What Coaching Grade 8 Football at My School Taught Me

What Coaching Grade 8 Football at My School Taught Me

In fall 2021my oldest son was going to start playing Grade 8 football at my old high school.  I had been coaching community football since he was 5 years old, but had not coached at the high school level since the late nineties.  I put in a request to be a volunteer offensive line coach and was given the opportunity.

This opportunity was especially special for me because the 2021 season would mark exactly 30 years to the date since I first stepped onto the same field to play Grade 8 football.  It brought back many great memories of coaches, teammates, practices, and games that I had enjoyed on that same field.  It also gave me time to reflect on those past 30 years.

Over 50 young men and coaches met on the field the first day.  Since training started before the school year, some of the boys did not know anyone on the field.  While others knew a few kids from elementary school; the majority were strangers playing a novel sport.  What brought them together was the opportunity to play football at this prestigious school.

The men awarded the task of coaching this team were volunteers like me, with full-time jobs outside the school and a few on-staff teachers.  Although we all had careers, families, and busy lives off the field, we all came together and dedicated the time to achieve a common goal.  During the day, we would find time to create practice and game plans, discuss strategies, all while fulfilling our other commitments. After work we would all rush to make it on time to practice. 

Initially, I wanted to coach because of the pride and gratitude I had for the school for putting me on the right path in life; it gave me an opportunity to show my gratitude and give back. I too wanted to provide positive guidance for the kids just like my coaches and teachers had done for me.  The opportunity to coach my son and some of his friends was exciting.  I loved sharing my knowledge and love for the game with the kids on the football field.

I worked hard on and off the field.  The kids relied on me to help them become the best players they could be, and this trust in me made me work harder.  I also knew that to become better players they must understand the importance of becoming better teammates. They must work hard not only for themselves but for their brothers who relied on them. Every time they stepped foot on that field as a team, they represented the school and its values. They represented the other students, staff, and the legacy left by the alumni, and former teachers and coaches. 

From the first day our experienced Head Coach had a plan in place.  He had detailed practice plans and led with positive enthusiasm.  The other coaches followed his lead fostering an environment of constant teaching, positivity, and high engagement from the boys. We focused on teaching the basics to build a solid foundation. Although this required a lot of daily repetition, once the team developed a solid foundation, we were able to introduce more complexity and other focus on other aspects of the game. 

One of the older teams was always practicing on the other half of the field.  They were going through the same routines with similarly enthusiastic coaches.  You would often see the boys looking over at the other side of the field with awe and excitement; seeing the potential to the be in their shoes one day. Additionally, it allowed them to observe the complexity of their plays and develop an appreciation for the time they must dedicate to practicing and honing their skills to achieve that level.

For months we committed to attending practices and games regardless of the weather. We were on the field on hot days, wet days, and cold days.  We had an exceptional group of players, and we were quite successful throughout the season.  As coaches we were fortunate to observe these strangers that met the first day become a team who motivated pushed each other on the field.  As the team improved it motivated us to be better coaches.  We spent more and more time watching game film and finding ways to improve the team, focusing on improving individual players and the team as a whole.

The season ended with us holding up the championship trophy. We had a successful season, not because we had the best, biggest players on the field; rather, we won because when we faced those players, we were able to work together and form the most cohesive team. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to observe the boys foster their bond and become a successful team. In the long run it is that experience and relationship building that will be remembered.  The championship was just a bonus.  I know that to be true because my team won the championship 30 years ago as well. Winning the championship is an amazing memory, but the relationships and importance of teamwork that I’ve carried with me for 30 years is even more special.

Coaching was such an amazing and rewarding experience, that I would do it again in a heartbeat; I found myself searching for other opportunities to recreate that feeling.  Then I realized that I am already doing it on a daily basis, without realizing it.  My team at Lotus Terminals shares so many similarities to a championship team.  I should be coaching it and leading it just like the football team.  I was already leading it, but coaching the Grade 8 team taught me I could transfer the skills I learned through coaching to help Lotus Terminals become stronger.

I have a group of individuals who recently joined Lotus Terminals.  All they knew about us was what they learned during the interview process, and online through our website and social media.  At first, maybe they just needed a way to support themselves financially and this seemed to be the best option, but I do hope they saw something else in us besides a way to get a pay cheque.  If they didn’t see it initially, I do hope that by being here they can realize we are more than just a pay cheque.

It is the role of the leadership and current employees to make new hires feel welcome and bring them into the team.  The current individuals need to believe in the team so they can radiate positivity.  It is my role to make my team believe that we are something beyond just providing exceptional transportation solutions to our customers.  I need to build a team who relies on each other which will make our service and commitment even more exceptional.  I owe it to these amazing individuals who come to Lotus Terminals to create this amazing team. 

We can achieve greater success working as a team than as individuals. We need to utilize each other’s strengths and encourage each other to achieve greatness.  We need to strive to coach each other as individuals and as a team continuously; to help each other realize the true power in working as a team.

As much as we want a new hire to come in and contribute fully from the first day they walk into the office, we need to slow down and work on the basics.  A plan must be in place to coach and provide opportunities for constant repetition to create a solid foundation.  Before introducing new and potentially more complex tasks, we must ensure they have a full understanding of the basics. Systematically building their confidence, while bringing them into the team through fostering positive relationships can ensure their success.

It is essential for the new hires to see what they will be able to accomplish one day.  The experienced personnel must make themselves available to coach and give the new hires a glimpse of what is possible when one continues to gain experience and work on their craft.  They must feel the passion from senior teammates.  Make them realize that even though they have been doing this for years, there is still excitement every day.  We can complain and be miserable, but the excitement and positivity come from within, knowing that your team needs you and they too will bring the same positivity and creativity for you.

Hopefully, I will get to coach the Grade 8 football team again, but I will continue to coach my team at Lotus Terminals with everything I learned working with the coaches and players from the 2021 Grade 8 Championship Season.

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