutes.
This burger looked perfect. Pure heaven. A surreal concoction of grease and cheese dripped from the edge of the bun with succulent bacon sneaking from the side. The anticipation built and my first bite would surely prove glorious.
I attacked that first bite with excitement. I started with high hopes…I finished with disgust. What may have ended up being one of my best burgers ended up being among my worst. At some point between my first and second chew my taste buds detected mayonnaise. I hate mayonnaise.
My day was ruined. Something as small as a condiment completely controlled my mood. After complaining to my wife, I was amazed at how such a small thing could make such a large impact. The restaurant had friendly service and great ingredients. Everything was right, but the mayo.
I knew there had to be a way to link this experience with my coaching philosophy. As I thought more about the experience I realized that each of the programs I have been a part of have had their version of mayo. The teams that have had success managed to eliminate the mayonnaise. The teams that underachieved overlooked the mayo or even disregarded it when they knew it was there.
So when it comes to a team what is the mayo? I believe it to be negative body language. Poor team posture.
The teams that had gotten the most out of their efforts carried themselves confidently. They moved around with tenacity and communicated positively. They worked with a smile. You could look at those teams, coaches and players, and know that they were going to get things done to the best of their ability. Everyone contributed to the team with positive action and attitude.
The teams that missed opportunities, failed to execute and underachieved carried themselves differently. Coaches and players moved sluggishly. People avoided each other. Happiness was often absent. You could look at these teams and know that they expected the worst. The individual negativity permeated the team even when words weren’t spoken.
I decided negative body language on the football field fuels failure. It builds a barrier to maximizing personal output. Even more dangerous, poor body language is contagious. I currently coach a group of guys I call “The-Misery-Loves-Company-Club.” This group of young men are overall good kids. However, when things get tough or go wrong it seems like they are anxious for others to hit a speed bump and join them in their sorrows.
Their body language is the first indicator of this attitude. My challenge as a coach has been to recognize the change in demeanor and then redirect the players to a more positive place and plan of action.
I have realized as players and coaches as we face adversity we must engage each other with body language that shows confidence and competence. Proper preparation should highlight the anticipation of challenge and struggle. Practice should present opportunities to work on how to maintain composure throughout difficult scenarios. A team must understand tough times will come. A team must also prepare to positively meet those trials with composed action.
Fast forward to a game not long after my burger experience. A player showed up late. Our head coach has a rule that if you show up late you can’t start. The player was upset about not starting and immediately his body language turned bitter. He was our team’s mayo!
The disappointed player had the potential to spread pessimism to the other players so I walked over and said quietly to him “Hold the mayo.” He wasn’t impressed. Not only did he not get to start the game, he had no clue what I was talking about.
With confused frustration he replied, “Huhhh?”
His shrugged response opened the conversation enough for me to tell him my story and hopefully build a link toward a more positive course of interaction with his teammates. During our chat, his mood lightened and eventually he was ready to contribute toward the team’s success.
In this moment I realized I may be on to something. Some say the ball never lies. I think the body never lies. The quickest way to decipher a person’s emotional status usually comes from observing their body language. Words can be crafted, but body language mirrors mental state.
As coaches we must both model and mold positive posture for our teams. Our job is to make sure our team puts its best burger on the plate. Please, for picky eaters and positive coaches everywhere, “Hold the Mayo!”
See you next time,