Friday, January 08, 2010

Why You Should Have A "Plan B"

...what happened at the mythical* National Championship game last night.

I am the mother of a jock--or at least, a kid who was a first-class jock in grade school, high school and college. He was usually the best player on his teams, usually played a year or two up from his grade level, and usually was able to "carry" a team if necessary. All this, of course, meant lots of glory for the kid and lots of button-busting for his parents.

But what it also, unfortunately, meant was that any team he was on had the tendency to be "Matt and all those other guys." "Those other guys" usually had enough talent themselves that, had they decided to work hard and push harder, they could have been as good as he was--some of them much better. But because it appeared to "come easily" to Matt, a lot of them got way more caught up in standing around and watching, or waiting for him to call the shots, than they did in trying to challenge him for his position as Mr. All Around.

What his coaches did to try to rectify this situation, I don't know. They seemed to take the tack of simply letting the "star" take a team as far as he can take them individually, and hope that by osmosis, the other kids pick up on what it takes to be that good. But osmosis doesn't generally work on jocks of any age; subtle, they ain't. So most of the time, you ended up with a bunch of kids watching another kid play really well and just trying not to get in his way.

This worked until or unless the "star" got hurt or fouled out of a game, or the like. Then, too often, even the coaches themselves would glaze over, seemingly wondering what to do, and invariably, the team would fold.

When I was coaching my daughter's team during this same time, then, I brought up the folly of that system to the other coaches. I explained to them how I truly didn't believe in a "star system" (especially in grade school!) because of the reasons I've mentioned above. I'm sure you can predict what happened, however, when I proposed that we run the team as a team and try to teach everybody to play.


Under that mindset--which is "ride the star until you can't ride him anymore"--then, it's not surprising that Texas apparently had no clue what to do when their star went down in the biggest game of his career. They apparently didn't believe for a second that such a thing could even happen...which, when you really think about it, is a massively stupid mindset for a football coaching staff to assume. Football is a violent game; every play has the potential for injuring a player. Injuries had, in fact, occurred to stars all the way through the season.

Yet as they were preparing for this game on this big, national stage...clearly, Texas didn't plan for any contigency that would involve not being able to "ride" Colt McCoy all the way. Consequently, they had to put in an unproven freshman--who you can bet didn't get very many snaps in practice!--to try to rally the team and surge through anyway.

Is anyone truly surprised that it didn't work?
And was this remotely fair to that freshman quarterback...not to mention the entire rest of the team?

It's sad to have a "weird female fairness" point of view vindicated at this kind of cost. It's cruel to the kids involved. But I don't have any illusions that this one night will change any good-old-boy jock coaches' attitudes about truly developing all their players, either. Heck, some people are even daring to say that Alabama's national title should have some kind of "asterisk" after it because "they didn't play the Texas team at their best." (There's no dignifying that with an answer, so I won't.)

But as the next few days go by, people will probably say everything but what I'm saying above...about maybe planning just in case next time. And I'm not holding my breath expecting anything different.

Which only reinforces what Matt also told me, during his college career: "Mom, just remember this. You aren't gonna see too many mental giants on a ballfield."

Amen, and amen. It just stinks that they have to prove their ignorance this way.

*if you don't have a playoff, it ain't a championship. Period. End of sentence.

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