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Lessons from Labor Day football practice


ChiefSmoke
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Friday night before our game with Anderson County got started, Todd Thompson, a former HS teammate, came by to say hello. It was great to see him and I appreciated him making the effort. It got me to thinking about Labor Days from the past and why football is a great game.

 

Labor Day in 1981, Coach French rolls in just in time for practice, pulling his boat behind his truck. Our starting QB is Todd and he has hurt his ankle and unable to practice. As the backup, I get snaps with the first team offense. That night, we practiced full gear in a driving rain storm. My football pants are saturated with rain and the thigh pad slides down my leg. I took a helmet to the top of my thigh that turned in to a pretty good deep thigh bruise and made it very difficult for me to run the next few days of practice.... and I was pretty slow to begin with.

 

It was all I could do to get through those practices that week. They were very painful, but our starter was out and I had to do the best I could. I fought through those practices and by Thursday I started to feel better. But, Todd's ankle was also better. So, after fighting it out and practicing all week, I was back on the bench and Todd was the starter. It was absolutely the right thing for Coach French to handle it that way. But, that was a great life lesson for me. Some times even when you endure and fight through tough times, you may not get the personal return you want. But, it was a great illustration for me that the team comes first. If that is what I needed to do for the team, I need to do it to the best of my ability, regardless of whether or not I get what I want. That lesson is taught frequently on the football field and is one of the many benefits my sons and the kids I coach gain from playing football. It was a lesson that I needed and I still draw on that experience today when my attitude is not what it should be.

 

The other Labor Day that came to mind was from 1997 at Mason County. The previous Friday night we had lost to Rowan County, 12-7. Neither team was very good. I was so frustrated because our kids had played so hard but it seemed like we made every dumb mistake you could make to lose a football game. To make things even better on Saturday morning, our brand new silver pants had the blue stripe fade and we now have turquoise pants! I was sick to my stomach about everything.

 

That Sunday night, I never went to sleep. I was too frustrated and angry. The next morning at practice, we introduced "WIN Drill." From that point forward during the season, we would break the huddle on "WIN" to remind us to do all the little things right necessary for us a win. The drill works like this..... the entire team starts on one sideline and runs a half gasser. Skill has 20 seconds, big guys have 25. All toes are on or behind the line. After the half gasser, I call out a goalline offensive play. The offense takes the field, runs the play perfectly, and returns to the sideline. If there is a mistake, we run 5 grass drills and immediately run another half gasser. If someone does not completely run past the line after completing the play, it does not count. We run 5 grass drills, another 1/2 gasser and do that play again. We have 3-4 goalline plays that must be run perfectly before we end practice. After a successful play, we have 30 seconds to rest before running the next half gasser. If we mess up, there is no 30 second rest.

 

Since that Labor Day in 1997, we have ended every Monday practice with "Win Drill". Some days we get it done quickly. Some days we do not. But, it helps our kids focus and do their best. It makes them fight through something they don't want to do.

 

It has become a tradition, every Labor Day practice, I tell the story of the 1997 Mason County Royals. I always tell my current set of players, you can thank those guys for this drill. I think the drill has made us a tougher, more disciplined, and more focused football team over the past 20 years.... and helped our conditioning. And, the 1997 Royals were the first football team in school history to beat Russell, Newport, & Erlanger Lloyd.... 3 opponents I was told we would NEVER defeat. To say I am proud of the 97 Royals would be an under statement.

 

That week in 1981 was tough. That Labor Day weekend in 1997 was a long one. But, the same things that make football tough are the same things that make football great. I want my sons to play football. They don't get many of those tough lessons and illustrations in any other area of their life. Most other things they do are much easier and they are often told how good they are.

 

I am getting old, but I am thankful I got to be at football practice for one more Labor Day this morning. Hopefully I have a few more in my future.

 

BlackShoes&WhiteShoeStrings: Lessons from Labor Day Football Practice

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Conner's first season was either 1970 or 1971. There wasn't a lot of success prior to 1979 when the legendary coach from Wyoming High in Cincinnati - Bob Lewis - arrived.

 

We lost our first game . Labor Day was the following Monday. A few players missed practice to go do "holiday things." Coach Lewis told us we could either be committed to being successful or treat it as something to do when it wasn't a holiday.

 

Message received. Made the playoffs in year 1 and made the state championship in year 2. Coach Lewis was a great teacher of life lessons and that was but one example.

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I think the drill has made us a tougher, more disciplined, and more focused football team over the past 20 years.... and helped our conditioning. And, the 1997 Royals were the first football team in school history to beat Russell, Newport, & Erlanger Lloyd.... 3 opponents I was told we would NEVER defeat. To say I am proud of the 97 Royals would be an under statement.

 

Thanks for reminding me of that one. :meh:

 

We thought you all were just a "basketball" school. Little did we know at the time, it was the birth of one of our best and fiercest rivalries for the next 15+ years.

 

You're a good writer and I've enjoyed reading the blog.

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Thanks for reminding me of that one. :meh:

 

We thought you all were just a "basketball" school. Little did we know at the time, it was the birth of one of our best and fiercest rivalries for the next 15+ years.

 

You're a good writer and I've enjoyed reading the blog.

 

Beating the Red Devils was a big deal because Russell has a great football program and tradition!

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Proud to say I was on that team with Coach Buchanan, part of his first 4 years at Mason Co. I have stolen TONS of what I do from Coach Buchanan, especially the WIN drill, we did it today, because we aren't allowed to practice on Labor Day.

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Proud to say I was on that team with Coach Buchanan, part of his first 4 years at Mason Co. I have stolen TONS of what I do from Coach Buchanan, especially the WIN drill, we did it today, because we aren't allowed to practice on Labor Day.

 

I bet you looked forward to those 1/2 gassers every Monday. :)

 

I am proud of you Bulldog!

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