A Perfect Football Season · 25 January 2008

The New England Patriots are contemplating one last win to complete their perfect season and what that will mean to their legacy in the NFL. They are probably thinking about the Lombardi Trophy and the accolades they will receive if they win. When I think of their accomplishments so far this season, I marvel at what they are on the cusp of doing. But as a high school freshman football coach, I think about what a perfect season means to me and I know it is much different than what those pros are thinking.

As a freshman football coach, I am given a couple charges. I must make sure that the players develop character and that they know the plays.

Character is something that is really developed all the time. And while it is hard to instill work ethic and a never-say-die attitude, that is what I try to do each day on the practice field and during the course of each game. I let them know that win or lose, I am proud of them if they give the best that they have each play. I let them know that as much as I want them to win, I am more concerned how they handle both victory and defeat. After all, that is a big part of character.

I try to help my young players develop important character traits during the off-season as well. Whether I see them in class, in the weight room, or just in the halls of the school, I try to help them make the right choices. I try to help them see that leaving garbage on the desk or floor is not what a person of character would do. I try to help them understand that treating all people with respect is what they should do. Essentially, I try to help them become examples to other students of what real men should be.

I also help my players understand that football is a game that is an analogy for life. Through the way I run practice to the way I conduct myself at all times, I let them know that putting down another human being is never acceptable. Especially on a team, where they need to work together to accomplish their goals.

They also need to understand that the road to success leads through the land of hard work. I help them to understand that while the land of hard work has lots of seductive shortcuts, those shortcuts never lead to character or being a true winner. While it is a difficult charge, one for which I can not take full responsibility, teaching character is the best part of being a football coach because it is easily seen to be applicable to life.

The relatively easy part of coaching is making sure that the players know the offensive and defensive plays of the program. I love teaching and that is what coaching is all about. When the players know the philosophy of the program and find out that they can be successful by being disciplined, doing their jobs, and helping each other, my job becomes very easy. I just need to show them what those jobs are and help them be successful at the little things like blocking and tackling. Since I do not need to come up with the Xs and Os of the program, I am free to just teach and guide. I can coach the kids and help them play the game correctly.

The high school football season has been over for a long time but anticipation of the super bowl and the possibility of only a second unbeaten NFL team in forty-something seasons makes me at least pause to think about my roll in our high school football program. Unlike the professionals, my team’s record will never be a measure of a perfect season. In many ways, I will not know for many years whether I had a perfect season. Because for me, a perfect season means that the players developed true character while learning to play football.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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