Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pressure the Kids?

There is an interesting phenomenon going on at the University of Miami. The "old school" players are still very involved in the program. They visit campus, work out at the campus facilities and interestingly - they continually pressure the current crop of student-athletes to "uphold the reputation of the U". As a result, you get quotes like this from 18 year kids:

"We beat ourselves," said the running back, whose cousin Edgerrin starred at Miami. "This is tough to take for all of us. They're not used to losing here. We don't want to let everyone down."

Read that closely. "They" are not used to losing here. This is an 18 year old kid who happens to have a cousin that stars in the NFL. That was his quote after losing to GT Saturday. Does Javaris feel support or pressure as a result of Miami's past success? So where is the line of support versus pressure? Where is the gray area between - A) You are part of a tradition and something special, or B) You are part of something you BETTER live up to. When times are rough at Miami, like now, are the old school guys huddling around the current team and telling them - we're behind you. We're with you............. or are they saying - what's wrong with you guys? You're letting us down. You're tarnishing our rep. Where is the spirit of boys playing a game that someone must win and someone must lose - by definition?

Ok, before I go on, I don't want to be accused of being a hypocrit. I have to make the point that Miami doesn't own the distinction of this behavior. In fact, our own Georgia Tech YellowJackets see some of it. Check out this quote

The expectations on Crittenton, whose defensive prowess stands out for Hewitt, and Young, whom Hewitt said reminds him of Bosh not just on the court but as a person, too, are high.

There also seems to be Tech pride at stake. Former Yellow Jackets Jarrett Jack, James Forrest and Dennis Scott were using their influence with the team's returnees.

"I didn't even know that Dennis Scott had grabbed Mario West to work on his shooting and Jarrett Jack got on [the returning players' butts] a bit," Hewitt said. "It just let these guys know that it's not just their program, but everyone's. Last year affected a lot of people."

"Last year affected a lot of people"............... Did D-Scott, JJ and James Forrest help and rally around the guys in the right spirit? D-Scott helping Mario with his jumper is the right spirit. Remember Malcolm Mackey working with Luke Schenscher all summer prior to his junior / senior seasons early in the morning to help him develop his post game? That's the right spirit. I hope our legacy guys are all doing the same. I think the spirit here is the right kind of spirit.

I am not sure where the right line really exists. Where is it for you? On one hand, these are 18 year old kids. On the other hand they are learning life lessons - and they ARE part of a tradition. For me the answer is modeled in the relationship between father & son. Coach them, discipline them, teach them, but always walk away hugging them. Always walk away leaving no doubt that you love them.

To understand the job of leading 18 year olds, read this quote by Georgia Tech FG kicker Travis Bell:

"Coach Gailey came up to me after the game and just gave me a big hug, about a 15-second hug, and told me he was proud of me," Bell said. "That probably meant more to me than anything in a long time."

Now, that happened after a win. What are we doing with our kids when they lose? Are we putting our arms around them and saying "it's ok. You played your hardest and that's all you can do"?

Now, the media is just plain brutal. They don't know the meaning of love. They know the meaning of ratings, subscriptions, and clicks. Check out the kind of stuff that these kids have to read after their loss Saturday:

They made the shamed walk in silence on a gorgeous day for a funeral.

One by one, the University of Miami's football players dragged their beaten bodies slowly off the football field, into the tunnel, under all the cheering and heckling and noise. Some kept their heads down under the raining taunts. Some, such as safety Brandon Meriweather, picked their chins up long enough to reveal watery eyes. But each Hurricane went quietly, defeated in every way you measure these things, the scoreboard but a bright-light redundancy hanging above them guillotine-style.

A jubilant handful of Georgia Tech students streamed from the stands, weaving and sprinting around the march of weary and beaten Hurricanes, toward a happier place, because it still means something to beat a program that is excellent now in name only. But this sad walk was merely punctuation on a development that coach Larry Coker will soon likely pay for with his job:

Asking this limited offense to go on a long drive without a mistake is about as plausible as asking it to do so by spaceship.

Coaching? Adjustments? It isn't about that. No amount of scheming will help you when you keep going into gunfights with a handful of pebbles.

Well, hey, if the team is going to the media for support in tough times, that's probably like signing a deal with the devil. You're gonna pay.

I know I've rambled a bit on this post, but I just wonder behind the scenes the REAL messages that those kids at Miami are hearing. Are the old school guys actually helping or are they just throwing stones and puffing their chests? Where is the line for you?