At the conclusion of the “small d” drama of the past weeks, I led my young high school football charges into their first league game with equal amounts of confidence and trepidation.
You’ll recall that we had been dealing with potentially cutting a player, which bizarrely would have been my first such act in twenty years of volunteer coaching. But the potential victim has made an about face that has continued to spin from partially complete to almost full circle. The consistent effort and upbeat attitude he displays in practice now, is born-again-Christian-like in its transfiguration.
Back to the game.
The equal parts confidence and trepidation was how I was feeling. Having scouted our opponents and reviewed our smash of them in 2012, I was confident. Maybe over-confident. On the flip side of the pregame coin toss coin, I was nervous. We are not nearly as good as 2012 and our opponent had improved significantly. They opened their season tying their 2012 division champions, who had also crushed them last season.
Because our game has more spoilers than the last episode of Breaking Bad, I will tell you right now we won 13-6. Yet I have been upset about it ever since the final whistle.
It’s a classic coaching line to say we should have won by more, but I feel that way. Yet herein lies the problem. I am still listening to the side of my brain that was not only confident about the game, but now I am realizing was over-confident. How do I shake that?
There was no validity in my overconfidence. While historically we have played this opponent pretty evenly, they do have the edge in victories, are really really well coached and at kickoff they had many more players, much more size, and consequently way more depth than we did. The worst part is, we weren’t ready to play.
We came out flat. We flubbed an easy touchdown pass. Throughout the game we had at least four other TDs we should have secured. Our defence gave up garbage yardage and our special teams couldn’t get twelve men on the field without me calling timeout. When we did line up a full kick unit, we let their returners race past us.
I suddenly realized I hadn’t coached with enough urgency in practice that week.
Yet we won. We won because we have some real studs at certain positions, significantly linebacker and quarterback. We won because my assistant coaches have all played this game at a high level. We won because, well because we had enough guys make plays at the right time.
But it came down to a late drive by our opponent to inside our 20, featuring a last play of the game pass into their receiver’s hands, that we magically broke-up with a devastating hit by one of our DBs. We squeaked by.
Lesson learned. We have five games left on our schedule. Three will be very tough, and the other two on paper look easier. Time for me to stop looking on paper. Time for me to prepare for every game with the utmost fear. A fear that propelled the young man who I almost cut, to change his work habits. Time for me to eat my own cooking.