I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Friday, October 19, 2012

Discipline and Determination: Tools to Success

The end of the youth football season is fast approaching, and that is a great time to reflect on the "teachable moments" that have come during the season.  Some of the lessons are about fundamentals and technique, but there are bigger lessons to be learned from our involvement...that's why we love the game.  So I asked a variety of people from all walks of life to tell me the most important lessons they learned from football.  There has been a wide range of answers, but two of the themes that have come up repeatedly involve discipline and determination. Those two qualities are important parts of success and sportsmanship. A program that develops and promotes those qualities will lead to an atmosphere which lets athletes know they worked hard, gave their best effort and can walk away knowing that they "left it all on the field."

Some of the comments focused on the importance of mental and physical discipline: 

It's a physical and mental game, be ready for both. –Jean Z. 

You have to be physically tough, but more importantly mentally tough to excel at football. –Keith P.

Others stressed the importance of training and practice to develop discipline: 

Train harder than your opponent. --Cory S. 

Practice until you reach a stage where actions follow automatically. --Kristy P.

It was good to hear recognition of all aspects of discipline and the importance of practice and training to success. Practice is what I love most about coaching. It gives me the opportunity to mold young men into a cohesive unit that will go onto the field with a common goal. Practice is critical to refine the many elements that will make a team successful. Individuals need to know the play, the coach’s expectations, the rules, the audibles, sight adjustments, and their assignments.  Then they have to put that all in motion as a team, and that takes extreme discipline. People think of games as the time to learn about football, but practice is where players develop the discipline to work together and learn the intangibles that translate into success on the field.

Discipline doesn’t come easy for individuals or teams, and other comments recognized the importance of determination to overcoming adversity: 

How people (players, coaches, and fans) react to negative situations. When things go bad, how do you handle yourself to overcome it? Losing control will only help you lose more games. --Shannon P.

Don't ever give up. You never know how much you can do if you give up. --Jadyn S. 

Being able to respond well to negative situations is a critical component of sportsmanship.  Football is extremely challenging, and it is easy to want to quit when things are difficult. But finishing a play, a quarter, a half, and a game after endless hours of practice, or when you didn’t believe you could do it, is one of the most fulfilling feelings an athlete can experience. And once an athlete sees the reward of his determination, he works harder, becomes more disciplined, and ultimately becomes a better athlete.

Discipline and determination were the first two "lessons" that people discussed, and the next two are respect and humility. Stay tuned...

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