For a moment, I forgot where I was.
I know I was at a football practice, but as I listened to what the coach was saying to his team, I figured his team hadn’t won a game in years and probably wouldn’t have a chance against the team it was playing that week. You should have heard what the coach was telling the players.
"They don’t respect you."
"They think their offense is going to run up and down the field on our defense."
Then I looked around, saw the best team in Arizona the last two years and remembered: It’s all about motivation.
Coaches like Hamilton’s John Wrenn, whose disrespected team went on to beat Paradise Valley 41-0 that week, Mountain View’s Tom Joseph and Chaparral’s Ron Estabrook have a real battle on their hands some weeks. They have to get their team motivated to play against an opponent that is clearly and convincingly outmanned.
The players know they should roll over some teams, but it’s the coaches’ job to convince them it isn’t always that easy. Coaches will recall, as Wrenn does, the one occasion the underdog jumped up and bit his team. For Hamilton, the most recent example came last season vs. Highland. Wrenn has used that game as motivation for his team to not take anyone lightly.
But coaches get more creative at times. They might tell their players tall tales of an opponent’s prowess, mixing in "rumors" about what is being said by the other team.
This is called coachspeak, which in real terms means being outwardly cautious and respectful of the opponent, no matter how bad that opponent may be. Most people can’t always hear what a coach tells his team, but for those of us who follow high school football and talk to coaches on a regular basis, we can smell spin from a mile away. Here are some quick coachspeak to reality translations that you may read in this paper.
Coachspeak: "They have some good athletes." Reality: "Maybe one of their players would crack our starting lineup."
Coachspeak: "They are really well coached." Reality: "The coach is a college friend of mine and he begged me to go easy on them." And going along with that theme:
Coachspeak: "They run a very creative offensive scheme." Reality: "I gave their coach — my college friend — our old playbook."
Coachspeak: "Their defense can really make you onedimensional." Reality: "We’ll be ahead by so much, we’ll just run the ball the whole second half."
Coachspeak: "They play real hard, our guys could learn a lot from them." Reality: "No matter how hard they play, our guys are still going to beat them by 20."
Coachspeak: "It’s an intriguing matchup." Reality: "It’ll be intriguing to see how many points our second team scores."
And perhaps the most overused coaching phrase in existence: "We can’t overlook them." Which in reality means: "We are already getting ready for next week’s game."
So, next time you hear a coach handicap an opponent, read through the coachspeak and try to find the reality. It’s there if you just know how to translate it.