Beyond the Scoreboard: What Football Means to Me—Win or Lose
We Don’t Need No…Football Coaches
By Eddie Fields, Teacher and Coach,
Space Coast High School, Cocoa, FL
Each day after practice I hop into my 2007 Ford Focus and start a reflective 30-minute trek homeward bound. This voyage usually includes a window-down Florida breeze (because my A/C took early retirement) and the lone local talk radio show my antenna-less vessel picks up.
While my mind usually tunes out the radio conversations, one afternoon the host caught my attention with an interesting discussion on college football. This liberal-leaning radio personality proposed a thought provoking question about sports that left me wondering about the way I coach the game. The show’s anti-authoritarian speaker suggested fall Saturdays would be more enjoyable if each team’s coaches were not allowed on the sideline during the game.
Immediately, I took offense. How dare this man suggest that coaches shouldn’t be allowed to be with their team at the ever-essential time of competition. Who would maintain order, discipline and safety? Who would call the plays, give the speeches, rally the troops?
Without coaches, chaos would surely erupt! Or would it?
Throughout the course of a practice, a game-week, a season, coaches are tasked with readying their teams to perform at the highest possible level come game time. From the weekend film study to the pregame walkthrough, the head coach and his assistants play an integral role in the team’s preparation and performance. But what if it stopped there?
With the current buzz around building culture the concept of a coach-less sideline presents an interesting hypothetical. Without coaches on the field to dictate game action and decision making, the importance of team goals, guidelines and expectations would be highlighted to an extreme.
Initially I thought the teams with the best coaches would suffer more in a game void of their presence. However, upon further thought I am convinced in this imaginary instance that the teams with the most competent coaches would compete at the highest of levels.
Although coaches will remain a stronghold on the sideline in games, I do think it is valuable to consider how we would coach our teams during the week if this were not the case. The game day void created would spotlight the importance of several key components to success.
1st: It would be essential for the head coach to create a clear vision for his program. This vision then would have to be clearly communicated with both his coaches and his players. Since the coach and his assistants would not be with the players at the most crucial time, the coaching staff would need to be on the same page to articulate the importance of dedicating each moment of preparation to this plan. This mission would need to outline both schematic and character expectations.
2nd: To concrete the coaches vision and the team’s mission repetition would be vital. The actions and attitudes displayed by players would depend on those outcomes consistently reinforced or corrected in practices. The development of habit in core values would flourish by building muscle memory, mental focus and emotional awareness. A coach could accomplish this by consistently putting players in drills and scenarios that directly link to challenges a player faces on game day.
3rd: Maybe, the most important factor coaches would need to focus on in preparing their team to play without them centers around trust. Successful coaches already strive for player buy-in and the constant commitment to a common purpose. In order for players to continue on this pursuit without coaches present, positive relationships would have to be solidified. The players’ trust in their coaches would have to redirect any game time doubts that surfaced.
With the love that we all share for football we obviously always want to be there to experience the games with our players. However, I do think preparing our players like we were not allowed on the sideline allows us to make the game day an even more rewarding experience.
If character is the way a person acts when no one is watching, team culture might be the way a team acts when coaches aren’t overlooking. How would your team act if you were not there?
See you next time…