While in Montreal several weeks ago I accepted an invitation from a long time friend Sylvain Jette. Sylvain played football for us back with the Junior Alouettes. He asked if I wold come to watch his son, Ulrich, play in a High School football Game. Ulrich plays for the Golden Eagles of Lachine who faced the Terre Bonne Tigers. Sylvain is now working with Veterans Affairs after a great career of coaching and pro scouting. I knew we would share some good conversation and he would provide solid insight about the game unfolding before us.
It was a crisp autumn evening. All the elements of a great night were there. The Hip Hop music blared out across the field as we came in. The carts for trainers, equipment managers, and coaches play call posters were lined up along the sideline. The two teams took the field under the familiar setting of "Friday night lights".
Coaches as only coaches can, were encouraging the players for the home opener. Shouts of "let's go, it starts now, this is our year" could be heard from fifty yards away. There is no feeling that equals the pregame anticipation during warm ups. Coaches and players share that uncertainty, apprehension, anxious feeling of time standing still until the kick off. All of those feelings dissolve when combat begins.
Each team had an explosive offense. The game developed with each team taking turns scoring touchdowns. The fans were delighted, the coaches were working at correcting the defenses while their offensive unit was moving down the field. With both teams scoring over sixty points late in the fourth quarter the momentum shifted. The Golden Eagles lost a fumble and the Tigers quickly turned that possession into a touchdown. In the wild final minutes, the Golden Eagles committed several additional turnovers. As the game ended the scoreboard read Terre Bonne 91 and Lachine 68. Would you expect to see coaches upset? Remember this was the opening game of the season.
The Zen that is a football game is similar to space travel. Each down and distance requires flawless execution of the game plan. Game strategy is a moving target. Each call demands an alternate plan if that play doesn't work. Every down and distance must be calculated. Football is a game of perfection. Every offensive play is designed to go for a touchdown, every defensive play is designed to stop, or better yet intercept or recover the ball. Yet a quick look at end of game statistics will usually tell the story. Turnovers, blocked kicks or return yards, details which team made the fewest mistakes. Wait - I said football is a game of perfection and then I said the team who made the fewest mistakes will win. To further complicate a game, add the imperfection of humans into the equation.
That all sounds crazy. It is crazy! A football game is chess with the players like the knights, pawns, and kings not always performing their roll. Your AYF field was given a banner to post for all to see. It reads "The 100 Yard Classroom". This is AYF's way of saying today's game has little importance to the world, but what is learned here can change the world. Coaches have that magic insight to see beyond an uncertain clumsily kid. When the rough edges are smoothed out, and with the experience of correcting their mistakes, that same kid becomes a winning ingredient of a successful team. Good coaches like good parents share a trust with the children they teach. It is sometimes necessary to employ "tough love". The good corrections are more effective without displaying anger or frustration. Youth Football coaches are very special. Most kids come to them as a clean slate. They must be patient in order to bring out the maximum potential in each child. Remember, Diamonds are not sparkling when they are found. Gold nuggets don't shine when first discovered. As Billy Graham said "A coach will impact more people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime". Crazy stuff ! But that is exactly why we love this game. The Golden Eagle Coaching staff never let their players go uncorrected. Each position coach continued to "coach" even with the score out of reach in the final minutes. Why? Because there is always the next game. There is some polishing to do before kids will shine. Last week the Golden Eagles won their game! Yes football is the Greater Game!!!!