Professional and college coaches have to spend a lot of time talking to the media, and not always under the best of circumstances.
Sure, there are those post-win, glory-basking press conferences.. But for each of those, there are plenty more that involve a lot less celebration and a lot more “Coach, what went wrong today?”
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that, every now and again we’ll see a coach, well, letting off some steam.
Not only can these moments be incredibly entertaining, we can usually find a little more to take away from each one. So let’s enjoy some classic rants with some timeless lessons for any coach at any level.
Herm Edwards – “You play to win the game!”
Background: The day was Oct. 30, 2002, and things were not going well for Herm Edwards and his New York Jets. Their record sat at 2-5, they were coming off of an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, and it was time for Edwards’ weekly press conference.
It was there that a reporter asked Edwards if he was concerned about his team quitting on him after their dismal start.
Maybe he’d planned out the response ahead of time to send a message to his team, or maybe it was all just off the cuff, but either way, his response will live on forever in the annals of sports sound bites.
The Highlights: Edwards begins by reminding everyone that his players are professionals, and that professional athletes don’t have the option of quitting. That’s when he drops his now classic line:
“This is what’s great about sports. This is what the greatest thing about sports is. You play to win the game. Hello? You play to win the game.”
The Lesson: Obviously, Edwards was talking about professional athletes, not youth or amateur players, but the message that he’s conveying can apply to all athletes and coaches.
No matter how bleak things get, no matter how hard the climb looks, no matter how much the odds are stacked against you, do not ever quit. Go out there every day and give it your absolute best. Even if you still come up short, you’ll always know that you gave it your all.
And that goes double for coaches. You may end up not winning a game all year, but you can never allow yourself to just give up on your team. Be the example that your players need.
Mike Gundy – “I’m a man! I’m 40!”
Background: In 2007, a writer for an Oklahoma newspaper wrote an article criticizing an OSU quarterback, claiming that he had been demoted to second-string due to attitude problems.
That did not sit well with OSU head coach Mike Gundy, who felt that the player in question was being unfairly criticized and that the article was largely inaccurate. He decided that subtlety was not the answer, and went on a three minute rant against the writer of the article, the editor who printed it, and the media in general.
The Highlights: “Here’s all that kid did: he goes to class, he’s respectful to the media, he’s respectful to the public, and he’s a good kid. And he’s not a professional athlete, and he doesn’t deserve to be kicked when he’s down.”
And then near the end, he tells reporters who they should write about instead of his young players: “Come after me! I’m a man! I’m 40! I’m not a kid! Write something about me, or our coaches!”
The Lesson: The lesson to take from this one isn’t just that you should support your players. There’s a much deeper lesson here, and it specifically applies to youth coaches.
Youth sports, like sports at any level are competitive, plain and simple. And sometimes, when that competition starts to heat up, people may start top forget that the players are kids. They’re not professionals, and they’re not adults.
Not only is it important for coaches to remember that, but it’s important for coaches to remind others of that if they forget. Whether it’s a parent, or even another member of your coaching staff, it’s up to you to remind them who they’re dealing with, and what is and isn’t appropriate.
Jim Mora – “PLAYOFFS!?”
Background: Oh come on, you know this one. Everyone knows this one.
On Nov. 25, 2001, Jim Mora’s Colts suffered a horrific 40-21 loss to the 49ers, dropping their record on the season to 4-6. The loss on that day was due in no small part to five turnovers committed by the Colts offense, a fact that was not lost on Mora.
His postgame press conference that day has become the stuff of legend, going down as one of the best coach rants of all time.
The Highlights: “Do not blame that game on the defense, okay? I don’t care who you play, whether it’s a high school team, a junior college team, a college team, MUCH less an NFL team, when you turn the ball over five times…you ain’t gonna beat anybody I just talked about. Anybody.”
And then, after a reporter asked about his team’s chances in the playoffs, Mora dropped one of the best sound bites in the history of sports.
“PLAYOFFS? Don’t talk about playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.”
The lesson: There are actually two lessons here.
First of all, even when things are bad, give credit where it’s due. The VERY first thing Mora does is to make sure that his defense doesn’t take the blame for a situation that they had little to no control over, and doesn’t shy away from pointing out exactly where the problem was.
And not only that, but he does it forcefully and eloquently. No, seriously. He doesn’t launch into some profanity-laden tirade; he simply lays out the problem and tells it exactly like it is.
Second, and more importantly, never get ahead of yourself. Stay focused on the problem at hand, and worry about the next one when you get to it.
Or to put it in Mora’s own words: “PLAYOFFS?”
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