Editor’s note: Scott Ford is the athletic director and head football coach at Elysian Fields ISD and a graduate of Marshall High School. He wrote this guest column to share some of his thoughts and lessons learned with the readers of the Marshall News Messenger.
As I’ve sat back the last several months in limbo, not being able to coach, I’ve really had time to reflect on a lot of things. If I’ve heard it once the last few months it seems as though I’ve heard it 100 times, “This world is crazy!”
In actuality the world in and of itself has not changed we are just in the middle of a social movement in which a lot of people have seized the opportunity to act crazy and break the law.
But I digress on that because that’s not what I want to talk about.
Most valuable lessons that young people learn or don’t learn growing up are learned where? That’s correct, in the home in which they grow up.
So what’s the definition of a house or a home? “A building for human habitation, especially one that is lived in by a family or small group of people” is one definition I found on google.
That’s close enough for me. It essentially means the place where you grew up. In these days especially, for more kids than not, it means the places you grow up.
When we were in school, every young man enrolled in football reported to the field house every single day.
It is by definition a house, so what do those young men learn throughout the span of a school year or school years?
One thing I learned was how to get somewhere on time.
Through 1985, 1986, and 1987 we sprinted to the field house every day at Marshall High School. There were precious few seconds to spare ,and if you were even one second late there was a fat, bald man, who I was sure was certifiably insane, standing at the door with a thick wooden paddle and he would bust you in the tail with it as you came in.
How hard did he swing it? Watch the home run Hank Aaron hit to break Babe Ruth’s home run record and that’s about how hard Coach Parker swung it.
Let’s say there were 187 days in a school year and remember we had to sprint to the field house every day, not just during the season. In three years, that’s 561 times I ran down there.
I was late once. I got busted with that paddle and was never ever late again.
I was on time 99.82% of the time. And you know what, everyone on the team was always on time also.
Did we agree with it or think it was fair at the time. Heck no, we thought he was crazy and mistreating us, but we appreciate it as adults that the coach cared enough about us to make us value every second we had together.
I’ve carried that with me and have always taken pride in being on time for any meeting, outing or appointment.
We learned that attitude is the most important attribute you can have. It is the number one factor in determining our success or failure when undertaking any project.
There is nothing more rotten for any team than members with a bad attitude. Attitude is more important than aptitude and will power can be more important than skill in competition.
What is attitude? Attitude in our field house is simply defined as ”what you think.” It’s important because what you do always comes after what you think.
Here’s the thing about attitude, you have to practice it every day! No one wakes up in a great mood every day.
The teenagers we coach all have problems of some sort that they are trying to deal with. Our rule is as you enter the doors of the field house, every problem for every member of our organization, whether it be player, coach, manager or filmer must be checked or dropped off at the door.
We start every workout with a specific message about clearing your mind and attacking the workout with a great attitude.
The idea is to ingrain in our players that life is not fair, we are owed nothing but an opportunity for success and achieving that starts with a positive mental attitude.
We teach goal setting in the field house. First you have to define and specify exactly what a goal is. A goal for us is “a vision with work.”
A lot of people visualize having the finer things in life but do not do or know how to do the work it takes to get those things.
A lot of people go to a job every day and work hard but they really have no vision, they’re just working to work and they are not happy.
I want our young men to learn the value of setting specific goals.
No one is allowed to say, “I’m gonna do my best.” Why? Because we can’t measure that on the day we attempt to achieve our goal. Every goal has to be specific and every goal must be written down so each young man sees it every day as a reminder of why he is doing what he is doing on a daily basis.
Whether they achieve every goal is really inconsequential as long as they have put the work in and followed the plan to achieve the goal.
When a player achieves a goal, there is a sense of accomplishment that his hard work paid off and the goal has real value. Then the challenge becomes setting another goal.
If a goal isn’t accomplished, there is a sense of disappointment which will be quickly followed by an assessment of why we didn’t reach the goal and formulating a renewed plan of how to achieve the goal the next time.
Goal setting ultimately teaches our players how to deal with success and failure and how to adequately handle both.
I could go on and on about other lessons learned in the field house, but I’ll cut to why it was in my heart to write this today.
I’ve been blessed as a player and coach to spend thousands of hours in field houses across the state of Texas. The towns include Marshall, Huntsville, Denton, Cleburne, Killeen, Leander, Los Fresnos, Joshua, Nacogdoches, Hidalgo, and finally Elysian Fields.
I think that’s about as diverse a list as you’ll see for a coach.
The greatest thing about the field house EVERYWHERE I’ve been is that those field house doors are the great equalizer. If you fail, there is no one there to baby you or feel sorry for you, only teammates to pick you up and coaches to help you fix it.
It does not matter whether you are black, white, brown, rich, poor, Baptist or Methodist.
It does not matter if you come from a two- or one-parent household or live with your grandparents.
It does not matter if you live on the east or west side.
It does not matter if your dad is the bank president or is on the side of a road digging a ditch.
The field house may be the only place that brings all those worlds together and unites them in a common cause to achieve goals much bigger than any individual, together as a team.
That house teaches us that every single person that’s a part of the organization has value and is important no matter how big or small his role, and it also teaches us that no one person, regardless of physical talent, is so important that the team can’t carry on without him.
It teaches us that individual sacrifices will have to be made for the overall good of the organization.
It teaches us that playing time and accolades are earned by what you do, not given or taken away by a social status or last name.
EVERYTHING any individual or team gets is earned through hard work and we take responsibility for our successes and failures.
As I look around our country, my wish for a lot of the people I see that seem so unhappy is that they could have spent some time in a Texas high school field house.