Every year coaches walk the halls of their school, the streets of their town, and the aisles of their grocery stores and end up crossing paths with someone who decided to either quit the football team, or just decided that football wasn't for them. It can be an awkward situation for both parties.
Now, football isn't for everyone. I think we can all agree on that. But it's hard for a lot of guys - myself included - to come to terms with someone who decides to throw in the towel. Sometimes they're really talented players who don't see the bright future that we, as coaches, envision for them, while other times they're the type of guys who need the structure that football provides, and still others are guys that simply aren't cut out for the game physically or mentally.
Regardless of where they fall, here are four pieces of advice I put together for coaches to share with players who are considering quitting. Each one is in the form of a quote that I've heard at one time or another in my coaching career.
"Quitting now will make quitting important things down the road much easier"
A few years ago, a program I was with had a kid quit that had a chance to be a solid contributor on a really good football team. The head coach at the time and I got to talking about it, and he shared with me how justifying quitting now will likely come back to bite those people in the future when it comes to the much more important things in life like college, jobs, and family obligations. The more that I've reflected on that an my experiences over the years, I fully believe that to be true.
I grew up raised on the understanding that once you started something, you see it through to the end (a TED Talk I recently watched actually showed there is value in quitting some things, and knowing the right time to quit). While I hated that at times during my childhood, I've come to genuinely appreciate it as an adult because it instilled an important value in me that I use all the time now.
"I have never met any one who regrets playing football, but there are tons of guys out there who regret never playing or quitting."
I had one of my coaches early in my coaching career tell me this, and it's stuck with me ever since. Those kids that are kind of on the fence about playing that stick it out and give it everything they've got never regret playing football. High schools, colleges, and the adult world are all absolutely full of guys who wish they'd have stuck it out. They might not come out and talk about it, but deep down they know.
I tweeted this quote as a response to another coach's tweet about kids quitting earlier earlier this week, and it caught fire, so clearly a lot of coaches can relate to it.
"Play because your heart is in it, or find something you're passionate about it and pour your heart into that."
I've been a part of programs that had to pretty much beg kids to come play football just to field a team, and those kids would show up to practice like they were dragged there, exhibiting no energy or enthusiasm, and that kind of behavior is contagious in all the wrong ways. It was then I told myself I'd never beg a player to come play football. I would rather a kid finds something that they're passionate about - whether it's chess, or working on cars, or soccer - and pursue that with everything they've got rather than feel like they're wasting time on a practice field because it's something that someone else wants. Having a kid with that kind of outlook at practice isn't good for them, and more often than not, it's not good for your team either.
"Whether you put on a jersey or not, I'll be here for you regardless"
This one will be the hardest for some coaches, because while we all form bonds with guys that play for us, it can be hard for some to truly be there for someone who decides football, a game we dedicate our lives to, isn't for them right now. The truth is, we sometimes don't understand the full scope of their perspective and sometimes kids don't turn away from football because they don't care about it, but instead have to because they're being could be in another direction for a reason beyond their control. Sometimes those kids just need to know that an adult has their back to make that difficult, unpopular decision.
If you say this one, be ready to back it up with actions.