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Four ways to turn boys into men

If every boy could hear what high school athletes heard at lunch today, they’d be better off for life.

Former Enterprise football coach Clay Erro gave a rousing keynote talk to basketball teams from Enterprise, Foothill, Shasta, Pleasant Valley, Union Mine, Eureka, Tracy and Placer, here for the Harlan Carter Tournament and assembled for a lunch at Simpson University.

Some of the Enterprise players and alums in the audience recognized the refrain that built a prep dynasty.

In asking them to think about the teams they’re building and the transition they’re making from boys to men, he asked: “What is more important, rules or relationships?”

He said that at this time of their lives and this stage of team-building, they might think rules are what keep order and structure.

But he advised them to think a little differently now than they have in the past, and to focus on the people in their lives.

“Relationships are the glue that holds together what you are building,” he said. “Follow the rules, but build relationships with your team, parents, teachers, coaches, friends and so on.”

He asked the audience to complete this sentence: “Rules are made to be … ?”

“Broken!” they rumbled.

“When you put something together, you follow the … ?”

“Instructions!” came the answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “Rules don’t build teams — instructions do.”

Erro said young people are given a lot of rules to follow but perhaps not enough instructions on how to build themselves and their teams and other relationships.

In a lifetime of coaching, he said, he gave players few rules (other than the goes-without-saying no-drugs-and-alcohol fundamentals) but four instructions.

1. “We,” not “me.”
In any group, team, family, marriage or other cooperative endeavor, it’s thinking about the people you’re with that makes a success. “You might think the three most important words are ‘I love you,’ but they’re not,” he said. “They got you into a relationship, but it’s “we, not me” that makes it go.”

2. No excuses.
“When you make excuses, learning and improvement stop. Looking for excuses means looking for answers beyond that which you can control. Boys avoid problems. Men face them.”

3. No messengers.
“Messengers are your mom, your dad, your girlfriend, a teammate, anyone who speaks for you. Don’t allow someone else to be your messenger. Messengers cloud and confuse the issue and prolong the problem. They hinder relationships. Even parents must allow you to make the transition to manhood and learn to speak for yourself.”

4. No sympathy groups.
“When one person is upset about his playing time or someone’s coaching style, he might go off and start trouble” with selected teammates. “Pretty soon you have a team within a team. Sympathy groups divide a team. Success requires you to be man enough to stand on your own. Sympathy groups lead to excuses and messengers, and those aren’t allowed, player to player or player to parent.

“Manhood doesn’t lie in the physical body,” he said. “Manhood is what lies in your body of knowledge.”

Players and teams enjoy positive benefits when they follow the four instructions, he said, because:

— They lead to manhood, and teams with the most men usually win.
— They lead to strength of character. “You can say I’m a man, and I know the difference between right and wrong.”
— They teach you to think on your own and take responsibility for your own actions.
— They allow you and your team to continue learning and improving relationships.
— They teach you and your team to deal with adversity, such as bad calls and bad breaks, which leads you to be able to play through those adversities, which leads to success.

“What was your best Christmas ever?” he said he has asked players over the years, usually hearing back what gifts they received. Sometimes a player will ask him what his best Christmas was, and he answers, “Thirteen years ago, when I stayed up most of the night putting a bike with training wheels together for my daughter.”

“When you realize that giving is better than getting, and you learn to give to the team rather than worrying about ‘my playing time’ or ‘my needs,’ then you will know you are on the road to manhood.”

That kind of coaching — and living — must be the main reason why Coach Clay Erro had the best percentage in the history of the Northern Section, winning three section football titles in six appearances over 10 years before retiring after the 2002 season.
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