Monday, October 4, 2010

Yelling vs. The Blues

Ever heard the phrase, "If you're not mad you're not paying attention."?  I think I would like to change it to, "If you're not inspired, then you're not paying attention."  Today I was inspired by a pretty talented cross country coach. 

With two weeks to go before the end of the cross country season, and with the workouts increasing in difficulty it is not unusual for some of the cross country athletes to start coming up with excuses to miss the tough workouts. 

Coaches don't like it when players miss practice in any sport.  Period.  So when the Le Sueur Giants cross country team started missing some athletes last week, the head coach noticed.  He mentioned to me that he had a plan to "rile up the team" come Monday's workout.  He didn't tell me his plan.

Flashback to 1992:
I'm a high school freshman on the junior varsity basketball team.  The coach, Brian Wierke.  The man knew basketball, and was a recent college graduate from Bemidji State University.  While there he was a four year college basketball letter winner and was captain of the team.  I immediately liked him.  He taught me more about basketball than any of my other coaches.  He was a yeller, and when we didn't play well - he let us know about it.   We were horrible, so he yelled a lot.  He once said that if he stopped yelling, that was a sign that he stopped caring.  That stuck with me.

Fast forward 18 years to Monday's workout:
When the cross country coach told me he was going to "rile up the team" I wasn't sure what he was going to say, I was expecting the inevitable.  Fireworks.  He was going to let them have it.  I knew that for sure.  He cares for the kids on the team as if they are his own sons and daughters, and like coach Wierke said, if the coach stops yelling, he stops caring.

It's now 3:15.  While the cross country team is warming up, the coach solemnly sits on the bench.  He doesn't say a word.  He pays no attention to the team.  When the team is finished warming up he calls them over and has them take a seat on the ground.

A few moments of silence pass... and visions of a Hitler like rampage are running through my head.  (For an example go here ).  

Then he spoke, "This time of year, in any sport, kids start to lose interest.  Last week there were a lot less runners on Thursday than there was on Monday, and for Saturdays workout only a couple of you showed up.  I sometimes forget that not everyone has the same passion for running that I do."

He paused.  Turned his hat backwards, put on sunglasses, and from his backpack he took out...
a harmonica.  And started to sing:  "The cross country blues!"  A humorous song that brought smiles to all the kids faces and encouraged them to run strong and to run for each other - the cornerstones of the cross country team.  He also sang of how fast the season flies by, and to appreciate each day together.  He had spent the whole weekend writing the music and lyrics.   It was awesome!

Now you tell me which method is more powerful, yelling or "The Blues"?  Today I learned a valuable lesson, that you can accomplish more by building up students, then by yelling. 

Thanks Coach!

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