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11/13/2012 8:20:02 PM -
Lessons from Sandy Part I

Here’s a lesson I learned from “Superstorm” Sandy. It’s about politics, work, and life, but as I’ve said before, it’s not really that big of a stretch to connect these topics to coaching, or to the lifestyle of being an athlete. They all fit together, which is something athletes find out as we get older and things start to make more sense.

When Sandy hit the New York area, people came together for several days—and they’re still doing that, heroically in many cases. There are still problems, however, with New York’s infrastructure. Thousands of people in the area still don’t have power, and the utility companies and government officials in the area have started to hear about it in the form of protests, social media campaigns, and newspaper editorials telling them how incompetent they’ve been in neither being proactive in preventing the infrastructural damage before the storm nor solving all the problems afterward in a timely manner.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know enough about utility companies to know who’s right and who’s wrong here. I’ve heard arguments on both sides, and both actually make sense. Yes, there were things the utility companies could’ve done to mitigate and even prevent all the outages, but this was essentially a once-in-a-lifetime storm that caused problems nobody could have foreseen, and that no utility could have procured funds to deal with beforehand. I’m not offering any kind of opinion here either way, because I don’t know all the facts.

How does this apply to coaching and sports?

Well, hindsight is always 20/20. Always. When we lose a game, or we have a shitty season—or, in my case, a shitty career—we can always go back and figure out what we should have done differently. I’ve spent the last fifteen years studying football, physical preparation, nutrition, and everything else, and yeah, if I knew then what I know now, things may have turned out differently for me. I don’t, however, have a time machine, nor did I know any of this shit when I was 18. Does it do me any good to go back 20 years, looking for someone to blame for the fact that I didn’t turn out to be as good as I thought I was going to be? I don’t think it does, so I try not to do that.

I heard a Japanese saying a few years ago that I’ve always liked: Fix the problem, not the blame.

The problem when we look back to see what went wrong is that everyone needs a scapegoat. We always want someone to blame, because it wraps up a game, a season, or a career in a nice, tight little package that’s easily digestible for public consumption—or just to make ourselves feel better about something shitty that happened. Why did Team X lose? Because Johnny Placekicker’s field goal attempt went wide right. We boil it down to that. If Johnny wasn’t such a choking p***y, our team would have won it all. In reality, everyone who’s ever stepped on an athletic field knows that there’s a way to blame every single guy who played, plus every coach, when we lose. Johnny’s just the face of the problem because his f**k-up was the one that happened at the end.

But why was Johnny even playing? Shouldn’t somebody, preferably some drunk fan sitting in a bar (sarcasm), have walked onto the practice field during camp with a hook and pulled his ass off the field? No, that’s ridiculous, because nobody knew. We didn’t know Johnny was going to choke on the biggest play of his career—or at least we hoped he wasn’t going to, given the fact that we couldn’t find anyone better to fill his spot.

Who do we blame? Shit, fire everybody. Get a new kicker. It’s probably the holder’s fault, as well, so can his ass, too. The special teams coach has to go, and the head coach for hiring him. That leaves us with the idiot general manager or athletic director who hired those guys, so he’s gone, too. Why stop there, though? Now it’s time to investigate Johnny. Let’s blast his high school coach, his Pop Warner coaches, and his parents while we’re at it. This is everyone’s fault, because everyone should have known this guy was a slapdick before we ever let him lace up a pair of (soccer) cleats.

Or, instead of doing all that, we can teach the f-ing guy how to kick under pressure so it doesn’t happen again.

A simple solution, I know, but I’m finding it’s better to look forward than to look back.




,
Angry Coach


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