Updated: Jan 2
As we all know, there often is incredible wisdom in song lyrics. The ability to put real life experiences, feelings, values, etc. into lyrics and then put it to music has always amazed me. I believe the talent to write great music of any kind is a gift. I love Billy Joel's music and love watching him perform. He appears to be a passionate man that makes a living doing what he truly loves! In his song "Keeping the Faith" Joel sings about lessons learned from his life experiences as a younger man. Having read a great deal of posts on social media regarding summer expectations for high school football players coupled with my age, the lyrics of this song came to mind.
I have seen several social media threads this summer with coaches weighing in on the schedule that high school athletes and coaches are expected to keep. I have seen questions asked like "When are kids supposed to be kids?" and "How are coaches supposed to have a life outside of football?" when suggesting that the expectations of summer work are too much. As I get older I realize that there are very few right or wrong answers to anything...mostly just answers. Many times in regards to leadership, answers change and are moving targets. My time in the business world helped me understand that a great answer this year may be the wrong answer next year. I also learned that excellence is rare because of the commitment that is required to achieve it. I learned to appreciate and embrace change as a means to achieve excellence and I've always known that a high performing environment is NEVER a place of comfort.
There is no doubt that most high school football programs have incredible expectations of players and coaches all year. Since the summer is a time where there is no school, there is a level of planning and preparation that may not be present during the school year. When compared to the schedule "normal" high school students and classroom teachers keep it is easy to see the more structured expectations. The posts I have read point out that players and coaches are now expected to be at daily workouts, 7 on 7 tournaments, meetings, camps, etc. Clearly, there is a lot expected regarding physical, mental, and social commitment by most schools in the summer. Then there is the issue for multi-sport athletes having similar expectations in those other sports as well.
I can not speak to any other states but I know in Oklahoma a clear standard of excellence has been set by many schools. The highest performing programs (which we consider ourselves) in our state have highly structured strength and conditioning programs all summer that are supervised by highly trained professionals. Most schools provide at least one free meal to the student-athletes participating in those workouts. They all take advantage of competition opportunities during the summer in 7 on 7 tournaments. The teams are coached by the high school coaches that coach the players in the fall. Players participate in 7 on 7 leagues during the week where they are again coached by their school coaches. Players have clearly calendered expectations to be a part of these activities. A rough estimate would be that players have expectations of roughly 8-10 hours per week of football related activities. There is also 2-3 days of tournament 7 on 7 play which would only involve offensive and defensive skilled players. Coaches at our school spend about 4 hours per day (4 days per week) at workouts because we split our players into 2 groups. Most schools pay coaches a small stipend for the summer expectations. We coordinate expectations for multi-sport athletes, always allowing for them to be in camps and team activities with their second/third sports. All of our summer activities are scheduled with 3 "dead" weeks where our players and coaches do not have any expectations. A few things I would say about our summer expectations:
Our players love the 7 on 7 tournaments. They love to compete and be with their teammates.
The level of training our players get is first class.
Our players are completely finished with workouts by 9:30 am everyday.
We win a bunch of games.
I make WAY more than I did in 1986!
I started coaching high school football in 1986. I have no idea what everybody in the state was doing in the summers because there were NO rules regulating summer work. I can tell you what the expectations for our players were though. Players were expected to be "in the weight room" every day. We posted a Bigger, Faster, Stronger workout on the wall and provided a small amount of technical coaching. The weight room was open from 8 until noon. We then brought them back at night for conditioning where we ran 110's or 40's. The QB's and WR's had the expectation to throw on Wednesday nights. We did this all summer but there were no opportunities to develop in competition. Expectations for players was a commitment of about 15-20 hours per week. Coordinating with other sports meant that the gym was open at 1:00 pm for basketball players, and baseball players played American Legion Baseball at night. We had no "dead weeks." As for coaches, as soon as the weight room closed we were responsible for watering and mowing the football field. Spraying weeds, dieseling lines, and picking rocks were also part of field maintenance. As for summer stipend....NOPE! 4 things I would add to 1986:
We were a very rural school. Either just before they came to the weight room or as soon as our players left, they all worked hauling hay or in chicken houses.
We won a bunch of games.
We had "Culture" and didn't even know it was a thing. Players and Coaches worked hard together and developed an attitude of excellence.
None of us knew it was hard. It was just what we did and we loved it.
I heard legendary coach Frank Broyles speak at a clinic once on why he loved being a football coach and how special it is to be the family of a football coach. He talked about the expectations on coaches and their families. The sacrifice of time, the long hours, the fussy parents, etc. can never diminish the thrill of watching a young man have success as a result of his hard work and your leadership. I remember him talking about how fortunate he was to have had the opportunity to make a living pursuing his passion. He was proud of the example of hard work and commitment to excellence he had provided for his own kids. Just my opinion, I hope I never get to a place in coaching where I feel my family is suffering or I am having to spend too much time. I am honestly thrilled to get to go be a football coach everyday...the pay is the pay. Coaching pay is like my golf game. Someone's is better, someone's is worse...I just love to get to play.
There is no doubt that excellence comes with a high price tag but I will never believe that we are taking away our players' opportunity "to be a kid" with our summer expectations. I would argue that we are adding to the opportunity "to be a kid." Many of our players have real world adult size problems waiting for them as soon as they leave football each day. I may sound like the old guy that is talking about walking to school in the snow barefooted but as Billy Joel said "The good ole days weren't always good and tomorrow's not as bad as it seems." The expectations for players and coaches have changed in the summer for sure but so have the levels of commitment in resources by schools, state organizations, coaches asssociations, etc. Why would we not want to provide every opportunity imaginable for our players. As a coach, I can't imagine going more than a week or so without seeing our players. As a father of a player who came through our program, I am grateful for his experience (especially the summer expectations). I personally think we are much better today at all things football including the summers, and I'll be "Keeping the Faith" the game as well as the summer expectations will continue to evolve. I for one, will always see those expectations as a blessing!
You may wonder why the word "EXPECTATIONS" is in bold, italics, and underlined. I want to encourage you to read this again and substitute the word "OPPORTUNITIES" in place of expectations. I am also including the video of Billy Joel's "Keeping the Faith" for good measure.