Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Triple Option Volume 16

Well, the flexbone posts are rolling to a close over at Football is Life.  I plan on adding a post with some cutups and coaching comments later.  For those of you defensive minded dudes, hang in there, I promise offense will take a back seat here shortly!  On to the Triple Option!

The Give
Well Chris Borland has called it quits due to the threat of concussions in his workplace.  Damn, I wonder how many coal miners are quitting their jobs due to black lung?  Not all of us have the luxury of just walking away from something as Borland has, but I have to say this, when there is so much unknown and you stand to make such a substantial amount of money doing something you love, why not stay?  My thought here is that Borland doesn't "love" the game.  Let's be honest to do what those guys do, even for the money, has to have some love for the game.  NFL players, especially linebackers, get the shit kicked out them weekly.  It's not an easy position, with only running back probably taking harder, more consistent hits.  Anyhow, the thing that Borland's decision has done is to fan the ever growing flame the media has started over the concussion issue.  As if little Johnnie's mom wasn't already fearing for her son's life, now she reads these headlines about an NFL linebacker quitting the game due to the threat of concussions.  We all know how rational mothers are right...right.  Not once does the media report on the fact that there are countless instances where former NFL players are living to ripe old ages and having "normal" deaths.  Where is this data?  You're not going to find it, because just like everything else in this country nowadays, the media is hiding it.  For some reason, the media in America, feels the need to attack things, rather than report things.  I have no clue where this came about, but as usual, I call bullshit.

I've seen several posts on message boards questioning Borland's decision, and listen, if he wants to walk away, I'm fine with it.  However, just say you don't love it anymore.  Don't list "concussions" as  the reason you're leaving.  Concussions aren't the reason he's leaving the game, it's the fact that his love for the game does not outweigh the risks associated with playing.  My love for having things, such as a home, a boat, food on the table, and so forth outweighs the fact that I sometimes have to work out in the  middle of vehicular traffic at my job.  I don't always care for it, but I know if I want to get paid, this is what must happen.  For Borland, that love isn't there, so he called it quits.  Again, I'm fine with that, but he should have said, "I no longer love the game enough to play with the associated risks involved".  No need to mention the "c" word.  Now, for those of us who aren't afraid of it, or are trying to keep passing along the skills and techniques of the greatest game known to man, you really have put a chink in our chain there Mr. Borland.

So what are we, as football coaches, to do?  Educate.  Quite simply, do what most of us do for a living anyways.  Preseason meetings with parents need to address this issue.  Don't just bring it up as casual conversation in your meeting either.  Plan to talk about it.  Support yourself with data and then have a plan for dealing with athletes when they get a concussion (if you don't already have this, please come out of the Stone Ages and join the rest of us).  I think parents will respect you for it, as will the players and your administration.  You may still have little Johnny's mom take him out of football, but she could have done that for fear of knee injuries too.  Some parents you just can't reach.  Like they say, "You can't save them all".  Anyhow, don't be afraid to talk about the "c" word, but DO be ready to field questions on concussions.  Like I said, support your answers with data and then have a comprehensive plan for dealing with concussions.  Here is a link to the NFHS concussion course, which is free to take.  Show this link and share this link with your parents.  All you need to know about concussions and concussion protocol is in there.  I know my state of Florida, requires that all coaches take this course, which is free of charge, in order to be certified to coach there.  If your state doesn't require it, take it anyways to avoid negligence in the event you are faced with dealing with an athlete with a concussion.

In summation, don't let the Borland decision put fear in you about a drop in numbers on your football team.  Promote your team, and when the concept of concussions arises, talk about in knowledgeably and with facts supported by data and you shouldn't have any problems.

