FOOTBALL IS FUNErick Streelman
I believe that football is fun! Let me say that again… Football is fun. Or at least it is supposed to be.
There are a lot of playbooks. There are a lot of systems. There are a lot of people that have prescriptions for your program. There are a lot of people that know football. There are a lot of famous coaches that have achieved a lot. There are a lot of places you can go to get an offense. But, this website is not really about football, it is about kids.
Here are the reasons that this system is different. Here is the reasons that I am different. This website is dedicated to one thing: Building a system that kids love. I don’t really care about tradition. I don’t really care about what system you ran in high school. I don’t really care about what they do in the NFL. I care about one thing: Giving kids a chance to fall in love with football.
You see, there are a million systems out there that can all succeed if implemented correctly. The Wing T works. The Triple Option works. The Power Eye Works. The Double Wing Works. No coach has ever drawn up a play that doesn’t look good on the chalkboard. Everything works in the meeting room. But, here is the problem…football is not played by X’s and O’s. For most of us, it is played by 16, 17, and 18 year old kids that, honestly, have things in their life that are much more important that your scheme, your film sessions, your philosophy, your inherent view of the way the game should be played.
I fought this for years. I could not understand why it was not as important to kids as it was to me I could not understand why they were not excited to go practice and why they didn’t think football is fun. I could not understand why kids laughed on the bus ride home after a tough loss. I could not understand why the coaches sat up till 2AM trying to fix things while the kids went home at 11, seemingly unaffected by our lack of success. And, I convinced myself that the only way to change this was to get the right kind of kids…kids that cared, kids that were invested, kids that would die for this game.
Our coaches meetings were a recurring set of quotes. “We cared more!” “We were more invested!” “It was more important to us!” “It mattered more 10 years ago!”
There are two possibilities. Either this is true; it really did matter more to us, or we are projecting our current mindsets upon our 18 year old selves. Either way, the truth remains that most of the kids on our teams don’t care the way we did or, at least, the way we think we did.
But, have you ever thought of it this way? How many of the kids on your team will be a head coach some day? How many of the kids on your team will give countless hours for pennies trying to figure out a strategy to win a game in front of a few hundred people in some obscure conference that no one, outside of the people in the coaches office and the local coffee shop, really cares about?
That is who we are, but that is not who our kids are. They are not like us. They do not live and breathe football. They do not draw up plays on napkins in their spare time. Ask yourself this question….if your athletic director cancelled football tomorrow, how many of your kids would transfer? How many of your kids are so committed that they would leave their friends and their teachers and their girlfriend to go play football at the school down the road? My guess…most of your kids would just find something else to do.
Still, so many of us fight it every year. So many of us assume that our kids think like us. So many of us assume that our kids love football. And, then, when they laugh on the bus ride home we pine, “If I could only coach kids that cared…”
There is a reason we coach. We love football. I know most of us will say that we do it for the kids, but the truth is that there are a lot of things we can do for kids. We choose football because it matters to us. We believe in this game. We love this game. We would play this game everyday for the rest of our lives if we could.
But, here is the truth: There are very few kids that think like you. There are very few kids that really love this game. Most kids do this because they want to have fun. Let me say that one more time. Most kids do this because they want to have fun. So, you can spend years fighting the truth and banging your head against the wall trying to get kids to think the way you think. You can sit up at night wondering what is missing. Or, you can develop a program that meets kids where they are. Develop a program that is actually fun. Develop a program that kids love. Create a culture where kids can’t wait to come to practice.
That is what this website is about. My goal is that every kid in your program thinks football is fun every single day. Not just on Fridays. Not just if you win. Every day is supposed to be awesome. I think that a lot of us coaches fool ourselves. We convince ourselves that football is about life lessons and character and sportsmanship and perseverance. On many levels, I agree. A lot of these lessons present themselves in football and there will be ample opportunity for you to influence your kids and explain the deeper lessons of life. But, if you think kids come out for your team because they want to learn about character and sportsmanship, you are kidding yourself. They play football because its football is fun. When it is no longer fun, kids will stop playing. If you want to influence more kids, make your program fun!
Before we proceed let’s make sure we define the word “Fun.” Or, better yet, let’s define what the word does not mean. “Fun” does not mean grab ass. It does not mean screwing around. It does not mean rolling the balls out and letting the kids do what they want. It’s fun to compete. It’s fun to improve. It’s fun to have success. It’s fun when everyone gets a chance to play.
Here is where I think so many have missed the boat. I think many coaches have an assumption that every day has to be work so that we can have fun on Friday night. Well, if you are sure you can win, that is at least a plausible strategy. I suppose that most people would endure 4 days of boredom for one night of fun. I know I did. I hated practice. Let me say that again. I loved football, but I hated practice. (I will write many posts on this paradox in the future). But, I was willing to endure practice because I loved Friday nights.
But, what happens if you don’t win on Friday? What happens if you are one of those programs that is destined to live between 4-6 and 6-4? Then, you have traded 4 days of boredom for 1 night of agony. That sucks. Kids don’t want to play in that program. They’ll go run cross country or play tennis. Or, if they do come out, they won’t be invested. They will go through the motions. They will do it because their friends do it, but they will dread the process.
Some of us are okay with this because its how we were raised. We believe that practice is supposed to be a grind, because it was a grind for us. But, in the end, it was worth it because it made us who we are. It developed grit. It developed perseverance. It developed character. And, we have convinced ourselves that we are only the men we are because we played football.
I used to think this way, but I have literally made a 180 degree turn. Remember, kids are not you! They do not think like you! they probably don’t play for the same reasons you did. I think that there are plenty of experiences in life that make us who we are, but I am not the man I am today simply because of football. I played a lot of sports. They all taught me things. I believe that I could have played golf or tennis or volleyball and turned out the same. I have friends that never put on pads that are still perfectly great husbands and fathers and contributors in society. I think that sports impart life lessons, but I don’t think that football is unique. Kids can learn teamwork and grit and character and dedication from soccer or basketball or any other sport.
I won’t get to deep into this, as it will be the subject of a future post, but I think that the life lessons argument has been invented by football coaches to validate our existence. You don’t hear this in other sports nearly as often. Golf coaches simply coach golf and allow the life lessons to happen organically. Then again, golf coaches aren’t building 10,000 seat stadiums and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, so maybe there is a certain amount of validation that is needed.
Hear is the brutal truth: Your kids just want to have fun! And, if you do it right, football is fun. They don’t care about your dogma or your philosophy. I have surveyed kids at the end of every season of my coaching and administrative career. Do you know why they play? They want to have fun with their friends. If that is their goal, why do we fight it? Sports should be about student experience. Fun should be the ultimate goal of your football program. Football is fun!
Don’t get me wrong, winning is fun. I have a formula for winning. I think you are going to win with this system. But, I believe that a happy kid is a winning kid. (Not to mention the fact that if football is actually fun, the best athletes your school will actually want to play). If fun is central, winning will take care of itself. So, as you navigate this site, read my posts, watch my videos, download my books, or install my offense, remember my premise. Football is fun! Everything I do is based on the simple belief that kids should look forward to playing football every single day!