How do you motivate a team to win one game?
While the University Interscholastic League moves closer and closer to being an all-inclusive entity, the most significant change in high school football this season is the adding of a fourth district team to the playoffs in Class 3A and 2A, joining what 4A and 5A have been doing already.
Of course, being a graduate of the old school, I have made my feelings on the subject quite clear, but I will put my soapbox away for the time being.
Playoffs and all-district teams—if everybody makes it, what’s the point.
To me, it diminishes the value of winning a district championship, not to mention diluting the playoff pool.
It also eliminates first-round bye weeks for district champions.
I began to wonder, when basically all you have to do is win one game, how does a coach keep a team motivated to play week-after-week.
These kids are not stupid. If Rockdale beats Caldwell on November 8, they’re in—and vice-versa.
We have had a 1-9 team in the playoffs, Rio Vista, two years ago.
I also think about Caldwell three years ago. They were 8-0, ranked fifth in the state and had the football world by the tail.
Two losses later—including a season ending setback to Rockdale—and the Hornets sat out the playoffs at home.
If that happens this year, they’re playoff bound.
Coaches are divided on the subject, almost down the middle.
Rockdale’s opening night opponent Salado has a new coach in Brent Graham and he’s in favor of the move.
“I like it, I like the fact that kids that have been left out of the playoffs (in the past) will get to play another week of high school athletics,” Graham said, “and you never know what’s going to happen (once they’re there).” In our annual sit-down,
I posed the question to Tiger head man Jeff Miller and he actually broke it down into goal-oriented increments.
“You have to start from the very beginning and start being very clear with your goals,” he explained. “Even though, one of our goals is to make the playoffs, we put a lot more emphasis on finishing at the top of our district.
“We feel like that there is a certain urgency you have to put on certain games during the season. Obviously the Cameron game is one, that’s the one non-district that is really very important, the other four are those four district games.”
It seems to me that it would be so easy for kids to say, “well we lost, but we can still win next week and got to the playoffs.”
“We want to go 10-0 and I think our kids understand that and we’re going to go out there every week and prepare each week to try and win all 10 ball games.
“At the same time, as coaches, we have to put ourselves in position physically and mentally to play those five games.”
Used to be making the playoffs was the measure of success, without adding that fourth team and most coaches agree that some larger districts could use some relief.
“Obviously you have some of those 5A districts with eight or nine teams, that having four teams make it is pretty legitament, said Miller, who can tie Casey Creghan for most playoff appearances this season with six with another post-season trip.
“Truthfully, when your sitting here with five teams, I would hate to base the success of the season by just going to the playoffs.”
There will be even more changes when realignment occurs in February with the creation of a 6A classification and dividing Class 3A up into two divisions.
Sports purists beware.