Date Time Location Of 4A High School Football Championship Game Preconceived Notions Are Your Enemy In Pee Wee Football

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Preconceived Notions Are Your Enemy In Pee Wee Football

Preconceived notions

We all seem to have preconceived notions about people, places and things based on the information we are exposed to or often based on the viewpoints of people in our immediate environment. In youth football, I can’t count how many times I’ve been amazed by the play and actions of teams and coaches. Often the reputations of these Pee Wee teams and coaches were the product of others, just the combined frustration and greed of other youth coaches, nothing more than sour grapes. Unfortunately in the world of youth football coaching, these impressions and attitudes are widespread, widespread and often wrong.

Be open minded

When coaching Pee Wee football, I try to approach situations with an open mind and a soft heart and let other teams and coaches prove me wrong. One of the most disliked and misunderstood coaches in the two different leagues my teams competed in has truly become a loyal friend and confidant. Their organization has gone out of their way to treat us well and in return we have gone out of our way to do the same for them. Now our associations enjoy a strong but respectful rivalry and we look forward to playing each other every year for the right reasons. Would we have felt the same if we listened to others and came into the game with one boat in the water? probably not.

Big mistake

Unfortunately I tend to make judgments about people I know very little about and in most cases these judgments are 100% wrong. I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with Rick Neuheisel from UCLA at the Clinic of Champions this past weekend.

Reno, Nevada. Coach Neuheisel gave a very sharp presentation on his version of the 2 minute offense and how UCLA will be going this fall. I knew about the coach from his days at Colorado, his Buffaloes were always a big game when my beloved Cornhuskers were on their schedule. Of course coach Neuheisels unorthodox West Coast “outbound” attitude was diametrically opposed to Nebraska’s no-nonsense, blue-collar, physical ground attack attitude. West Coast Persona, Passing Attack, Surfer Dude Persona, etc. Coach was not a very likable man in these parts. Then there was controversy over NCAA tourney hoops, pools, more bad publicity at the University of Washington. For some reason, while no one around knew the guy, he was known as “Skippy” and generally polite Nebraska fans liked to mock the guy in the paper, on talk radio, and in everyday fan conversation.

Spending a couple of hours with someone doesn’t go too far, but I think you can get a little feel for that person. Coach Neuheisel opened his presentation with some background, he didn’t talk about his 66-30 collegiate head coaching record or his championships, he talked about some of the humbling moments he had as a player and how we can relate that to our teams and kids. I didn’t know Koch walked into UCLA as a very undersized quarterback who was ranked 24X as a freshman. An X means you are a duplicate number and will probably never get into the game. The No. 24 pick that year was Freeman McNeil, so he didn’t think Coach N would make the field. They didn’t redshirt freshmen at UCLA in those days. Fortunately for the coach, one of the other freshmen had problems at home and left so the coach got this player number, #20. Coach N was never in the game program that year, in fact the second boy left so late that Coach N was known by the original #20’s name and not his own, as the game program had already been printed.

UCLA and coach Neueheisel

As the season progressed, UCLA was having a rough season and the coaches were trying to find a spark on special teams. The coaches offered anyone who volunteered to play special teams. Coach N volunteered to play and, to the surprise of the UCLA coaches, assigned him to the kick return team, where his job was to block L4 on a trap type block. At only 195 lbs the coach had to block other teams linebackers weighing 230-250 with hatred in their hearts on their kick coverage teams. Koch had several highly self-indulgent stories to tell including one where he passed out and his face mask broke during one of these returns. He didn’t say this to brag, but to teach and amuse himself a little. A quarterback who played special teams as a designated blocker, that impressed me. He never mentioned his Rose Bowl win at UCLA or his Rose Bowl MVP award, nothing.

The speaker suite couldn’t be more different from what I imagined at the post-session mixer at Coach Neuheisel. He was shy, friendly, not outgoing at all, friendly, humble, and willing to help and guide even a lowly Pee Wee football coach like me. He went out of his way to support and appreciate what youth coaches do for the game of football. He looked you in the eye, gave you a firm handshake and listened intently to what you had to say, asking great questions and asking for clarification along the way. I came away from that experience with a different opinion of coach Neuheisel. He gets nothing from spending time with a youth coach at Nebraska, none of my kids are being recruited by UCLA, and I’m certainly not a donor to UCLA.

lesson learned

Returning to my room I felt a little ashamed to have judged someone so wrongly without the benefit of more information or personal experience. I’m sure I’ve learned my lesson, because my bias is often wrong and inconsistent with how my own kids or athletes should behave. I had a similar experience with Steve Callande, a high school coach in Pennsylvania, I was 200% wrong about him and now we are fast friends. After meeting him at a Koch clinic in Pennsylvania in 2002, my opinion changed. The moral of the story is make up your own mind about people including players, youth football coaches and parents. Keep an open mind and they may surprise you.

I’ve been to the other end of that situation myself. I can’t count the number of times kids have come up to me after a clinic and told me they’re excited to hear me speak, that I’m so different than they expected (in a positive way). Pee Wee Football Coach I am not victorious at any cost in any way shape or form. Our premise is: you can win, have fun, play kids, be a great sport, and also teach great fundamentals, they are not mutually exclusive goals.

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