Character & Mental Toughness – Don’t Quit Football!

“Never underestimate the capacity of people to take the easy way instead of the character way. “ – me

I deal with this a lot in the community I teach and coach in. People want to take the easy way, and have a tough time understanding why they should take the character way. In reading and speaking with other coaches and parents I know I’m not alone. This issue is pervasive in our area and around the country.

I write this in the hope that it will help people to better recognize and understand their capacity for taking the easy way, and also to help them discover reasons for taking the character way.

The decision to quit the football team is a good example (another would be the decision to take easier classes).

I recently had two players tell me they wanted to quit playing football. I also had a recent conversation with a friend who had emailed me for advice regarding his son saying he wanted to quit football. In all three examples the players were going to quit football and “focus on playing lacrosse.”

I have been down this road with players before, when they have told me they were “focusing on playing [another sport].”

Most often this happens between freshmen year and sophomore year.

Before I say anything else, I want you to know I made it a point to tell both of my players they would be fine. They could quit football and just play lacrosse and they will be ok. They are good kids.

I hate seeing anyone settle for being less than they can be; and both of these guys have the potential to be great two-sport athletes, and more importantly, to receive all of the attention, accolades, and life lessons entailed in that.

(Also, please know that being forced to give up football due to serious injury or significant life circumstances is much different than “quitting.”)

So why would they quit football? Why should they stay with football?

Well, not once in 20 years has a kid told me he quit because he was afraid. They always say they have to “focus on school” or “focus on another sport” or “football just isn’t fun anymore.”

Not once has a kid told me he was quitting because he was afraid. Afraid of responsibility. Afraid of hard work. Afraid of having to grow up. Afraid of taking on a challenge.

Those are the real reasons kids quit. When they feel like quitting at anything, I believe it is our responsibility to help kids overcome those types of fears. I believe that when they do, they become better people for it. They grow. I believe kids, and adults, are better off for taking on challenges and not running from them.

“Focusing on school” is false. Studies have proven that students get higher grades during their sports seasons than during their off-seasons. Why believe something that has been proven to be false? So that’s not a valid reason to quit. Besides, college admissions people (and college coaches) like seeing kids challenge themselves. Don’t believe me, ask some of them.

“Focusing on [another sport]” is false. Below I will provide you overwhelming evidence that playing more than one sport can help a player. I will show you that having a mindset that you have to focus on one sport is a farce. Why believe something that has been proven to be false? So that’s not a valid reason to quit.

“Football is not fun anymore.” I agree and disagree on this.. Football is not fun in obvious ways, but it is fun in deeper ways. I will give you an example: playing video game football vs. playing real football. Playing video game football might be more fun than playing real football. But do you become a better person playing video game football? Do you create lifetime bonds of friendship playing video game football? Do you become a better man playing video game football? Do people respect you more for playing video game football? See, kids have trouble seeing that football is worth the effort. That even though practices and weight room time are not always fun, they make you better, they make you a better person, they make your friendships deeper, they prepare you for life’s battles (getting a job, competing to advance your career in a tough economy, finding a way to move out of the house and live on your own, etc.).  See, sooner or later a kid has to face and overcome the type of difficulty that forces one to dig incredibly deep if he wants to get anywhere in life.  I doubt anyone would say football does not provide that type of experience.

So if fun is the big priority for a kid, I feel bad for him. I think there are more important things than fun. And don’t kid yourself, in all that work we also have a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles, a lot of good times. We develop great love and affection for each other in football. The things that last a lifetime aren’t necessarily fun all the time. So having fun is important, but there are other things that are more important. Besides, the lessons you learn in football will help you to have more fun in the long run as you will be better prepared for a successful life.

Fear of off-season demands- I think you all understand we ask a lot of our kids during the off-season. We have to. We play in a very competitive league and the days of Westfield just being able to show up and win without off-season work ended long ago. I told the team in our recent sign-up meeting that I know they can’t make everything. I understand they have other sports commitments, vacations, etc. But I also told them football is next and they will have to put their time in, and the most important thing we have to do is lift weights. Lift three days a week. Get to a football camp. There are plenty of other football activities going on (7 on 7 for example) But get to a camp & lift. That’s the minimum I ask. Is lifting 3 days a week and going to a camp too much to ask?

