Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why Football is still the greatest game - Part II

TheSacrifice is Different


I know. I know.  There are going to be all those other sport fanatics who say they learn sacrifice in their sports or say these lessons should be learned at home but the truth is the level of sacrifice is different then anything else we have today. (Although I will address the changes in this area when I address the problems in the game later.)

You pay more for less


Lets face it football is a hard sport. there is nothing easy about. As Jim Harbaugh said in the HBO special, football is not fun but the rewards are much greater.  In today's world it is a year around commitment. The offseason for most (especially linemen is much heavier conditioning and strength training then most sports. You don't shoot foul shots in the offseason.)  In-season practices can be physical and exhausting. You practice in the elements: extreme heat, rain, even snow. The mere fact of the physical nature of the sport involves a commitment to practice while hurting all season long. (I don't know anybody who feels the same throughout the season after the first day.) 

And for what - 10 games. That's it for 90% of the participants. 10 games. (12 or 14 in college) Compare that with lesser (or different) commitments in other sports where once the season begins you can play everyday if you deem. Baseball plays 162 games in the majors - think about that compared to the player who gets one and only one game per week.

I'll argue with anybody here that the sacrifice one makes just because of this nature.

The roster number factor

Many high school rosters have 80 kids on them today. Many colleges well over 100. when you get down to the bottom 20% talent wise you are talking about kids that are sacrificing everything. Their complete year just for the honor of wearing the jersey. They know that their chances of getting in are slim but they practice, they work in the offseason, they give up their bodies everyday just for the possibilities. (in other sports there might be one or two of these kids.)

The strange thing is that many of the players I have had that fit into this role have gone on to become titans in business and pillars in their communities. When they return or contact me, there is a repetitive message - the lessons learned just to be part of something bigger where significant in all their successes.

Delayed Gratification

In a world beset with the need for instant gratification; where failure is very temporary, where everybody is a star (with the Voice, American Idol, America's Got Talent, etc. am I the only person in the world who can't sing!), football defies common thought. As George Allen once said "After every loss you die for a week!" There is no magical rebirth the next day. you must live with and learn to cope with that loss for a full week. You cannot go right out the next day and redeem yourself. You must learn to rededicate, refocus, and recommit for 6 days before you get a chance at redeeming yourself.

Even after a win, you cannot just carry it through to the next day. (when I was young and played baseball, if I had a good day I couldn't wait for the next. I didn't need anymore practice for the next day. I was ready!) You must start all over at point zero and sacrifice another week of yourself.

In life not everything comes the first time. You must endure OVER TIME! Not everything is instant. Neither is football - you must wait for the rewards. And if you get one reward - you must wait for the next.

Like life there will be downs - even severe downs. And like life, you are not going to wake up the next day and everything will change. If your wife left you - she will probably still be gone. If you lost your job, one will not magically appear the next day. If your company went under it will not suddenly show a profit. Unless you've been in a situation before where you had to dedicate yourself over time and be willing to sacrifice everything again, you will never know if you can do it. Unless you faced loss and had to endure a duration of time where you had to put it all on the line again you will never know if you can do it.

The physical nature

By the nature of the sport the sacrifice is greater as is the threat of injury. But to risk more to sacrifice more brings greater rewards. There is not a player who does not realize he may be injured on the field. Yet, he weighs this sacrifice with the rewards of the game. Later in life he must decide what sacrifice and risk he must take in life.

The presence of "non-skilled" position

These players whole life in the pits is sacrifice. They are rarely known. There practices consist of hitting sleds and dummies. There is very little reward until he actual game and the actual TEAM outcome for these players. They will not see themselves in the box sores. They will not be on Wheaties boxes.


Later Part III
Teamwork
or as Bo Schembechler told me on a visit to Michigan football: "the team...the team...the team!"


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why Football is still the greatest game known to mankind and why we need to save it (Just one man's opinion!)

As most of you know,  after going to the state finals three years in a row and winning one, I was unceremoniously fired this year at the ripe old age of 62 and replaced by an alumni! Although they gave supurfluous reasons - it basically came down to the fact that I was never wanted by the alumni in the first place!

That being said, it might sound strange to see me writing this article praising a sport that just abandoned me. Fact is this game will always remain great in my mind because of what I've seen it do over the years. Like the problems associated with the sport - it is not the sport itself but rather the people that surround it and their decisions that have changed public perception of the sport.

Before I begin I should state that I grew up in the era of BO, WOODY, and the BEAR. Icons that dominated the sport and dominated how the sport was perceived. This influence greatly reflects the writing that will follow as we are all a result of our past.

This game - this very simple game has taught me so much over the years. it has given me much more then I can ever return to it or the players who played for me. It has taught me humility, pride, sacrifice, hard work, love for my fellow man, strength in a group, goal setting and most of all the teamwork necessary to achieve anything in life.  Through my players it has shown me the unlimited potential of the individual and power of the group to overcome adversity and defeat. It has shown me that despite critics the future is still in great hands with our youth as they are no different then we were at that age. But most of all it has shown me a series of young boys that have transformed into men exposing their character at every step for the better and worse.

Yes, I know their are many that will argue they get the same traits or bonuses from other other sports or even from their parents and teachers growing up and I agree with that to a point. However, there are uniquenesses to the game of football in general and high school in particular that make these experiences unique, concrete and reinforcing. As President Gerald Ford said: "I am sure there were lessons I learned in school I used in my Presidency but I couldn't tell you when or where they happened. However, the ones learned in football that I used are clear in their actual experience." (excuse he paraphrase - I heard him say this years ago.)

