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Two Pains...The pain of discipline and regret...you choose.

Posted Saturday, July 23, 2005 by Bill Curry

The following is an article written by Bill Curry, ESPN football analyst and former head coach at Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Kentucky. He is one of the best at putting into words what the game of football is all about. This article really says what the game means to the coaching staff here at Wallkill. The article is a little long, but it is worth the time. Let us know what you think.

There are two pains in life?the pain of discipline and regret?you choose.

By Bill Curry, ESPN Football Analyst & Former College Head Coach

Last football season marked my 50th consecutive year of fulltime football. Twenty years as a player, 22 years coaching, and eight in the broadcast booth have passed so rapidly that I have a hard time believing it. I would not have missed a season for anything in the world. Well, maybe a contract with the New York Yankees, but I had a bit of talent problem in that sport.

I have always loved country song titles. One of my all time favorites was popular (briefly) in the mid 70s. I think the title was "Bony Fingers" and the lyrics went something like, ?Work yore fingers to the bone, whatta ya git? Bony fingers?Bony fingers.?

When I think of football coaches in 2005, I can?t help think of that song. It feels like the harder our coach?s work; the less our society appreciates us. We seem to have a lot of bony fingers out there. Front-page stories of parents on the rampage, insane fans, drug abuse, fiscal irresponsibility, academic scandal, Title IX interpretation, state budget cuts, BCS controversy, congressional oversight and a host of other distractions can make it seem that our sport is under attack. That may be true, but in the context of our responsibility, it just does not matter. No matter how bony our fingers get, we still have a job to do. That goes for all of us. That goes for the administrators, boosters, parents, writers and everybody else who claims to lover our great sport.

There are two pains in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. You choose, I choose, every day. Good football teams and real football leaders choose well, especially when adversity strikes, especially when everybody is tired, when everybody wants to quit. The fourth quarter of our sport has trained more decent, hard-nosed people than any other discipline I know. Everybody in town, maybe everybody on national television is watching, and if we want to play, we have to choose well, again and again. Where else is that happening in our culture? What other segments of our society is turning out leaders that are accustomed to being responsible and unselfish? Every young person that is part of a football program is the kid that is not watching television, making bombs in the garage, or hitting the streets in afternoons.

Our mission as the caretakers of football is to create a community, and to instruct leaders. A community is a group of people who love and accept each other regardless of differences. A leader is a consistent, powerful, positive presence, which takes responsibility for his or her performance, and for that of his or her unit. I have never seen a good football team that did not have a ton of both.

We have the only sport in which every player needs every teammate on every play just to survive. In that huddle on weekends each fall in every conceivable kind of person. There are black America, white America, liberal and conservative, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. We have inner city people with country folks. What football coaches supervise is unique. I call it the "miracle of team," because young people who have been raised to hate each other learn to get along. They learn because they have no choice. Great coaches show them, teach them, rep them until their habits are changed. They discover that sweat smells just about the same on everybody. They learn that in the football huddle, differences don?t count.

In time, they learn to love each other. They become brothers for life. And yes, we as coaches have our lives changed too, because it is impossible to hang on to our prejudices when a child just wants to be coached. The Huddle is a metaphor for our nation. It is what the United States is supposed to be in its best expression.

What matters to us are not the attackers. What matters are the players. What do they learn? What do they see when they watch us? What kind of teammates are they? How do they do as husbands and fathers? What manner of leaders will they become? Like it or not, they will be like us, especially the coaches. They may occasionally emulate a famous player or a broadcaster, but mostly they will do what their coaches love out before them. I did not say they would do what we tell them; I said they will be like us. How the coaches respond to these difficult times will have a huge impact on the players.

Grant Teaff reminds us again and again. We should all be listening and responding to him. Our job is to teach and live that which is best for our young people and for our sport. It is a sacred trust, and now is not the time to be deterred by anything.

I want to encourage you to keep your focus on your players. Every young person is precious and important. It I bring anything special to this forum, it is the fact that I got to work for some of the greatest coaches and athletic directors of all time. I was allowed to be in the huddle with Bart Starr, Willie Davis, John Unitas, and John Mackey. That is not important. What is important is that great leaders? virtues be remembered and taught. I am constantly asked, what was Vince Lombardi really like, or how could Bobby Dodd do what he did at Georgia Tech? Was Don Shula really brilliant when he was so young? Why was Homer Rice able to rescue Georgia Tech athletics in the early 80s? Nobody asks about my high school coach. He was Bill Badgett of College Park, Ga. Without him, I would never have met any of the others.

There are nine names written above. I am writing a book about them and others now, entitled, ?The Huddle-Why Football Matters.? Every morning I wake up excited. I feel like a player again because I remember by mentors and teammates, recording our stories. I am coached again by their powerful principles. Can you imagine that? When I look at a picture of Coach Badgett in my high school annual from 1957, I still get butterflies. Over and over he said, "Men, football is just life marked off in 100 yards." We might have snickered when we were 16, but we just nod and remember now. We are some grateful to him. Coach was right. How many us did he touch? Thousands. How many will you touch? How do you wish to be remembered?

There are two pains in life...the pain of discipline and regret...you choose.

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