Convos With My 2 Year Old Season 2 Episode 5 Preconceived Notions Are Your Enemy In Pee Wee Football

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Preconceived Notions Are Your Enemy In Pee Wee Football

Preconceived Notions

We all seem to have preconceived notions about people, places and things based on the information we have been exposed to or often based on the point of view of those in our immediate environment. In youth football, I can’t count how many times I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the play and actions of teams and coaches. Quite often the reputation of these Pee Wee teams and coaches was a product of others, just the aggregated frustration and greed of other youth coaches, nothing more than just sour grapes. Unfortunately in the world of youth soccer coaching, these impressions and attitudes are spread, widespread and often WRONG.

Be Open Minded

When coaching Pee Wee football, I try to go into these situations with an open mind and a soft heart and let the other team and coaches prove me wrong. One of the most disliked and misunderstood coaches in two different leagues my teams competed in actually became a trusted friend and confidant. His organization went out of their way to treat us well and in turn we went out of our way to do the same for them. Now our organizations enjoy a strong but respectful rivalry and we look forward to playing each other every year for the right reasons. Would we feel the same if we listened to others and came into the game with one toe in the water? Probably not.

Huge Mistake

Unfortunately, I also give in to making judgments about people I know little about and in many cases these judgments are 100% wrong. I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel last weekend at the Clinic of Champions in

Reno, Nevada. Coach Neuheisel gave a very sharp presentation on his version of the 2-minute offense and how UCLA will drill it this fall. I knew of Coach from his days at Colorado, his Buffaloes were always a big game when my beloved Cornhuskers were on their schedule. Of course Coach Neuheisels unorthodox West Coast “outbound” attitude was diametrically opposed to the Nebraska no-nonsense, blue collar, physical ground attack attitude. Coach was not a very popular man in these parts, the West Coast persona, passing attack, surfer persona and so on. Then there was the controversy at Washington University with NCAA Tourney Hoops, a pool, more bad publicity. For some reason, while no one here knew the guy, he was known as “Skippy” and the usually polite Nebraska fans seemed to enjoy ridiculing this man in the papers, on talk radio and in daily fan conversation.

While you can’t spend too much time with someone, you can feel that person a little in my opinion. Coach Neuheisel opened his presentation with some background, he didn’t talk about his 66-30 collegiate head coaching record or his championships, he talked about some humbling moments he had as a player and how we could relate that to our teams and kids. I didn’t know Coach went on at UCLA as a very small quarterback who was number 24X as a freshman. X meant you were a duplicate number and would probably never fit or get into a game. Number 24 by the way that year was Freeman McNeil, so obviously they didn’t think coach N would get on the field. In those days they didn’t redshirt freshmen at UCLA. Fortunately for coach, one of the other freshmen was homesick and quit, so Coach got this number of players, #20. Coach N was never in the game program that year, in fact the other kid left so late that Coach N was known by the name of the original number 20, not his own, because the game programs were already printed.

UCLA and Coach Neueheisel

As the season progressed, UCLA had a very bad season and the coaches tried to get a spark on special teams. The coaches offered an opportunity to anyone who would volunteer to play special teams. Coach N volunteered to play and to his surprise the UCLA coaches assigned him to the kick return team where his job was to block L4 on a trap type block. At just over 195 lbs. A coach had to block other teams linebackers who weighed 230-250 running full speed with malice in their hearts on their kick coverage teams. Coach had some very self-deprecating stories to tell including one where he was knocked unconscious and his face mask was broken during one of these comebacks. He didn’t tell it to brag, but to teach and make a little fun of himself. A quarterback playing special teams as a designated blocker, that impressed me. He never mentioned his Rose Bowl win at UCLA or his Rose Bowl MVP award, nothing like that.

In the post-session mixer in the Speakers Suite, Coach Neuheisel couldn’t have been more different than what I imagined. He was shy, warm, not outgoing at all, friendly, humble and very willing to offer help and guidance to anyone who asked, even a lowly Pee Wee football coach like me. He went out of his way to offer support and appreciation for what youth coaches do for the game of football. He looked you in the eye, gave you a firm handshake and listened intently to what you said, asking great questions and asking for clarification along the way. I came away from that experience with a much different opinion of coach Neuheisel. He had absolutely nothing to gain by spending time with a Nebraska youth coach, none of my kids are being recruited by UCLA and I am certainly not a donor to UCLA.

Lesson learned

Walking back to my room I felt a little ashamed of judging someone so wrongly without the benefit of more information or personal experience. I sure hope I’ve learned my lesson because my bias has so often been so wrong and it’s inconsistent with how I want my own kids or players to act. I had the same experience with High School Coach Steve Calande from Pennsylvania, I was 200% wrong about him too and now we are fast friends. My opinion changed after finally meeting him at a Coaches Clinic in Pennsylvania in 2002. The moral of the story is to make your own decisions about people, including players, youth football coaches and parents. Keep an open mind and they might surprise you.

I myself have been on the other side of those situations. I can’t count how many times guys have come up to me after a clinic and told me that while they were looking forward to hearing me speak, I was much different (in a positive way) than they expected. I am by no means a win Pee Wee football coach in any way shape or form. Our premise is: you can win, have fun, play kids, be a great sport and also teach great fundamentals, they are not mutually exclusive goals.

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