So below are some things I wrote, and some links to look at when either you or someone you know is considering quitting football. I hope you have time to look them over and maybe share them with someone in that position. I hope in the end it might persuade you or someone you know to push a little harder to stay with football.

-B

What kind of man do you want to be?

Are you going to take the easy way or the character way? Are you going to challenge yourself to be the best man you can be or are you going to settle for something less?

When you quit football that is what the decision is really about. You may think it’s about something else, but it’s not. You may fool your friends, your parents, and even yourself, but you can’t fool me. Oh don’t get me wrong. I have been fooled before, but I have been doing this so long now that it is tough to get one by me anymore.

Are you going to take the easy way or the character way? Are you going to challenge yourself to be the best man you can be or are you going to settle for something less?

So if you don’t believe me now, deep down in your heart you will believe me later. Later maybe in the middle of the next football season or in your middle age, but one day you will know just how right I was about this. See I know The Secret.

Are you going to take the easy way or the character way? Are you going to challenge yourself to be the best man you can be or are you going to settle for something less?

So as you walk away from football, you are going to miss more life lessons than you can ever imagine. As you quit football, leave your teammates, and leave me, I feel a little bad for you and will let you in on a little secret; what I wrote in italics, that’s what every decision in life is about.

A letter to my friend who asked for help as his son recently told him he is quitting football (and “focusing on lacrosse”)

Thanks for writing brother, I’m honored that you would think of me. I can’t really tell you what he should do. Most of the time I see a kid give up one sport to focus on another, it is a matter of the player taking the easy way. When that happens, it’s exactly what you said, the player stops challenging himself and therefore stops growing at the pace he once was. Kids look for the easy way. I’ve never had a kid drop lax to focus on football. Think about that for a minute. See what I mean?

Sometimes kids say they need to drop one sport so they can get better at the other. That is so untrue. It’s not like they are going to play lax every day in the fall. At best, they will play twice a week. If they stay in football, I give them Sundays off in the fall and they can play lax on Sunday. What are they really giving up if they stick with football? Maybe 10 days of lax. If they quit, they miss out on all the lessons from football. One of the reasons us football guys learn so much is the challenge we face each practice and game. We are simply put in more situations and more strenuous ones so we learn more. Every day, football challenges us in ways no other sport ever will. We become better men for it.

My heart aches for you because I know you can see what will happen. The kids who quit football and focus on hoops or baseball or lax simply get softer. Football toughens people up; without it they are simply not as physically and mentally tough as they could be. That toughness helps kids now and later in life. It’s sad but very true. Sometimes the kid or his parents can’t see it but I do. I know you do too.

Finally, a lot of kids quit after freshmen year because they are afraid. Becoming a sophomore player means more responsibility (weights, camps, expectations). Kids fear those things. They also fear competing in practice against the older kids. A ton of kids have this fear. These are areas that you might not think of. Maybe ask him if he was the biggest and strongest player on the team would he quit? Then tell him he will get bigger and stronger as a junior and sophomore and he has to pay his dues as a sophomore year in order to have great success his junior and senior year. Kids have a tough time realizing they have to pay their dues in order to succeed. For many, that lesson comes sophomore year in football. If they change their minds after skipping sophomore year, they are always still a year behind.

You shouldn’t avoid things because of fear. Isn’t it better to learn that lesson now? To learn how to get over fear in order to take on the challenges that make you the man you want to be?

I don’t know if any of this helps, but I hope it does. If I think of anything else I will let you know. Either way, he has a great dad and will be fine in the long run.

-B

Football/Lax Benefit One Another

Football and lax provide great crossover training. Both train speed and agility. Both have hitting. Both have great moves. Both have throwing and catching. Lax provides great training for football and football provides great training for lax. You will train harder for lax in a football practice each day than you ever will on your own.

Within the first five minutes of the Maryland/Loyola NCAA Lax Championship the television announcer mentioned 4 players in the game who were also great high school football players. Later he mentioned another. He also mentioned one who was a great high school wrestler.

Here is a link to a video which shows many great lax players who also played football.

Playing High School Football & Lacrosse Does Not Hold Anyone Back From Being a Great Lax Player!