The Keep
Politics has always been in coaching.  Fortunately for me, I've been shaded from them for most of my career.  Here lately though, it seems that nobody is exempt from having to deal with politics in the coaching arena.  I was on a coaching site the other day and noticed where there were over 90 coaching changes that had happened in the state of Florida since the end of the 2014 season.  Last season, there was over 100 coaching moves made in the offseason.  With this much movement, one has to wonder, what the hell is going on in the sunshine state?  I'm not sure how this compares to other places, but damn it sure seems high?  On our schedule from 2013 to 2014 there were 4 out of 10 teams, we faced in the regular season, that saw a coaching change.  This year, that number is also 4.  40 percent seems a bit high to me, but maybe I'm being naive.  Upon digging further, many coaches were let go, fired, not retained, whatever you want to call it.  I find this somewhat humorous that the landscape of coaching high school football has now taken on the look of college football, where after 3 seasons if Coach Joe ain't winning we fire his ass.  Let's look at some differences in high school and college football that make this thought process by administrators a complete farce.
I smell bullshit...

  1. College coaches can recruit the athletes of their choice: In high school you have to "run what you brung" and in some cases (as is mine), this ain't much.  How can you judge a guy on wins/losses when you are asking him to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  When your offensive guard is 5'9" tall and 175 pounds and you are blocking a 3 technique that's 6'3" 280 pounds, um...what do I do with that?!  Even the great Bill Parcells said: "They want you to cook the dinner, they should at least let you shop for the groceries".  This is true, however in high school football you can't "shop".  Many administrators need a "reality check" in this department.
  2. Budget.  Geesh, this is an obvious difference.  College football programs have HUGE budgets and can provide lavish amenities to their players, whereas some high schools are doing good just to have uniforms!  Even within the high school ranks the disparities are evident.  A private school, generally has better athletic facilities than public schools.  This makes said private school more attractive than the public school.  In Florida, cities along the coast, generally have more money circulating through them due to higher population, AND higher population of retired people (who have saved well in their lives, hell, they moved to Florida, that ain't cheap) who are willing to donate to the local high school.  Inland, the rural schools struggle just to have new uniforms every 5 to 6 seasons.  Add in school of choice areas and you have a recipe for disaster.  When a coach can promise little Johnny new gloves and cleats every year, that's kind of hard to compete with 5 year old helmets and shoulder pads that were in style when Walter Payton was in college.
  3. Staff Size.  Another "geesh" one here too (thanks Captain Obvious).  Collegiate coaching staffs can number well over 20 members at an average institution.  This may not even include such positions as director of player personnel and strength and conditioning coordinator.  I've coached with as many as 8 and as few as 4 coaches on a Friday night.  The more staff members you have, the easier it is to coach positions, because some coaches can be assigned to do remedial work on players who are struggling to get a particular skill.  I can't really run Chip Kelly's Oregon offense tempo in practice with 4 coaches.  That shit just doesn't cut it.  This also goes for support staff too.  Hell, I'd be willing to bet there's double digit managerial staff at many universities.  I played for a small NAIA school and we had 4.  We are lucky to get 2 where I'm at now, and usually they are one of our player's girlfriends.  Rarely are they worth a damn, so most of this work falls back on the coaches.  This includes filling water bottles, filling coolers, making sure medical supplies are on hand, setting up the field for practice etc.  I wonder if Nick Saban ever worries about if his coolers are going to have ice in them at the start of practice?  I think not.  Hard to ask Coach Joe to fill water coolers, make sure field is set up AND coach defensive backs JUST like Saban does.
These are just some "off the cuff" differences, there are more, but what the real issue is that why are high school coaches being judged based on the college coaching model?  The prime example is here in Florida where football coaches make a very minimal stipend.  The usual take is 10% of a starting teacher's salary.  That's probably about $3500...a year.  I did the math one time for my stipend, as an assistant, and it worked out to less than a penny an hour!  Sure, we do it not for the money, but then why are we judged just like those that are earning millions of dollars to win?  Not sure why, but I have some ideas.

For starters, most admins, don't want to be troubled with athletics.  With state testing and all the myriad of problems associated with "big brother" dipping his hand into the local education system, the last thing Mr. Principal wants to hear about is how bad the football team is.  To some admins, athletics is a "necessary evil", that trifles them, and gets their panties in a bunch when they have to talk about it.  Most of these types never played sports, so they don't understand their true value when it comes to developing young people into productive citizens in our society.  Try to avoid administrators such as these, they rarely can be convinced on the importance of athletics.

