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If you love the sport, treat it right.
Love it out loud.
Love. The bible defines it as such:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love. Webster’s defines it as such:
Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.
Affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests.
Warm. Attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.
The object of attachment, devotion, or admiration.
Unselfish loyal and benevolent.
As coaches, players, and parents, and fans, we all speak of love for the games. Love. If in speaking of the games, we remember this, we will all speak more love into the game. If we do so together, out loud, the games will always be elevated.
As coaches, if we are patient, kind, unselfish, warm, devoted, and protective, we are truly acting in love of the game and the people in it. Coaches who understand the real reason they are in this charge can do amazing good in their position. It is a labor of love indeed, and if the love is the first thing and the last thing, good will come from it. Good will come with it. Leave the anger outside the game. Coach the evil away. Delight in the good in it. Let good persevere. Let the truth be said. Let the truth be known.
If we honor the trust put in the position, the lives that will be bettered from them, and the love that will be shared and spread can only make the game more than it was. Patience is in the teaching of skills, the improvement of person, and the lifting of spirits after a stumble. Kindness is in the understanding that trials come with battles, and there is a need for compassion and consideration when they do. Warmth is the invitation to truth, and enhances the connection between coach and community, coach and parent, coach and athlete. Devotion is the simplest idea of doing what is right before, during, and after the game itself. Preparation, planning, commitment, and path are all tied to this one thing. Love the game enough to prepare for it, even when time is short, energy is low, and the negative is loud. Be protective of the game itself, but be protective of your players more than that. Never choose the game over the young person. Protect their bodies, their spirit, their future, their hearts, and their lives. Do so loudly, constantly, and consistently. Be protective of the truth. Be protective of why we are all in this. Love. Love in action. Action in love.
As parents, the task of handing your most prized possessions over to anyone is daunting. Hold love as the mirror and measuring stick to everything in and about the game. Make sure that everyone in the game is being loving. Hold the mirror to yourselves as you watch, cheer, and enjoy. Make sure that your words and actions say one thing. Love. Make sure that the athlete is loving themselves as they play, and that everyone else is as well. Hold your athlete to standards of love, and demand that they are patient, kind, warm devoted, and protective. Keep their character and integrity in the front of all things, and make sure that they know that you are watching and loving. Help them prepare for the games, help them be devoted to the task, and keep them on the path to admirable and strength. That is your task. That is love.
Athletes like to say that Ball Is Life. I amend that. Love is Life. If you live for the game, you better love it, and you better love it properly. Love the game enough to honor it. Love the game enough to prepare for it in its greatest form, and yours. Love the game enough to make it better when you are done with it, and more importantly, it with you. The ball stops bouncing for us all one day, and we should all strive to say that when that day comes, we gave it everything, especially love. Be patient, athletes all. The game is everywhere, and everything. It can take you good places, or bad. It can make you better, or worse. It can make you stronger, or weaker. It can make you loving, or hateful. If you love it, it will love you back. The game can only love you as you love it. This statement is undefeated. Give to it what you want from it. Do so with patience as the game does not give you anything right away. It demands that you take time, grow, fall, get up, fail, succeed, and repeat. Those athletes that love it enough to patiently continue the process, reap the benefit of the process. Devotion is trusting the process. Love is in the fall. Love is in the sweat. Love is in the effort. Love is in the sacrifice. Love is in the repetition. Love is in the constant. Love is in the game, the practice, the preparation, and the victory. Love is the ultimate victory.
Love the game. The game wants to love you. Let it.
Great lines make great coaches. Great coaches make great lines.
Love Out Loud.
As a player, as a coach there are certain inevitable things. Some are good, some are dreaded, and all of them have purpose. All of them belong. All of them send us forward with something stronger and better than what we had before it. There are often constants in sports, and conditioning is one of them. It is never pleasing, often painful, and always the truth. It is also where winners show up, acknowledge, and crown themselves. It is where the line is drawn.
As any of my teammates, and any of my players, wind sprints are going to happen. They are going to happen. They are going to happen. Sometimes, they are masked as kickoff drills. Sometimes, they are masked as baserunning drills. Sometimes, they are masked as transition drills. They can include oars and shells held over head, They can include stairs, hallways, gymnasiums, tracks, and mud. They might be. But sometimes, they are not masked at all. They are simply conditioning. They are lung busting, leg dragging, tongue wagging, stomach upsetting, sweat puddle inducing, cramps in the side reminders of why game days are fun.
It does not matter what sport it is, what age group it is, or what gender. Conditioning must be done. It serves as the measuring stick for readiness, preparation and commitment. If a coach wants to know how much this sport matters to his players, he can look on day one of tryouts or practice to see who has put in the work. Coaches know who is in shape, who isn’t, and how much work it will take to get everyone on the same level.
Parents often miss this part of coaching. When the players show up on day one, they may or may not have an idea of how much work their young one has put in. More importantly, they may or may not know how much work the OTHER young people put in. They may believe that their athlete has worked hard, but have they worked as hard as the athletes they are competing with? Have they worked as hard as they could? Have they worked as hard as the athletes they are competing against? That is the line.
As players, if they do not know how much is enough, they need to ask. They need to know. What they think is enough may be enough for beginners. Or average. Or good. It may not be great. It may not be their best. That is the line.
How conditioning is done varies from climate to climate, coach to coach, and program to program. Recent awareness has asked, begged even, that conditioning be done as a part of the skill training rather than as punishment. It should be done as a part of the practice plan, a part of the improvement session, a part of the warm up and cool down. It needs to be ambitious, motivating, and sensible. It also needs to be the standard. It needs to be the line. And that line needs to be new and moved daily. That is the purpose of the line.
It is the sound that makes skin crawl, smiles disappear, sweat appears, and deep breaths happen. It is the beginning bell or the final whistle. It is the most feared sound of any practice session, and it is also the signal that we must come together and get better.
It is also the gatekeeper, the babysitter, and the constant reminder. It is the dog at the fence, it is the alarm on the door, and it is the latch on the window. It keeps order, and creates unity.
I am sure that anyone that has played for me will wince at the final sentence of this piece. It means that it is time to be measured. It is time to improve. It is time to grow. It is time to prepare for the final out, the final quarter, the last drive, the final lap, the last jump, the big shot, the next base, and the huge play. It is the line.
ON THE LINE! ON THE LINE! ON THE LINE!