In 2011, Duxbury High School won it’s second consecutive Eastern Mass Superbowl at Gillette Stadium. Seven Duxbury football players have been recruited to play lacrosse at Division 1 colleges in 2012. In the meantime Westfield High School still has kids who are “focusing on lacrosse” and “focusing on baseball” and ‘focusing on hockey” and ‘focusing on basketball” and will not come out for football. As far as I know, none of these “focus on _______” players have yet been offered spots at D1 schools. The only D1 players WHS has produced in the last decade have been football players and they all played more than one sport. Ask a college coach if he had a choice between two equal lax players, but one played football and one just played lax, I bet he would say he would take the kid who played football too. Coaches like players who challenge themselves. So do college admissions offices.

Duxbury seniors on the 2011 football team who will be playing college lacrosse in 2012 are, Max Randall (Dartmouth), Andrew Buron (Stony Brook), Henry Buonagurio (Drexel), Jay McDermott (Syracuse), Seamus Connelly (Duke), Matt O’Keefe (Johns Hopkins), Reilly Naton (Yale), and James Burke (Penn State).

Playing More Than One Sport At Westfield HS does not Hold Anyone Back From Being a Great Lax Player!

All of our best players, who have gone on to play in college have played more than one sport:

A. Cherry (hockey,lax) (played lax at Western New England)

T. Boersig (soccer, hockey, lax) (played lax at Citadel)

A. Liptak (soccer, lax) (played lax at RPI)

G. Kopeski (hockey, lax) (played lax at Bates)

JT Hoyt (football, lax) (played lax at Mount Ida)

N. McMahon (hockey, lax) (played lax at New England College)

The two leading scorers in the history of our program were football and lacrosse captains.

Athleticly they were remarkably similar. They both lifted weights for football. They both benched 250, squatted 350. I am certain that if you asked either one if playing football helped them become physically and mentally stronger, therefore helping them in lax, they would say yes.

J. Bard (football & lax)

T. Gaylord (football & lax)

The best two players on our team this past year played two sports:

M. Lacroix (soccer, lax)

E. Nassar (hockey, lax)

Look at the better lax players in recent history at other local schools who played other sports in addition to lax.

South Hadley-

Menard (hockey),

Marcus (basketball),

Gunther(football),

Delisio (Hockey), `

Sattler (hockey).

Chaug-

Tobin (hockey)

Lagdonovich (soccer)

East Longmeadow –

Setian (football),

Longmeadow-

Smith (football & basketball)

Sierra (football & basketball)

Sykourka (football)

Amherst-

Hawkins (football)

Jackson (football)

Piersley (football)

West Side-

Boss (football)

Gryzko (football & wrestling)

Line (football & wrestling)

Gagnon (football).

More than a few of those players from Westfield and elsewhere have been high school lax All-Americans.

Final Thoughts on The Man You Want to Become

Each of us has two distinct choices to make about what we will do with our lives. The first choice we can make is to be less than we have the capacity to be. To earn less. To have less. To read less and think less. To try less and discipline ourselves less. These are the choices that lead to an empty life. These are the choices that, once made, lead to a life of constant apprehension instead of a life of wondrous anticipation.

And the second choice? To do it all! To become all that we can possibly be. To read every book that we possibly can. To earn as much as we possibly can. To give and share as much as we possibly can. To strive and produce and accomplish as much as we possibly can. All of us have the choice.

To do or not to do. To be or not to be. To be all or to be less or to be nothing at all.

Like the tree, it would be a worthy challenge for us all to stretch upward and outward to the full measure of our capabilities. Why not do all that we can, every moment that we can, the best that we can, for as long as we can?

Our ultimate life objective should be to create as much as our talent and ability and desire will permit. To settle for doing less than we could do is to fail in this worthiest of undertakings.

Results are the best measurement of human progress. Not conversation. Not explanation. Not justification. Results! And if our results are less than our potential suggests that they should be, then we must strive to become more today than we were the day before. The greatest rewards are always reserved for those who bring great value to themselves and the world around them as a result of who and what they have become.”– Jim Rohn

From the Bombers Football Handbook:

What about other sports and extra- activities?

You are highly encouraged to play other sports. Playing other sports will allow you to grow both as an athlete and as a person. It will make sure you develop as a complete athlete. It will help you grow in character and competitiveness.

