World Football: It is a global game….
October 16, 2012
The game of football is now played all over the world. Last weekend I had an opportunity to watch one of my former junior players from Vienna play for the University of British Columbia. Canadian football is a bit different. They play with twelve players most of who can run around in any direction before the snap of the ball which makes the offensive play looks like ants scurrying around looking for sugar crumbs. They only have three downs to make the ten yards required for a first down so they punt a lot. The field has two 50 yard lines and a ‘center’ line five yards from each 50 yard mark. That makes the field one hundred and ten yards long and to boot the end zones are twenty yards deep. You need a city block and part of an airport runway to have enough land for a field. Other than that it’s football. Tackle the guy with the ball and try to cross the goal line carrying that ball.
In Europe the game is more like the American version, you know eleven players and four downs. The field however is often times a bit short. They play on a lot of soccer fields which are only one hundred and ten yards long so the American football field needs to be fitted into a rectangle ten yards shorter than the one hundred twenty required in the USA. Most of the time they take the ten yards out of the middle of the field. The forty five yard lines are nearly touching the fifty but that’s better than taking the yardage out of the endzone which at one time they did. It’s hard to throw a fade into a five yard deep endzone.
Football is a lot of fun and more so when after the game the scoreboard tells you that you won. Your girlfriend thinks you’re better looking after a win and your parents brag about your ability while your grandparents go overboard with praise. It’s the same game win or lose but the residuals make winning the better choice. Assuming you have a choice which actually, you don’t. Your choice is to play as hard as you can and try to make fewer mistakes than your opponents. Many times that results in a winning score.
The question is what you do when you have one of those years when everything seems to go wrong and nothing right. The losses pile up and suddenly your girl friend finds another partner and mom, dad and the grandparents tell you about how much character you are building. While walking down the hall you hear whispers from non players about how the football team sucks and you never wear your letterman jacket hoping not to be identified as a sad sack jock.
I told our team yesterday before practice I wanted them to act more like my European teams. The players over in Austria, Finland and Croatia, places where I’ve coached, have a great understanding of football. They have a passion for the game or they wouldn’t take the time, the energy, and the money to join a ‘club’ and play. They play as hard as anyone here in America and enjoy every minute. When they cross onto the field they are all business, it’s the after game scene that makes it different. These players have usually known the players on the opposite team for a long time; they are good friends in most cases. After the games conclusion and the hand shake, both team line up on the opponents sideline and clap for those fans supporting their own sons, relatives or friends. And then something very unique unfolds. Players from both teams along with family members, wives & children and other friends have a picnic. Most of the time they share food and beverage in or near the endzone. You’ll see blankets spread on the field and members of both teams in energetic conversation not always about the recently completed game.
It amazes me how quickly they forget the game, the rivalry or the competitiveness. They talk about anything and everything and everyone has a smile on their face. They see the big picture and it’s so much fun to be a part of the wholesome atmosphere.
Ok, so what do our players get out of this game when the season is heading in the wrong direction? How about learning how to lose! It’s fashionable now in America to give the losers a blue ribbon and a trip to Paris in reward for showing up and trying. This might surprise you but in the real world they don’t give you ribbons or a bonus for losing. What are we teaching our boy and girl athletes? I’m not sure much of the time it’s the right thing. But this game of football teaches real life lessons.
I told our guys that if anyone made fun of our team or of them they should politely remind the non-participant that the lessons learned during competition will last them a lifetime. They will learn how to lose with dignity and hopefully how to win with humility. They will learn how to share obligation and effort. They will learn how to listen and how to be held accountable for their own actions. They will learn how to accept discipline and how to try their best, to the end. They will learn how to prepare to do a hard task and how to finish that effort. They will learn to congratulate the winners and to appreciate the effort of the losers. They will learn humility and all that goes with coming up short. Most of all they will see and understand the value and the benefit of doing that hard job well! Whatever it may be.