Additionally, in such a short time the combination of ALL these lessons and circumstances make football as a unique learning experience as there is. Parents can preach sacrifice for a goal but unless there is a visual and a experience of the actual emotion that goes with it the lesson is not reinforced. Baseball can teach teamwork but we've all seen the rare athlete who pitches a gem AND hits the winning homer in the same game. Basketball can teach selflessness but what about the star who never gives up the ball only to have his teammates stand around and gaze in amazement. (I know people are going to say what about the great runner or QB - the difference is the physical part. They get hit if their teammates don't prefer their rolls - not simply fouled.) I'm not saying that these other sports and experiences don't teach these traits - I'm just saying that anyone who has played this game the RIGHT  way in the right program will tell you the experience is so much intense and exaggerated.

Hopefully I will take each one of these traits and do it proper justice. Hopefully by the time I finish this series you will understand why I feel this way. It is just my opinion - you may disagree and its  your right. At the end I hope to view the problems in my eyes this sports is facing - both as a sport and as educational instrument (if that exist anymore in sports.) I have always felt that I have been blessed to be in this game and have unique view after 40 years, in high school and college, and in 11 different high school settings. As I said you may disagree but its just my opinion and you are allowed to.

Next UP:
The sacrifice factor!
Delaying instant gratification
And paying a bigger price then the award can be worth



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sorry for the time off Back up and running

I know its been a while since I last wrote here. A lot has happened but I'm back and ready to start writing again.

As you know I was the head coach at Holy Spirit High School in New Jersey where we appeared in the last 3 state championship game winning one. (This year we played 9 freshmen in the game.) I say "was" because right after the season (In fact the morning after the championship game as I arrived at school I was relieved of my duties. Knew it was coming though as they always wanted an alumni here. (I told the principal my third day on the job that I would be fired in three to four years due to this and my replacement was brought into the school last spring.)

But there is a silver lining in everything. The fact was the job was tearing me up. I was doing everything - 18 hours days - no life. I wanted so bad (too badly) to be accepted and finish out my career here. Not for anything in the school just for me at this age. Mentally I was exhausted. I let the job consume me. Physically, I was a mess. I had torn something in my shoulder in practice but did not report it because there was nobody to take over the team. We were losing at the time and nobody but me was going to take the blame or right the ship. Additionally, I had done something to my foot but limped on.

(Since the season, I have had major surgery on my shoulder and am getting my foot looked into with possible surgery.)

I am saying this not to act as a martyr or to try and redirect blame, I am writing it as I write everything else on this blog - as a lesson for other coaches.

I had let my desire to "fit in" override everything I was. In the end you can't be somebody you're not. It will only make you angry at the one person you must face everyday - yourself. As I result I became a very angry man and did not handle the situation this year well.

The lesson is to all coaches - there has to be a time to put yourself first. Forget about what other people and your commitment to the program. (this part is hard for most good coaches) Your health and your mental well being is more important. Put your faith in your beliefs and not in other people. (as I get older and older I trust administrators less and less. Three weeks before my firing I asked them outright and was told there was nothing in the works even though it was all the internet by alumni. Even stating the date and time it would occur.) Take care of yourself as a coach - nobody else will look out for you.

The second lesson is one I should have learned a long time ago. "A lie left unanswered becomes the truth." I, as many of you would took the high road and resigned for "health reasons." If you are ever put in this situation - forget etiquette! Be blunt and be honest because everybody will read into the situation. (I once left a very high paying job because the union wanted me to fire good high paying coaches and replace them with people I had already fired for laziness. I took the high road - it was because "it was time"  Well everybody read into it. I still face the ramifications and questions about leaving that job.) So be true to yourself and fight till the end. As Winston Churchill said countries that go down fighting come back to be reborn; those that surrender meekly and littered throughout history never to reappear.

The third lesson - As my principal said you can't beat city hall! I had been offered interviews for two very good jobs my second year. Knowing that I would be fired I decided "they can't beat me!" I will force myself on them by shear success. This isn't reality. In truth even though I talked to the administration about my position and was reinforced I was in good shape I could have stepped back and seen this wasn't the realty. I should have at least looked into the situation. Again, if you're out there - TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

So here I am know. The dust has settled. My shoulder is healing. My drive restored. Truth is I love this game. Was never a great athlete but still loved this game. I want now more then ever to coach again. I want to get back to the person I am - one who teaches young men how to succeed. Not one who caters to premiere athletes. One that has kids that overachieve and understand the value and meaning of effort, discipline, and teamwork. The problem is finding a new position. I haven't been able to even get interviews for jobs I wouldn't even consider before. The "lies left unanswered" lie out there as the truth.

Final lesson: I have come full circle with this firing. As I use to tell friends who are bitter about not getting a job they definitely deserved, it is their job! They own it! they can do what they want with it. For 4 months I was as bitter and hateful as can be but I realized THIS IS ALL WASTED ENERGY! I wasn't doing anything in the football world! I wasn't doing anything to make myself better! I wasn't doing anything to help my situation! All I was doing was going into a little hole to absorb my hurt! I was doing the opposite of what I taught the kids. As they say in Rocky VI (a bad film but it fits!) "I didn't hear no final bell!!!!!"

So I'll get back on here. Doing what I love - talking about the greatest game ever known and waiting.

I plan to start writing again and also finally finish the first volume of the option series of books.

PS If any of you know any positions - please let me know

First article next week

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer consulting available

I know I said I wasn't going to do it this year but I am open to Summer consulting services again

What you get
      1-2 days of lectures based on YOUR agenda
      Copy of previous playbook
      Copy of QB manual
      4 set DVD

You can set it up alone or with other schools to defer cost

Pricing is reasonable and negotiable!

I will send references of happy former clients

Contact me at J_Iannucci@comcast.net
with Consulting in title