I teach my players that God has placed a Warrior Heart in them and it’s my job, with the help of the sport of football, to strengthen that Warrior heart so that it’s strong when they need it later in life to withstand the struggles of life.
Me to the team: When a boy learns how to ride a bike and they get a little confidence in their ability to ride what happens next? They see how fast they can go and then they race their buddies. When that’s not fast enough, they find the biggest hill they can to ride down and go even faster. Next they build a ramp to jump the bike in the air. When a girl gets a bike, she rides to her friend’s house to play. It’s a useful tool for her where for the boy it’s all about the bike and making it more challenging, competitive and fun. This is just one proof of the Warrior Heart within. There are many more.
For us coaches, how do we tap into this desire the boys have and satisfy it with our practices and the way we approach the game? Well, we do have an inside track. We were boys once so we need to think back on this and use our “inside info” and apply it to our team.
Some of the things I have done:
Every practice and before each game we start with our team chant:
Coach- “Good Evening Warriors!” Boys- “Good Evening Coach!”
Coach- “What’s our job?” Boys- “To Love Us”
Coach- “What’s your job?” Boys- “To Love each other”
Coach- “What are we doing here tonight?” Boys- “Preparing for Battle Sir!”
After our chant, we get close together in a sort of a circle with our arms out and around someone near us then we say a prayer. I say each sentence and the boys repeat it. After the last sentence, I pray a normal evening practice or game prayer.
Prayer -The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name. God created me in his image. I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me. Thank you Lord for giving me a Warrior Heart.
The Warrior Heart idea came from John Eldredge’s “The Way of the Wild Heart” book. The prayer reinforces the idea. Exodus 15:3 is The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name. Genesis 1:27(b) is God created me (man) in his image. If God is a warrior and I am made in his image then I carry the Image of the Warrior God within me. Pretty powerful stuff when you think about it. The boys hear this every night and they believe it and buy in.
One note here; you, as a coach, have to sincerely believe in everything you teach or the boys will sniff out the insincerity and you’ll lose them. I sincerely believe what I teach is real and tangible. A transactional coach cannot fake this stuff and have it work. You have to be a transformational coach and be fully bought in yourself for it to work. Do not try to go beyond where your heart will let you.
I have specially made T-shirts with a Warrior Heart logo on the back that I and a friend designed. On the front, it says “I have a Warrior Heart”. These shirts have to be earned. Not everybody gets one. I have to see your Warrior Heart in action. I determine when and where that happened. These shirts are highly prized by my players.
We also do a fun drill every night. This is to satisfy the heart of the boy and prove to them that I value them above winning a game and trying to grind them into purely a performance machine to glorify me and satisfy my ego. We play Sumo, Hurricane, Run thru the Jungle, Sword fight, Deer Hunter to name a few. These games do also serve another purpose. It puts them on a stage and makes them perform in front of others while being competitive. It also reinforces the idea that you only get one shot at each play in a game. You win or lose on every play. In most of our games, winner stays on.
Remember that I design practice for the heart of a 12 yr old boy. Not to entertain the parents or myself. I have had parents tell me that my practices are boring for them to watch because they like to watch scrimmages. I told them practice wasn’t for their entertainment and what were the results they saw in the team at gametime. They agreed that it works.
Another thing I do is that the players that lead the group in the very few calisthenics we do are the first ones to finish the warmup lap. Most teams put their captains up there no matter their effort. You can be the smallest and youngest on my team and lead these exercises if you’re willing to hustle. Willingness to compete develops the Warrior Heart and we start competing at the start of practice.