The football coach smiled as he looked out over his team. He pointed out that they learned some things from the game, which had just finished. And he pointed out that they had plenty left to learn.
This happens. The winning coach begins building on the win as soon as the clock hits zeroes. Meanwhile the losing coach has to do damage control, making sure he doesn’t lose his team after a loss.
I began my 19th season covering high school football last night. All I ever look for anymore is context. Now that I’m freelancing again, I’m at the mercy of my friend at the newspaper to assign me a game that actually contains some context (actually, this week I just asked him to send me to an air-conditioned press box). Of course, it’s an easy task the first week of the season. Both teams want to find a foothold. In the game I saw last night, the local team had won just three and lost seven a year ago. But their opponent had won just once the entire previous season.
These were not two juggernauts. These were teams looking for any positive momentum. Maybe that’s why they were playing each other.
The coach I mentioned, Matt Carroll of the Waco University Trojans, took his current job while I was still coordinating high school sports coverage at the local newspaper. He is one of those guys I look forward to interviewing after the game. I’m not going to explain why, I’m just pointing out that there are guys you look forward to speaking with and others you look for excuses not to interview. He told me it’s a lot easier to do his job when his team is on the winning side.
Carroll began the season with 15 returning starters, which helps and which was apparent. Carroll’s team won the game for one reason: they were better organized than their opponents. University committed fewer penalties and turnovers than its opponent and that resulted in a seven-point victory against a team that might have had a little more talent.
I have a feeling every football coach holds his breath when he sends his team on the field for the first time each season. Getting eleven people to sit down for dinner and order is difficult. Given that context, getting eleven high school boys to understand and execute something as complex as a football play seems impossible.
But now Carroll knows his boys can out-execute somebody. Even if that somebody is a team that won just once in 2011. Better still for Carroll, his players know they can out-execute an opponent. That’s the other edge of the sword of high school boys. If they can defeat a bad team, then they think they can beat a decent team. So they’re more likely to listen to Carroll when the team hits the practice field on Monday.
Nothing encourages winning more than winning.
Photo via the Waco Tribune-Herald.