Every so often, it’s beneficial to look back on the landscape and schemes dominating football and reflect on how things have changed over the years.
Schemes can be both innovative and cyclical, rule changes crop up every few years (both good and bad), and as I did some personal reflection recently, one thing that also changes (rather dramatically) is the phrases that we, as coaches, use to communicate with players.
Think back to your days as a player, whether you’re like me and you’re most recent playing days were a decade ago, or 30-40 years ago, there were things said during our eras that would never fly in the modern age with today’s kids.
Here are 7 coaching phrases that come to mind that we all heard growing up (and a few we might still hear today), that are quickly on their way to extinction.
1 – “You’re fine. You just got your bell rung a bit. Now get back in there.”
The research and focus on concussions over the last decade has really changed how coaches respond to concussion-like symptoms on a sideline. Saying something like that now is grounds for termination. Coaches today have had to learn to be extra cautious about players who exhibit concussion-like symptoms on a sideline, and the safety focus for all players now means you can find a certified trainer at every game nationwide, and that hasn’t always been the case.
2 – “What’s said in the locker room stays in the locker room.”
The introduction of social media and camera phones have pushed this phrase to the brink of extinction. No longer can a coach, player, administrator, or anyone else go on a rant before, during, or after a game and be 100% confident that it stays inside the walls of that room. For the most part, it’s a good thing that those walls have been broken down because it’s forced us all to be more conscious of our choice of both words and actions with our players.
3 – “Why? Because I said so.”
I’m not real sure I can put a finger on when, or why this one has started to become extinct. I think players now want to know the genuine reason why they’re being asked to do certain things sometimes and “because I said so,” is no longer a sufficient response because if they really want an answer, the internet will probably be able to provide one if we can’t. I always found the “because I said so,” response to be a bit self-serving to the one who chose to say it too, like kids should just do it because you’re an authority figure and that’s the way things work. Well, kids think differently now and a title is simply a title, and you earn respect with today’s youth through your behavior now more than ever before.
4 – “We’re going to run until you puke.”
It seems like every year we have highly public rhabdomyolysis scare somewhere in a college football program. The past few seasons have seen strength and conditioning related health scares at Oregon and Iowa, so the idea of running until someone pukes a a punishment or conditioning method is going to pique the interest of parents, players, and onlookers. This is one you really don’t hear a whole lot anymore.
5 – “Water is for the weak.”
A few decades ago, coaches gave out salt tablets during practices. Then came the days of fighting through the thirst for water during practice to gain some sort of mental edge. Well, the advantages of water and electrolytes have been well researched, and many coaches now tell players to just grab some quick water whenever they feel the need to, provided they’re not active in a drill or team session. The days of coaches saying “water is for the weak” is something that is comfortably in the past.
6 – “Three things happen when you decide to throw the ball, and two of them are in the defense’s favor.”
I remember my dad, and other defensive coaches saying this all time, and now we have programs who chuck it around 60-80 times a game, and who define offensive balance not as a 50-50 run/pass ratio, but as in getting the ball to 4 or 5 different receivers equally so they’re all viewed as a threat by the defense in all areas of the field.
7 – “The knockout shot.”
Here’s the scene. The offense is running a bubble, and a safety 7-yards deep reads it the whole way and comes up and makes a great form tackle. On the sideline after the series one of the coaches tells the safety that he passed up a great “knockout shot” opportunity. I remember as a kid growing up and wearing out the NFL’s Biggest Hits and cringing and cheering as it played hit after hit by guys like Steve Atwater, John Lynch and Merton Hanks that would now result in targeting penalties. This phrase is the one that may be the most relevant today, as I still hear it used – oftentimes out of sheer old-school habit – by a coach here and there. I think we can all agree that the phrase, and the image that it conveys, no longer has a place in the game we all coach moving forward, and we should all work to push it to extinction.