Many admins care very little about this

Next, is politics.  Although principals aren't elected officials, in some school districts they work for elected officials.  When little Johnny's mom is pissed he isn't playing much, or that her son has only won 3 games in his high school career, she doesn't do see you, she doesn't go see the A.D. either.  If your lucky she sees the principal, however more times than not, she goes an bitches to her elected official.  School board members have a wonderful way of "squeezing" principals, much like a mob boss would, to do things that the principal might otherwise not do.  Too many phone calls about your 3-7 season, and you're out, plain and simple.  Even if you are trying to do it the "right way", and the deck is simply stacked against you, you may find yourself looking in the "help wanted" ads.  Doesn't make sense to me, and is a poor system for evaluating job performance.  I work in the private sector, owning my own business, and I damn near vomit every time I see this model used for performance evaluation.  Quite simply, the way things are done in the education system would fly like a lead brick in the business world, but that's because of how the political side of the education system is set up.  If you are fortunate enough to work in a system where the officials are appointed instead of elected you aren't exempt from the politics, but they do generally effect you in a lesser way.

Lastly, is unrealistic expectations.  A few years back I was trying to help a parent understand that we just didn't have the Jimmie's and Joe's to hang with some of the opponent's in our district.  I even had rosters and film up in front of us, and a former coach along with me talking to this individual about how only 2 kids on our roster would even see playing time on our opponent's roster if they were to transfer.  AFTER an hour, this guy looked both of us in the eye and said we needed to do a better job of "creating playmakers".  That's ESPN talk bro.  At the high school level you can make kids better, but this whole idea of developing "playmakers" is a farce.  A kid either has it or doesn't.  Jerry Rice wasn't made by his coaches, he made himself.  Sure, his coaches helped along the way, and I'm sure Jerry wouldn't have been quite the player he was without the aid of his coaches, but he was pretty damn good all by himself!  Little Johnny, at 5'6" and 130 pound running all of 5.0 40 yard dash, probably isn't going to be Jerry Rice, no matter if he was coached by me, or Bear Bryant.  Again, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken crap.

You want me to coach who...and do what???

The Pitch
The Keep section has led me up to this, I think the politics in coaching have eroded at my love for the game.  I feel much like Chris Borland in that I'm now weighing the thought of "Do I want to continue to do this?".  Sure Borland's was health related, but 10 years ago if you asked me if I was going to coach next season, I'd have cut you off with a "HELL YES!".  Not so much anymore though.  My plans are to give it one more year and then evaluate things on a year to year basis.  I have not done all I want to do in football, that is for sure, but I have approached a glass ceiling I'm afraid, mired in the facts that the situation in high school football doesn't appear to be getting any better, I don't appear to be getting any younger, and I can be this less appreciated at home for a hell of a lot less effort.  I never thought I'd write those lines, but after the past few months, I'm beginning to see the bedrock eroding below my foundation.  I'd take a year off, but I'm afraid of getting left behind.  Coaching seems to be moving so fast these days that I'm afraid I couldn't keep up if I wasn't right in the thick of it.  I also am not a half-ass person.  I'm going to go balls out or not at all, I only think that's fair to the kids, since we ask them to do the same.  That's hard to do when the profession of coaching is being bombarded daily by politics both national and local.  

This ain't no sob story either, it's just an actual account of how I feel.  For those of you that feel the need to "boo hoo" on this post, you can stick it where the good Lord split you.  I write to cope, it helps me lay out the issues and put my thoughts out there on paper.  I share them with you, because that's what I do, I write and write about football.  If you don't like it, don't read it.  If you do like it, then good, use it.

Pretty much...

As for me, we'll see, I'm going to give it at least this season, then I'll see where to go from there.  If I'm not "all in" though, I may go ahead and take some time off, or simply retire.  Every dog has his day, so we'll see where this goes from here.  As for the blogs, I'll probably keep writing.  It's good for me and I enjoy it, so I'll keep at it.

Later dudes...