Older and Dumber · 5 September 2008

Conventional wisdom says that as people age, they get wiser. I thought that was true of me too until a recent football practice proved otherwise. I thought that when I started teaching and coaching in 1995 I was younger and dumber. After practice the other day, I think that I was just younger.

When I started teaching at Cedarcrest High School, I was 31. I was not in great physical shape, but I must have been in better shape than I am now. Coach Kory, who now coaches at Tolt Middle School, and I started our coaching careers together. That year, we made lots of mistakes, but the experience helped us both determine that we really did like to coach football. And except for short hiatuses in each of our cases, we have been coaching ever since.

One thing about coaching high school football is that you need to get the players’ respect. Most of the time, it comes from reputation and word of mouth. But getting that reputation can take a little time. Sometimes the reputation comes from getting into a blocking drill against the best or biggest kid in the class. Sometimes it means doing dumb stuff like one-hundred yard bear crawls. I have done both. I need to remember that the blocking drills are easier.

When Coach Kory and I started coaching, we wanted the players to understand the importance of conditioning and we also wanted them to get strong. Naturally, we had them do sprints. One day when the players were not being very enthusiastic, we decided that we needed to give them a bit of a challenge. The kids had already done some sprints but we wanted them to do more. So we challenged them. “If anybody can beat either one of us in a bear crawl, we will be done with conditioning.” The kids were up to the challenge. They were excited. They figured that one of them could beat a couple old guys. But when all was said and done, nobody even came close to beating us. So the players did a couple more sprints.

While the kids were doing their last sprints, Coach Kory and I were catching our breath and with what little we had I am sure that we called each other names for suggesting the challenge. We both decided that we would never do that again.

Unfortunately for me, never came just recently. Ironically, my assistant, Coach Jackson was one of the players from that first group of freshmen that I ever coached. One day, Coach Jackson wanted to see the players do bear crawls during conditioning. That sounded good. I decided that it also sounded like a good idea to issue a challenge even though the players were not trying to have a mutiny over running. I said, “If anybody can beat me in a bear crawl to the other side of the field, we will be done with conditioning.” We were only going fifty yards – from sideline to sideline. Half of what Coach Kory and I did thirteen years ago. I figured that I had it made and that the kids would do a few more sprints when all was said and done. And of course, we would all have a little fun. I think that Coach Jackson was laughing that I made the challenge. He certainly did not volunteer to be part of it.

As I approached the other sideline (in second place), I remembered Coach Kory and I saying to each other that we would never do that again. The players were glad that they did not need to condition any more that day, but I was mortified. Mortified that I had been beaten. And mortified with the realization that time does not always bring wisdom. I was not older and wiser than I was when I started coaching. I was just older. Maybe even a little dumber.

I guess that I should look at the bright side. This year, we did not do the bear crawl for one-hundred yards like Coach Kory and I did thirteen years ago. If we had, I would not have quit, but I might have come in dead last. Or just dead. The other bright spot was that even at 44, I still came in second. Regardless, I will not say that I will never do that again, because never comes far too quickly.

I may or may not have learned anything from either bear crawling practices. Still, I hope that as I age, I can get wiser. And if not wiser, I certainly do not want to get any dumber.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 25 September 2008 in The RiverCurrentNews



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