Thursday, February 8, 2018

Coaching the Colts

After a stunning display of what it looks like to live without integrity, the Indianapolis Colts (American football) are looking for a new head coach for the upcoming season. And you should know, I have expressed my interest in the position. 

But we'd have to do something radically new, and I've made that very clear.

Here's how this whole "coaching" thing too often works: you get a bunch of guys with a lot of knowledge about the game, and they put together a killer playbook of all the maneuvers they think are going to get them ahead in the game. Then, they go out and scout a bunch of players who are the best of the best at their respective positions, and they try to plug these guys into the scheme that they've developed. If a guy doesn't work so well, they bench him and replace him with another guy, always sticking to the playbook, always trying to make the best of their football minds work out and one-up the opponent. 

In the process, what happens is that the coaching staff - through offseason workouts, training camp, preseason practice scrimmages, and the regular season - make a bunch of football players out of their roster, cutting and signing along the way to strengthen their own schemes. 

That's not how I would coach these guys.

Because you see, I recognize that right there on the roster, we've got the best football minds. These guys are the best of the best at their positions for a reason. And if you're going to make a playbook for your football team, you ought to make it for your football team. That means you're going to need their help.

That means you have to sit down with these guys, individually and then by side of the ball. You've got to ask them, "What do you need to be the best (safety, wide receiver, lineman, etc.) that you can be? What do you need from the guys around you in order to excel at your position? What's going to make you the player we saw in you when we drafted you?" And you just go around and let every guy put his best forward, state what he needs, start thinking about how his teammates can help him achieve that. And then you draw up your plays around getting and giving the guys to one another so that by the end, guess what?

They've written the playbook.

They've told you how to maximize their skills. They've told you what they bring to the table and what they can bring to the table and how to get the best out of them. They've talked with one another and heard what each other has to say. And now, when they look at those plays, they don't see a bunch of X's and O's. What they see is their opportunity - on some plays, to be what their teammate needs them to be and on other plays, to have everything in place for them to be their very best. It's not just an arbitrary play that might work; it's a play with passion and purpose behind every shift and move. 

Some might say, how can you possibly think this would work? 

It's simple. I trust the guys who are the best of the best in their positions to be the experts on how they play football. I trust them to know what works for them, what they can give and what they can bring. And what we end up with is a playbook that probably doesn't work for any and every team in the league. But it works for this team. 

Because it's their playbook. 

And as a coach, it keeps me from having to decide who the best guy for the scheme is. Truth is, they're all the best guys. They've already shown that much. My job is to make them the best best guys they can be by building around them the pieces that they need to excel. We do this through open communication, through constant collaboration, and through having some good football minds in key places (assistant coaches, trainers, etc.) to put the framework around what we can and can't do for these guys. 

Then, we go out and win games. Not as well-trained, well-coached, run-of-the-mill athletes, not as Indianapolis Colts players, but as Colts, a team of guys wholly committed to one another on the most basic, intimate, heart-of-the-matter details. Right down to every X and O.

(You may wonder why I'm taking the time on a theology blog to talk about coaching a professional football team. Tomorrow, I'll tell you why. This is, although it may not seem it today, extremely important.)

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