The Power of The Pat on the Back

Motivating men is not all that difficult. You just need to know three methods: pat on the back, arm around the shoulder or a kick in the butt. 

A pat on the back is encouragement. It’s the coach congratulating as you come to the sideline or even better it’s the coach calling your name to get in the game.The coach knows you can play, he just has to convince you that you can play.

An arm around the shoulder is motivating by teaching. This is the coach pulling you aside in the middle of a scrimmage to teach you the key you missed on defense. You were supposed to drop off into coverage if the strength of the formation was away from you. The coach knows the mistake wasn’t a lack of effort it was a lack of knowledge.

A kick in the butt is motivation by telling you to get off your lazy ass and play. The coach knows you know what to do on the play and he knows you can do it, the reason you missed your block was a lack of effort. And coaches hate lack of effort. It’s the one factor every guy has full control over. There’s no excuse for it.

But I want to talk about the power of the pat on the back. 

I played football from the time I was 8 years old until I graduated from high school. I think that works out to playing on 8 teams and for 21 coaches. So i’ve got a good sample size to evaulate coaches and their methods. 

This was in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when coaches weren’t reading books on how to identify their player’s ideal individual learning/motivation style. Personality tests weren’t really a thing back then. Motivation was a one size fits all deal determined by the coach’s personality. 

Most of the coaches I played for were old school, kick in the butt motivators, combined with a small bit of teaching. Except for the QB’s, they never got yelled out. Bunch of prima donna’s. But I’m not bitter or anything. My coaches weren’t bad guys, it’s all they knew. 

The good news is the last group of coaches I played for understood pat on the back, arm around the shoulder or kick in the butt. I got a steady diet of all three. But one coach in particular figured out I was a pat on the back kind of player. I loved playing for Coach Young. He always seemed to know when I needed a word of encouragement. It was a never a big deal, just a word or two. 

The time I’ll never forget was during fall practice. I had transferred to a new high school that played in a bigger classification than I had been playing in. It was a bigger adjustment than I expected. The speed and size of the players was way more than I had seen before. 

One afternoon we were in the middle of a full speed scrimmage. 1’s vs 2’s. I was part of the 2’s on defense. We were holding our own pretty well against the 1’s and the hitting was fierce. Coach Young pulled me out for a play and while never looking at me said “you might play a little if hell don’t freeze over.” 

Boom! That’s all I needed to hear. Coach Young believes in me. It made such an impact on me I’m writing about it 35 years later.

That’s the power of the pat on the back. 

Who do you know who could use a pat on the back?

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The Power of The Pat on the Back

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