Step Up and Step Back

Step Up and Step Back

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My day begins at 5:30am and I usually come home between 8 or 8:30pm.  This has been my standard for most of my adult life.  After graduating from college I began teaching at Phillipsburg High School in 2001 and had my position eliminated in 2009.  During this 8 year stretch I began creating FASST Performance.  Like any start up, I had long hours and work weeks as I built my brand.  There was a time when getting home at 9 or 10pm was the norm and a 7 day work week was the standard.  All this while starting a family was a daunting task.  My wife and I both knew that if I was to be successful, we needed to make sacrifices.

I was already used to sacrifice from an early age.  I had a paper route when I was 12 years old and my mother and I delivered over 100 newspapers daily.  We would wake up at 4:30am everyday until she passed away when I was 17.  It was during this period I learned a lot about myself and what it took to become successful.  My mother taught me during our walks that if I wanted something to go get it and not to rely on anyone.  She emphasized that if I didn’t go after my life goals, someone else would.

Fast forward 20 plus years and now I have a great family of my own and have enjoyed much success in my life both athletically and professionally.  Much of the foundation was laid when I was young and many of the things that bothered me then still impact me today.  I remember sitting at my middle school banquet as a 13 year old 8th grader anticipating receiving my football team’s MVP trophy only to see it given to someone else.  As I sat there holding back tears I remember my mother putting her arm around me and whispering in my ear, “Jason, this is only one award.  This trophy will be so insignificant one day in comparison to what you will accomplish.” At the time I was devastated and couldn’t imagine anything being more important than that trophy.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would later move on and become one of the most accomplished football players in the NCAA.  Many of long nights I laid in bed thinking about my mothers words when I felt like packing my bags and calling it quits.  Her words when I was a 13 year old helped me become a collegiate All-American and become a member of my college Athletic Hall of Fame.

When I didn’t win that trophy in 8th grade, my mother could have easily went to the coach and complained but instead, her message was clear.  Don’t blame the coach, look in the mirror and find a way to win.  Instead of passing the buck and putting my head down, she encouraged me to work harder, commit myself, and make the necessary sacrifices to reach my goals.  Ultimately anything she could have said to the coach wouldn’t have changed the fact I didn’t win the award.  If anything, it probably would have given me the losers mindset that my success is in the hands of someone else and I didn’t have the necessary tools to win on my own.

The reason I’m writing this is because last night I was verbally assaulted by a father of one of my players.  This year I was asked to volunteer my time to coach a 6th-8th grade football team.  I was apprehensive at first because I would need to leave my training facility in the evening and also not be with my son who was also beginning football for the first time.  Even with my reservations I made the commitment to work with the boys.  After our 14-7 victory last night,  I was told that my offensive play calls suck and that I don’t know what I’m doing.  My play calling the entire season was terrible and basically I’m worthless.  He was calling me names for most of the game and it took a lot to keep my composure.  After the game, this man confronted me in front of all our players and the parents who attended the game.  He voiced his displeasure that his son doesn’t get the ball enough and we favor another player.  Despite his son being a two way starter and one of our top players, he still wasn’t satisfied.  Our record is a perfect 10-0 and we average over 35 pts per game and his son is our 2nd leading scorer.

I have always heard about these altercations at youth sporting events but never had a first hand experience of someone coming at me.  Keep in mind that a couple weeks before this, the same person spoke to me as if we were good friends and on one evening I even stayed an extra 1/2 hour with them to teach them some 40 yard dash technique.  It’s amazing how things change.  During our confrontation, he said to me that I play favorites.  After I had time to reflect on his words, I completely agree with him.  I do play favorites.  Along with everyone else in the world.  His son is one of my favorites and when I needed a play, he is one of the guys I count on and I coach him hard to bring out his best.  If you are lazy, can’t catch a ball, miss blocks, have a poor attitude, and don’t have any motivation, you are certainly not one of my favorites and should be happy that I’m taking the time to even help you improve.  If you think that you should play just because you are wearing a helmet and shoulder pads you have another thing coming.  In this world you get a job because you are a favorite.  Why would someone hire someone who isn’t in favor.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Here are some reasons I play favorites

Playing Favorites: 

  • Great enthusiasm= Greater work ethic = More Production = Better Results/Wins
  • Great Attitude = More Motivation = Greater Capacity to Learn = More Reliability and Consistency
  • Great Respect = Better Coach Ability = Better Relationship = Better Team Chemistry and Rapport
  • Great Competition Among Teammates = Greater Level of Competition = Increased Practice Intensity = Overall Better Resiliency

Not Playing Favorites:

  • Low Enthusiasm= Poorer Work Ethic = Less Production = Poor Results/Less Wins
  • Poor Attitude = Less Motivation = Decreased Capacity to Learn = Inconsistency on Poor Accountability
  • Disrespect = Poor Coach Ability = Diminished Relationship = Poor Team Chemistry and Communication
  • Poor Competition Among Teammates = Decrease Level of Competition = Lower Practice Intensity = Weakness

If you don’t play players that you favor for having all the attributes listed above you are a terrible coach and more importantly teaching people to be terrible contributors to the team.  I see young athletes all too often hanging their heads in critical situations because they are pissed that they aren’t getting the ball.  They fail to realize that football is the ultimate team sport.  Everyone’s role counts regardless of who has the ball in their hands.  Instead of being excited for the team they are disappointed that they don’t receive the headlines.  This attitude is taught at home.  It is quite clear the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because it is evident that many of the negative players have negative parents at home.

On a personal level, my son has had an outstanding season and plays on an awesome team with some great coaches and players.  My son is a two way starter and has been dominant on defense while showing some flashes on offense.  He plays with another player who has been lights out and together, they form a dynamic duo.  When I watch them play together, they block hard for each other, show enthusiasm when the other does well, and are equally excited to see each other score because they are selfless and not selfish.  It’s about the team.  Even though at times my son would like to carry the ball more, he understands that he must make the most of the carries he gets.  To say I’m proud of him is an understatement!  He has made the most of every opportunity he has received and because of his good friend and teammate, both of them have thrived and become better players.   I stress that it is his responsibility to make the most of his opportunities and to earn it.  In the meantime, he should continue to be selfless instead of selfish.  In the long term an athlete who puts the team first and pushes himself to be a great teammate and player will ultimately be on top.

For parents of athletes, remember that the coaches are volunteering.  I spend more time with other people’s children giving them my best rather than my own.  To be honest, it sucks to come home late in the evening and only seeing my kids for maybe an hour at best.  Sometimes I might not even see them.  It is a bitter pill to swallow when not only the kids are disrespectful but also the parents.  The next time you feel the need to confront a coach maybe you should think about having your child step up and personally taking a step back.  Or even better, try grabbing a clipboard and giving some of your expertise.  It’s always easier to call the plays from the stands than the sidelines.  Instead of blaming the coach have them take the steps necessary to make the most of their opportunities and build a little resiliency and mental toughness for the future.

Enjoy the videos below.  Here are some clips of one of my most prized possessions in this world, my son! Hopefully one day when I’m not around he will look back on the lessons I teach him and be able to make the necessary plays in his life to be a future success regardless of what he chooses to do.  Ultimately and hopefully, running a football or making tackles will be one of the least important things he will need to do in his great life!  Also, checkout his dynamic teammate who I also look forward to following.  He also has a great attitude and it isn’t surprising when you meet his family!

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