By Randy Traeger
Head Football Coach, Oregon
One of the most powerful concepts that SportsLeader has given us is “The Challenge to be a Strong Man”. How the root of most evil is found in our own selfishness and laziness, and how we men must use our Intellect, Conscience, and WILL to overcome that selfishness and laziness. Certainly Intellect and Conscience play key roles, but it seems as though our biggest battles involve the “WILL”.
We see players with strong wills and weak wills every day. It’s generally the “weak willed” that have the most struggles. Our post modern feel good “relative” media has conditioned our players to be consumers who are easily impressionable. Many of our kids are easily swayed by advertising hype, propaganda or emotional manipulation tactics. They do not possess an adequate ability to discern the quality of an assertion, they have a lack of discipline, and or confused moral priorities. This “weak willed” state can manifest itself in many ways on our team:
- Poor study habits which lead to academic problems.
- Drug and alcohol use.
- Violent self destructive behavior.
- Discipline problems in school
- Inappropriate sexual conduct.
- Poor relationships with family, adults, and peers.
So how do we help our players develop stronger wills?
- Make sure the players are educated about man’s constant struggle against laziness and selfishness and how we use our intellect, conscience, and will (especially our will) to win the war. Many of our kids have never openly discussed these concepts. Simply understanding the concept helps them identify their own weaknesses. Quite often when we ask players why they “screwed up” they simply respond that “ I was being lazy coach or I was being selfish coach”. Enough said.
- We help players develop their own personal and moral priorities. Say them. Write them down. Refer back to them. They have got to have a “priority” compass in place to guide their will, otherwise it’s just “do what feels good.” Having clearly defined priorities helps them make better decisions.
- We talk to our players about how we all make mistakes and that we need to learn to forgive ourselves and get back up in the battle. This requires discipline. Most coaches remember that hot 80 degree day practice and the crusty old coach screaming at you to “Get Up” off the ground after your 60th grass drill. That required some will power. That required some discipline. While today’s coaching dictates a kinder gentler approach, we don’t rob our players of the opportunity to learn discipline, and we have developed several unique drills to teach discipline (kindly and gently!).
- We develop our player’s ability to make faster decisions by reinforcing their sound moral character qualities. For example, when we notice honesty in their conversation or behavior, we praise them for it. When we see their patience in a certain situation, we praise them for it. The qualities we praise are the ones they will show us. Now when they reach that decision of the will, it’s easier to pick the virtuous one because that’s the one that coach has reinforced every day.
- Finally, we treat building the will just like weightlifting. You won’t get stronger unless you train. So let’s train our will through small acts of self deprivation. Lots of reps with the light weights!
- We use the concept of being a “slave” to your emotions or the “master” of your emotions. Most kids now days don’t like the idea of being a “slave”. Teach them how to be a “master”.