Vince Lombardi, best known for building a dynasty at Green Bay, had many quotable moments. Most people think he said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Actually, he said, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.”
The one quote I really like is, “Act like you’ve been there.” That’s enough for me, although he did say, “Once you get in the end zone, act like you’ve been there.”
I used that line once with my women’s basketball team. We were playing in the NAIA National Tournament. We were playing a 37 – 0 team, a team that had beaten my Doane College women’s team by 25 points a month earlier.
With seven seconds left, we had a five-point lead. I called a time-out to make sure we didn’t foul. As an after-thought, I told them to walk out of the gym like we expected to win.
The team was barely able to hide their joy of pulling off the huge upset. My sophomore point guard asked me on the way to the locker room if we were going to church the next day, which was Sunday. I told her we would go if she wanted to. She whispered in my ear that she wanted to attend church because, “I made some promises.”
That brings me to my greatest irritation in sports. The athletes that do one play well, then act like they had just won the championship. Football provides this behavior more than other sports. It isn’t uncommon to see a defender get a sack, but his team trails by two touchdowns. That player jumps to his feet and beats his chest making sure everyone knows who had the sack. Definitely not “Acting like you’ve been there.”
However, my biggest irritation is players who play cheerleader. Again, football is the biggest culprit. Just look at the sideline before a big third down play. The entire bench is demanding noise from the crowd. Even the recruits get in on the act.
I yell as much as the next fan, but I don’t want to be told to stand and yell every time the team faces a big third down play. I think the players should study the game, the situations, and how to perform in that situation rather than be a cheerleader.
Colleges pay a lot of money for their cheerleaders to be in shape, organized and performing to perfection. Why would the crowd need anything more help with their enthusiasm? I have to admit that sometimes those cheerleaders can be an irritant.
I noticed at many early women’s games, when the crowd is small, the cheerleaders even failed to stand during the school’s fight song. If you want the crowd to respond to your pleas, I think you should be good examples.
Don’t worry, coaches don’t escape my irritation list. High school and college coaches have a job to do. It’s a very hard job. If a coach wants to stand up and coach or sit down most of the time, I have no problem with it. It’s the youth coaches that drive me right up the irritation list.
I used to recruit a lot of youth tournaments. Some of those youth coaches tried to imitate their favorite coach. Not an imitation of coaching and teaching success, but how one should look and yell from the sidelines.
My favorite story of youth coaching gone wild came in a tournament I ran at Northwest to raise money for team travel. I was in Bearcat Arena when I get a call to hurry over to Martindale Gym and bring campus security. I knew that was a fifth-grade boy’s game, so how bad could it be?
When I arrived, the coach was in the gym. He told me the horrible officials had kicked him out of the gym, but he refused to go. I thought maybe I had inexperienced officials on the game, but in truth it was a MIAA official from St. Joseph.
He absolutely wouldn’t leave until I motioned to the campus safety officer that had followed me to the gym. The game had barely started back up when that same official had to kick the team’s official scorer out of the gym. It turned out to be the coach’s wife. The only member of the family left in the gym was the fifth-grade player.
That’s by far not the worse coaches at my youth tournaments. I had a coach that looked more like a gang member than a coach get a technical with two seconds left and the game tied.
I’ve had rich kids from a private school get six technical fouls in a single game. The official that handed out the technical was also a college official. It was the players that got all six technical.
The worse happened to Austin Meyer. The new women’s coach at Northwest was officiating a high school game that went into double overtime. He made a correct call on a three or two-point field goal. The coach just wouldn’t let it go and cost his team the win by getting a technical. He wasn’t finished just yet. He told Austin he was going to his car to get a gun from the glove compartment.
I love sports and the athletes that give it their absolute best. I even think the well thought out endzone celebrations in the NFL are funny and not a bad thing. However, I’m pretty sure Vince Lombardi is looking down thinking, “In the end zone act like you’ve been there.”