The POISON lesson

This lesson started in 2008. I had a few players that had grown up very close to each other and they picked on and fought with one another like they were brothers. Their feuding also bled over into the rest of the team with detrimental results. The POISON lesson is what I came up with to teach them what they were doing to the team.


I got a large clear bottle of water and filled it two-thirds full. (An empty 2 liter bottle works well for this) I also had a smaller bottle of clear water and small bottle of green food coloring. I held up the big bottle and explained that this was the “team spirit” that we all drank from. We had no choice. I took a drink.  I hear the running back coming back to the huddle saying “nice hole line, way to go”. I poured some of the water from the smaller bottle into the larger and said that adds to the team spirit. Getting up from a tackle, one of the teammates pats the other on the back and says “nice hit”. A little more spirit goes into the bottle. “Sorry guys. I missed my block, I promise to get him next time”, a little more spirit goes in. As long as we’re complimenting each other and helping each other, we add to the positive team spirit. Now… “How come Joey got to carry the ball three times in row and I didn’t?” POISON!!…in goes a drop of the food coloring. Wait…. watch it go throughout the clear water tainting all of it. “I don’t like the running back who’s carrying the ball on this play so I’m not going to block.” POISON!!… in goes another green drop. Swish it around, watch it mix up. “Coach doesn’t like me like as much as he likes you.” POISON….in goes another drop. Swish it around. By now the water is about the color of Mountain Dew. I take a drink, reminding them that this is still the team spirit. I hold my stomach and tell them. I don’t feel so good. I decide that I’m not going to block hard on the next play because Johnny didn’t hustle on the last play so I shouldn’t have to either. Nobody else cares about this stupid team so I don’t either. Down goes the attitude on the team.


Boys, do you see how this kind of POISON spreads to the whole team? Heads nod. Do you see what I’m getting at? Heads nod. You have to ask yourself; with everything I do in a practice or in a game, am I putting more good positive spirit into the team or am I the POISON?


I shared this lesson around 2009 on the internet so it may not be new to you. Dave Cisar shares it in his newsletter.


I now extend this lesson (minus the visual effects) to my player’s parents during our parents meeting. They need to understand that they can poison the team as well by badmouthing the coaches all the way to and from practice. How is a boy going to listen to me if he doesn’t respect me? They contribute to the team spirit for good or bad but they don’t realize it.

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