Character & Mental Toughness- Vanilla

Each year in my History classes we spend some time discussing conformity as it applies to 1950’s America.  As part of this topic we also discuss the beatnik movement.

I have always admired Kerouac and Ginsberg, not so much for their works, but for the freshness and originality of their perspectives relative to their times.

The rebellious youth of the 1960’s don’t hold the same esteem for me.

That group just seemed to be conforming to rebellion. The way recent generations of rebels conformed to rap music, piercings, and tattoos. I am not saying there is anything wrong with these, but are their proponents thinking for themselves or just conforming?

I had a marvelous teacher, Mrs. Keller, who questioned my beliefs when I was in middle school.  She knew I kept up with current events and she would question me about my political beliefs as well as my reading and television watching habits.  While I’m pretty sure she didn’t agree with my views, she wanted to make sure I hadn’t just believed what my parents and friends believed.  She wanted me to think for myself.   I’m sure she never could understand my impassioned defense of sports related biographies and Magnum PI, but she forced me to be able to defend my thoughts and actions; thus making them truly my own.

When I meet new people and they ask me what I do, I say “read.”  I know they want to know my profession, but I can’t help but make them think.  It’s a bit off putting and obnoxious, but effective.  It let’s them know that I have no interest in quietly entering the convenient box they have assigned for me. Besides, I probably spend more time reading than doing anything else.

When people ask me what I teach, I say “life.” I say this although I have taught History and Government, and pretty much every other course in the social studies catalog. But it’s a true statement.   I have always used the course content as a means to teach life lessons that my students might find useful both now and later in life. Again, my response makes people uncomfortable because they want to quickly assign me to a box.

In the community where I teach there are many people who would gladly place me in the “coach” archetype; Something of a merciless drill sergeant, who watches nothing but ESPN, and will readily sell his soul to win.  When they discover that I don’t fit in the convenient box they have already made for me; that I like philosophy, blues, and poetry every bit as much as I like the violent game of football, they feel uncomfortable.  I feel almost obligated to hide my other interests so they do not resent me for not fitting in their applicable archetype box.

We tend to want to use the boxes we have already constructed in our brains. Schematic learning is a natural human occurrence. We look at new people and assign them the character of people we already know.  Archetypes make this particularly easy.

The young are still constructing their boxes, and that’s why I enjoy working with them. But their elders seem annoyed and resentful when one refuses to allow them the convenient use of their schematic boxes.

At one point in my life I went a few years as a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  I was 6 feet three inches, weighed 250 pounds and at least once, carried a dryer from basement to moving truck without assistance.  People were uncomfortable with that.  I should have been a steak and potatoes carnivore.  I would set them at ease by saying I was the world’s fattest vegetarian;  which might have actually been true.

At some point during our conversations on conformity, I will ask my class what their favorite ice cream is.  They all pretend to be shy so I do a poll.  Who likes vanilla? chocolate? etc.  A few don’t raise their hands and I call on them.  They will answer “rocky road,” or “peach” or the ever popular “I’m lactose intolerant.”

Then one of them will inevitably ask me my favorite.  I tell them “Strawberry Cookie Dough.”  They all look puzzled.  They scan the portion of their brains devoted to ice cream flavors and they can’t recall seeing my favorite as a choice at the grocery.

I tell them I tend to think for myself and not just accept the choices I have been offered as finite.

The class being always skeptical, I will do the same exercise with breakfast cereal; Raisin Bran Cherrios.

These really are my favorites.  That is not to say there is something wrong with vanilla or oatmeal.

Conformity is a big deal in football. When it comes down to running a particular offense, there are many to choose from.  We could run the spread, or the wing-t, the veer, the power I or the run and shoot.  Almost every coach I know has picked from an established scheme.  They are well thought out and proven and that’s why people use them.  As any decent coach will tell you, it’s not the offense but the players and execution that matters. One must simply pick a system and be disciplined in sticking with it. (Playbook creep is a common problem in coaching, but that is a discussion for another day).

But I must tell you, in the back of my mind I have long been working on another offensive scheme; the double side saddle.

Nobody runs that.

Nobody ever has.

The double side saddle has two quarterbacks rather than one.  Both quarterbacks stand slightly to either side of the center.  They place their hands under their respective sides of the center ready to receive the snap.  The center can even snap the ball to a third quarterback since neither of the first two would obstruct a shotgun snap to the third.

I’ve only run it a few times after practice.  I would pull a couple of players aside after practice and quickly instruct them on how to run some of the dozen plays I have developed from that set.   Just to see how it looked.

I have always been afraid to sacrifice practice time on the double side saddle, so I have never run it in a game.  But I think my courage and curiosity are growing enough that we might just put it in this year.

I like teaching life and eating strawberry cookie dough and raisin bran Cherrios.  I liked being the worlds fattest vegetarian.

Sometimes you have to think outside of the cereal box or ice cream carton.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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About coachbillmoore

Educator/Author/Speaker/HS & NCAA Coach Character Coach Read Coach Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness” Paperback available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. "The measure of your character and mental toughness is the space between what you are doing and what you could be doing." -Coach Bill Moore
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4 Responses to Character & Mental Toughness- Vanilla

  1. allthewaydoc says:

    My father was a high school teacher and football coach. He also taught us girls to think outside the box and to stand on our own two feet!

    Today it seems like everybody wants to take the easy way out and just blend in, it is a complete travesty in my opinion!

    great thoughts and great post!

  2. Anonymous says:

    dont forget the cinnamon raisin bagel with veggie cream cheese

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