In the past years football players have been among the leading players on the basketball, hockey, baseball, lacrosse, wrestling and track teams. Some players have even joined the ski team or played for a local rugby club.

However, as stated above, you are expected to find a way to lift weights year round. You are also expected to participate in football related activities (fund raisers, weight room testing) whenever possible.

Many of our players are involved in other after school activities. However, we ask that football be given priority during the football season

In 2007 our team went to the Superbowl. Among the starters were a class president, a student council president, a class treasurer, the editor of the school newspaper, captains of the basketball, hockey and lacrosse teams, the ace reliever of the baseball team, and many honor roll students. Character wins off the field too!

We have had seven football players receive football related financial aid from colleges the last three years. All seven of those players played more than one sport. Unfortunately, “some people” will tell you that you need to focus on one sport. Before you do that, you might want to ask them how many scholarships their program has produced the last three years.

The football staff encourages you to play more than one sport and to take advantage of the many fine extracurricular opportunities WHS has to offer. This philosophy seems to be working out just fine.

Why should someone play football?

To become a special person A special person is someone unique, rare, and beyond the average.

There is no better game in the world for teaching young people about physical fitness, discipline, responsibility, accountability, punctuality, hard work, perseverance, teamwork and sportsmanship. The reason why football does this best is because it is the most physically, mentally and socially challenging sport. Those challenges inspire growth.

Football players are quite often among the most successful people in society because they have had the courage to face and conquer those challenges. Their reward is that they have learned important character lessons through football that many people may never learn. Hence football players become special people. The success football players enjoy later in life is not limited to just the big names from the NFL. In fact, seven of America’s last eighteen Presidents played football at either the high school or collegiate level! Other celebrities such as Chuck Norris, Ryan Seacrest, Ed Asner (Up), Sylvester Stallone, Kenny Chesney, Robin Williams, Tommy Lee Jones, Nelly, Allen Iverson, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Joe Maurer, all played football. While you may not want to be President, an actor, musician, or an NFL/NBA/MLB player, I can guarantee you that the lessons you learn on the gridiron will be of value to you the rest of your life as you work, raise a family and ultimately become someone special……..a man of character, with the mental toughness to be counted on in any situation.

Why play football for the Bombers?

Character and Success. The coaches are more concerned with your character than anything else. Those character words come to life in our program. You will learn the meaning of character and have it taught and reinforced daily. This program has been re-built on character. In 2001 the last two teams in the state football rankings were Westfield High School and Westfield Vocational High School. Both schools were also at the bottom of the Western Mass rankings and neither team had won a game. That pretty much made Westfield the worst football town in America. Since the current staff took over at WHS in 2002, WHS has become an annual contender for the post-season and one of the top teams in the Western Mass. rankings. Westfield has also appeared in two Superbowls (2007 & 2008)and is now regularly in the top half of all football programs in the state. Fun. While we work hard we also make sure to have some laughs along the way and you will certainly increase your amount of friends when you join our football family. Play for the Bombers and become someone special……..a man of character, with the mental toughness to be counted on in any situation.

Finally, here is a link to the first part of the Boys of Fall. There is just something about high school football. There is nothing else like it! More importantly, here is a link to the best video I have ever seen regarding quitting!

What do you tell yourself when you want to quit football (or anything else)? If you are a coach or parent what do you tell your kids (or those you lead) when they want to quit? I would love to hear from you.

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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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2 Responses to Character & Mental Toughness – Don’t Quit Football!

  1. Lorie Bowling says:

    I can not tell you how grateful I am to have found you!! My son is contemplating quitting football. He will be a senior in the fall. I love your advice, common sense and approach. I am quite sure you are a blessing to your team and frankly whoever crosses your path. It takes a village! I thank you for joining mine! 🙂

  2. Ronnie Sartors says:

    Just Googled across this, lol…some really great points…my son wanted to quit three weeks into his freshman year (this was 1992)…he wasn’t telling me, just the coach…coach called me up…I spoke sincerely and a bit passionately with my son that quitting was not an option…I could not let him quit what he had started…I told him that was the easy way out and could start a terrible life pattern…he hung in there through 4 years…his Jr year his team went all the way to the state semifinal championships…just think what he would have missed if he, or I if I had let him, quit.

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