It’s never easy to get someone to do something. We all know this from arguing with a stubborn professor or when trying to send soup back at a deli.
The task becomes even more difficult when you have to convince a young person high on adrenaline and braggadocio to suspend their certainty and follow your directions for once.
The word for the person who undertakes this daunting mission: coach.
Legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry said, “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.”
Some coaches weren’t blessed with Coach Landry’s tact.
Just last week, Craig Tice, a junior varsity football coach in Central New York, took his losing team to a cemetery, and in a nod to a scene in the film “Remember the Titans,” made his players lie on tombstones.
The people in the graves beneath you would love a chance to “fight to win,” Tice said.
Thankfully, the school suspended Tice for two weeks for the grave mistake.
But upon hearing of the incident, I started thinking of how coaches try to motivate their players.
Upon close inspection, the relation between the coach and player is an unusual one.
The coach is the players’ supporter, but not their friend.
The coach is the players’ boss, but not their superior. The players’ performance on the field ultimately outweighs the coach’s off it.
In my experience, the best coaches are the ones who make their players truly want to improve. But after thousands of years of sports, there are few original ways of accomplishing this feat.
As in the case of Tice, many opt for the bizarre.
Former San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary dropped his pants to make a point in a halftime speech in 2008. Former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight took it a step further, brandishing soiled toilet paper to illustrate how poorly the Hoosiers were performing.
But if you were a middle-aged person who relied on young people playing trivial games to put food on the table, you might resort to some crazy things as well. You may not take it to the level Tice, Singletary or Knight did, but you would definitely raise your voice a few decibels, and your language would certainly not be suitable for Mother Angelica’s show.
It seems that old-fashioned shouting remains the most popular motivational tool. And it is undoubtedly the most amusing form for detached spectators.
Who doesn’t enjoy watching Rex Ryan’s face turn purple as he berates a special-teams player after missing a meaningless block?
Coaches yelling at players is as old as the games themselves, and will likely never cease.
But as any coach would tell you, they hate having to confront and chew out their players.
I’ll believe that when the dead rise and play football.
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