It’s not often that I attend a hot, August football practice and leave with chills on my skin. However, mark Friday on the calendar as such a day for me.
The biggest factor in determining what kind of season a team ultimately ends up having, falls under the category of intangibles. It matters not how talented a team is. That team can have a 5-star recruit at every position and have home field advantage, the refs on their side, lead by the best coaches, the biggest budget, the tallest wide receivers, the smartest quarterback, the fastest runners and the biggest baddest linemen East of the West coast.
However, if they point fingers at each other, blame refs, play arrogant to their opponents, and generally behave as individuals within the team, I can beat them every game. Just give me a team that pulls together and genuinely loves their teammates, respects their coaches, takes responsibility for their actions on and off the field, and plays the game in a manner that elevates their teammates for the opportunities to get the glory.
It wouldn’t even be close.
But, how do you develop the chemistry described above? How do you get a team to strengthen its bond? Answer is… You can’t.
Many, many coaches throughout history, across all ages and all sports, would probably part with whatever your cost is for the magical formula that provides the team with that much needed, but ever elusive, chemistry necessary to pile up the wins.
However, no such formula exists. The team either has it or it doesn’t. It s a natural thing, that although it is labeled an intangible, there is no doubt by anyone close to the team that you can feel it.
I certainly felt it yesterday. Coach Reed gathered his Bulldog minions at the end of practice, as he does every day, just like any other football coach in America does. It’s the time for immediate information pertinent to the team like uniform selection, times and schedules, and reminders of things. Things like “don’t drive irresponsibly down to Vernon” for those heading that way after practice to get a glimpse of the Lions. The Lions are the Bulldogs’ opponent in Week 1, as they were scrimmaging on Friday.
This, too, is a common dialogue at the end of any practice. Then something wonderful took place on that Bulldog practice field that sent me away in chills.
Coach Reed declared it was time for the day’s Bulldog spotlight, and declared he had today’s choice. The name Brenden Phillips was announced, and a somewhat vertically challenged player, with a neck like a tree trunk, rose to his feet and was on display in front of his teammates as they knelt.
Coach Reed remarked that Brenden’s efforts in practice were deserving recognition, and further commented on specific details of Brenden’s desire for perfection when running fullback drills. Reed acknowledged Brenden’s coachability, citing the way Brenden performs his fullback drills as he has been coached to do, by evidence of how he carries the football high and tight every carry. Reed made clear that Brenden’s adding extra yardage down field to finish runs in practice would not go unnoticed, and neither would Brendan’s constant encouragement of his teammates.
It made for a good moment for sure, but no chills yet.
Then, one by one, and in no pre-planned order, Brendan’s fellow teammates, his Bulldog brothers, lifted themselves to their feet in order to lift Brenden up, which lifted us all up.
With no embarrassment from having to talk in public, and with no quiet quivering voice that we come to expect from this modern youth generation, each of Brenden’s peers stood, because they had something positive to say about him.
This was much more than a good moment. As soon as I got a grasp on what was actually going on, the goosebumps grew on me.
It was obvious our good moment was in fact, a life-changing event. Imagine your coach calling you out and letting it be known by everyone there that your work ethic is worthy of praise, and then your brothers who you knock heads with everyday, and battle for playing time and roster spots every day, were now standing with you, looking at you, and offering their perceptions of you in only positive tones.
I’m sure it was a heart-beating, humbling experience like nothing else. I know it was for me, and I’m not even Brenden.
Coaches got involved by talking on Brenden’s weight room time being well spent, and everyday he efforts to get better.
I had to ask Coach Vargas if this BULLDOG SPOTLIGHT, was a new thing, since I haven’t seen it before. I don’t always stick around until the team breaks it out at the end of practice, but I’ve been there for several, and haven’t seen this happen.
Vargas confirmed it was new and started with the three-day Seniors and coaching staff “retreat” last weekend. I haven’t asked any of them about said retreat because that was for them, not for us. That was a team cohesion, bond building, chemistry brewing getaway where these 27 men could get real with each other and come away with a clear understanding of just what the Bulldogs are trying to do this season. Geesh, just typing that sentence gave me chills.
After spotlighting Brenden, the team rose to it’s feet and hoisted their helmets in solidarity. Brenden shouted toward every opponent on the schedule, “1!…. 2!… 3!”
The entire Bulldog collective loudly followed the countdown and broke the team out of practice with, “F A M I L Y !”
Vargas added, “You think that Bulldog spotlight was cool, you should’ve seen 27 grown, tough, football guys in a room, and through tears, expressing nothing but positivity, love and commitment to each other. You would’ve had chills.”
We are way ahead of you on that one coach.
GO BULLDOGS !!
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext.2076