Virginia Tech head men's basketball coach Buzz Williams starts every year teaching his players a lesson on respecting the national anthem and the veterans who have served, and sacrificed, for our great county.
Coach Williams delivered his message by first pointing out some subtle things that many players do before the national anthem like looking down at their shoes, or swaying back and forth, or tugging at their shorts or jersey. To really drive home his message, Buzz brought in a handful of veterans, many of which came in uniform.
With the veterans standing next to the bench on the sidelines, Williams had his guys stand facing the veterans as he delivered his powerful message starting with, "We didn't earn those chairs. How tall you are and how fast you run, or how well you shoot didn't earn those chairs."
"We draw up the play, we recruit real hard, but I didn't earn the chair."
"These guys,' Williams said while pointing to the veterans, "when they were your age, they interrupted their life. They paused their education. They changed their career, and they gave their life for those chairs."
"So when the anthem is played, we're going to stand like grown men, and we're going to honor men like this that gave their life so that we could have a chair to sit in. And in the two and half minutes that the song is played, or someone sings it, or the music is played, we're going to stand at attention in honor of these men. We're not going to sway back and forth, and we're not messing with our shorts or messing with our jersey."
"Those two and a half minutes, we're going to give to those people that earned these chairs because that freedom allows us to do what we're doing.
Watch your guys next time they're in uniform when the national anthem plays and chances are that you catch a glimpse of some of those same behaviors that Williams took issue with. Players likely don't even know they're doing them, and they are surely not being done as a sign of disrespect, but Williams brilliantly used it as a teaching moment for his guys.
The result is something that should be shared among coaches that start any sporting event with the playing of the national anthem.