By Alan Chadwick
Those who know me have heard me repeat the belief quoted below many times. That is my strong belief and that is why I have devoted my life to being a football coach. I firmly believe that with my strongest conviction.
If baseball is America’s favorite pastime, football is America’s greatest game.
Football requires a combination of many different skills, talents, concepts and strategies. Nearly every position in the game of football requires a different set of skills. And it is the blending of all these areas that determines the success of the team.
Let’s examine the three most obvious physical skills football requires.
Running is the most dominant skill in the game — and the faster, the better.
The ability to block is fundamental to the success of a good team. A player who has the size and strength to move another player out of the way is critical to let his offense move the ball or return a kickoff for a long distance.
Tackling is the third most basic of the football skills, and the most important of all defensive skills. It’s not good enough to just get to the ball carrier. The tackler must also have the technique and desire to stop the ball carrier.
All this is why you already hear coaches tell their teams, “Guys, we must run, block and tackle to be successful.”
It takes coaching, patience and hard work by the players to master the individual skills required – passing, pass receiving, snapping the football, kicking, punting, running pass routes and applying different types of blocks when required. It takes a quarterback a long, long time to master the many different types of throws he must make.
But the game is more complex than just running, blocking and tackling. The strategies and concepts of the coach’s game plan must be added to the mix. The offensive system may involve multiple formations and plays designed against a specific opponent’s defense. Each play called in the offensive huddle has specific blocking assignments, which may need to be adjusted versus different or unexpected defensive alignments.
It gets pretty sophisticated. That’s why successful football teams rely on brains also. Look, I get confused all the time. So you can imagine what happens to a 16-year-old or 17-year-old kid when the game starts moving really fast.
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievements; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory.
–Theodore Roosevelt, April 10, 1899
All these strategies, skills and concepts make football a one-of-a-kind sport. No other game has “as much to it” as the game on the gridiron.
I believe it is the passion, the history and the pageantry of the game that has embedded football in the heart of the American culture. Theodore Roosevelt’s 1899 “Competitors Creed” essay is the perfect analogy for the game of football. It is a game that requires “so much” from “so many.”
Each player must strive with all his skill and all his effort on each and every play.
“If one has not given everything, one has given nothing.” I think this quote defines the game. Each player must make innumerable sacrifices and give all he has to the worthy cause and common goal.
That is why football is the ultimate team game.
Alan Chadwick is the head football coach at Marist School where he started coaching in 1976 and became head coach in 1985. He is Marist’s longest serving head football coach. His teams have amassed records of 299 wins and 53 losses as of the beginning of the current season. He ranks fifth among Georgia high school coaches in total wins, according to the school.