Thursday, April 23, 2009

Woody Hayes never thought of this!

There's a great scene in North Dallas Forty (well, there really isn't a bad scene in it) where Phil Elliott says apologetically, "I learned all my social graces from football coaches."

Things have changed, but Jeff Pearlman had an amusing post about a Division III coach in the NCAA who vowed to bar the student paper from talking to his players. He recanted within the course of a day, but the point was, he still went on his power trip, and Pearlman got off on a pretty good rant.
"So this morning I read about Lance Leipold, the head football coach at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater, who has banned the student media from covering his team next season. Leipold was angry about an editorial in the college newspaper that accused three football players of acting arrogantly. (College football players … arrogance … noooooooo!)

"I' ve had myriad chats with my wife about why I never, ever want my kids to play organized football. It has nothing to do with injury/bodily harm, and everything — absolutely everything – to do with men like Leipold. Put simply, I hate football coaches. Not all of them obviously. In fact, not most of them. But there’s a certain breed that, well, just irks the hell out of me. They bark out inanities like, 'Real men eat steel!' and 'Be the ball!'; call their teams 'programs'; think sensitivity is for wimps. They lack any sort of world view, seeing only the green grass (or turf) that covers 100 yards of glory."
It is not unheard of and you can see where a coach is coming from: He's sticking up for his guys, pure and simple. Still, he's a university employee and his team represents the university, so he can't stiff the campus paper.

This is as good a time as any to advance a personal theory that the football coach stereotype Pearlman was touching on seems less prevalent in Canada. There are yellers and screamers, the same as there are with any team in any sport, but it's a little different in Canada. The personality type up here, seems tilted more toward someone who's a teacher, patient and stern, trying to help guys learn a very complex game. Who knows why, maybe it's because coaches in Canada don't take mass participation for granted, so they have to be sensitive while working with who they do have. Meantime, the stereotypical coach down in the States can't understand why the kids are down at the skatepark instead of putting on the pads, like a man.

The really, really, really misguided Division III college football coach (Jeff Pearlman)
Type rest of the post here


Ron Rollins said...

Yeah, Pearlman's brilliant once again.

Because people like that don't exist in real life, just on a football field.

Someone explain to why this guy gets paid to write about sports when he hates all of them?

sager said...

All sports reporters hate sports. This is our central to our understanding.

Dennis Prouse said...

You know what? I am a football coach, and I hate those kind of coaches as well. I think they destroy kids, and they hurt the game. Football is far from the only place where you find them, and Neate makes a good point in that they seem to be a bit less prevalent in Canada. (Your reason for that is probably a sound one also, Neate.) I know one of those kinds of coaches, though, in another program here in Ottawa, and he is notorious for the way he carries out his Little Dictator act. That program is bleeding kids all over the place, but the club can't seem to make the correlation.

The good news is that this model of coaching seems to be falling out of favour, slowly but surely. Through the work of people like Pete Carroll, the Positive Coaching Alliance, and books like the Sweet Season (the Austin Murphy book on Div. III St. John's and Coach Gagliardi), there is a greater understanding now that the bullying model is NOT necessarily the most productive and successful one. It will be a while -- after all, you still see football teams lined up in rows to do static stretching years after studies proved that this style of stretching is useless. The good guys, though, are slowly winning the battle on coaching styles and the way we treat the kids.

Dennis Prouse said...

OK, Neate has asked me to elaborate on the stretching issue, so blame him. :-)

I played football for 11 years, and am now entering my 19th year a coach. I'll start by saying that baseball guys have nothing on football coaches when it comes to being traditionalists. Football coaches always revere their old coaches, and view past glories through rose coloured glasses. That past, of course, involved lining guys up in rows, five yards apart, and engaging in a mind-numbingly useless set of stretching and calathetics. We have all seen it, or perhaps done it. You know -- stretch the groins to the right, stretch to the left, etc. My favourite were ankle rotations, which involved putting one's toes on the ground and rolling one's ankle around.

Fast forward to the 1990s, when a series of studies were performed on army recruits. (Army guys are always the guinea pigs.) One control group did static stretching before exercising, and one group did not. Guess what? Each study showed definitively that there was absolutely ZERO injury prevention benefit to stretching before exercise. What we have now learned is that "active stretching" is best. You send the kids for a VERY slow lap, just to get blood flow the major muscle groups, then do some quick work that makes them move such as lunges, butt kickers, etc. After that, you are good to go.

Confronted with this news, most football coaches freak out. This has been a core part of practice since they first played. Tell them that the pre-practice, line 'em up in rows stretch is now a dinosaur, and they look at you like you just insulted their mother. The first reaction is flat out denial. I had this debate in the off-season with a 29 year old coach, a smart guy who should know better, but he just won't let the stretch go. "So, why do so many teams still do it?", he asked me. "Because they are led by dinosaurs who don't go to clinics" was my reply. Still, when pressed to the wall by the facts, these traditionalists still find a way out. This young guy leaned on the "discipline" argument, claiming that the stretch teaches discipline. My response was that maybe we should hold a giant game of "Simon Says" instead, because that requires discipline also.

And yes, Neate, you are right -- the stretch goes on for way too long, and ends up frittering away 15 precious minutes of practice time that should be used instead on special teams, goal line offense, etc.

Oh, and don't get me started on jumping jacks. Has there ever been a more useless drill created? No matter how hard you try, there are always a few fat kids out of time. You look like garbage, the coach goes crazy, and practice is off to a horrible start. Again, I needled our young traditionalist, asking him if our league was now settling overtimes with a jumping jack contest judged by Simon, Paula, and Randy. Needless to say, my teams don't do jumping jacks, even though I grew up with them also. (I don't miss them.)