by | Sep 6, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments


All right, you coaches, listen up! This here’s our annual coaching convention, and I’m here to coach you on coaching. You got that, coaches?

“Yeah. . . .” “Uh-huh. . . .” “Guess so.”

“GOOD GOD, COACHES! WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT? You want to coach, you coach with ENTHUSIASM! How do you expect some tired old NOSE TACKLE to stick his HELMET in some lineman’s GUT if he ain’t got ENTHUSIASM? Now, coaches, let me hear you sound like COACHES!


“Hmmm. That’s better. Now then, let’s start with the questions. Yes, Coach Moeller?

“Well, Coach. I’m kinda new at this, and I was wondering. What does the perfect head coach look like?”

“Good question. A head coach must look the part. That is, he cannot dress in tight jeans and a Chanel tank top. He must command respect. He must look like the boss. It would help if his neck was kinda thick and his body kinda stumpy like, well, like Coach Perles over there. A little hair spray would be good. And maybe some Douglas MacArthur sunglasses. Also, his voice should sound like God’s. When he walks, the ground should tremble. When he blows his whistle, the walls of Jericho should come down. By no means, and I say no means, should a coach look like Lou Holtz. How that man gets anyone to listen to him is beyond me.”

“Is there a dress code?”

“Yes, indeed. Polyester shorts. Checkered sports coat. Fedora hat. Big cigar. That should do it. Unless, of course, you’re Jerry Glanville, in which case you dress like you just came from a Mafia funeral.”

“Coach. What is the proper way for an NFL coach to treat his superstar player?”

“Interesting question, Coach Fontes. First of all, you treat him with respect. Second of all, you treat him with care. Third of all, if he wants some chocolate marshmallow ice cream in the middle of the night, by god, you go out there and get it. That stud means your next house payment.”

“Chocolate marshmallow? I thought Barry liked butter pec–.”

“Next? Yes, Coach Deromedi?”

“Coach, do halftime speeches work?”

“For that, I will quote the great Vince Lombardi, who turned to a room full of silent players once and said: ‘Where the hell is my chalk?’ “

“Um, what does that mean, Coach?”

“It means who has time to make speeches at halftime? Come on. In college you’re too busy trying to make sure all your players are in the locker room and not hanging out with the cheerleaders, and in the pros, nobody believes in speeches anyhow. In fact, thanks to Commissioner Tagliabue’s shortened halftimes, an NFL coach will now have exactly enough time to say: ‘Listen up, men! . . . Well, let’s go get ’em.’ “

“Coach, how should a coach behave during practice?”

“A good question, Coach Fontes.”



“My brother is Fontes. I pronounce it Fon-tez.”

“Fine. I want to see you both after class. Now then, how should a coach behave during practice? There are several schools of thought. Some prefer to sit in the golf cart and do nothing. Others prefer to sit in a watchtower and fall asleep. Others prefer to try to set the world record for keeping their arms crossed while pacing. Any of these would be acceptable. Also, you could do what Bo Schembechler used to do, walk around with a yardstick measuring the distance between your blockers’ legs and giving them a whack if it isn’t right. It makes absolutely no sense, but the kids love it.”

“Coach, speaking of practice, how long should a football practice be?”

“That depends. Ideally, of course, you want them practicing 23 hours a day. But in college you got all these distractions, like classes. And in the pros, if you work ’em too long, the union gets upset. The ideal practice, therefore, is three to four hours, or until they start to fall asleep during film sessions.”

“Coach, how do you handle a player who held out of training camp and comes back just a few days before the season begins?”

“Coach Fontes, you handle that player the same way you handle all the others. You go up to him and say, ‘Can I borrow 10 bucks?’ “

“Coach, about sports writers–.”



“Never mind, that answers my question.”


“Coach, what about our diet?”

“Well, that’s simple. On Mondays, you eat whatever they’re serving at the Touchdown Club luncheon. On Tuesdays, you eat whatever they’re serving at the Alumni Dinner. On Wednesdays, you eat whatever they’re serving at the season-ticket holders breakfast. On Thursdays, you eat whatever they’re serving at the Man Of The Year banquet. On Fridays, you eat whatever they’re serving at the celebrity charity roast. And on weekends you eat room service.”

“Coach, being a student of history, with Biggie and Duffy and all, can you talk about some of the great unsung college coaches of the past?”

“Absolutely, Coach Perles, I’m glad you asked. Of course, everyone knows the Knute Rocknes and Woody Hayeses. But other coaches made history and never got the credit. For example, coach Lou (Glue) Gominsky, who invented stickum. Or coach (Wicked) Wilson Wallace, the first man to toss his headset. There was Pass ‘Em Peterson, whose kids never missed a class that anyone knew about, and Sticky Jones, the first coach to bury the goal posts in cement. Some of you may also recall Beeker Davis, who invented the mandatory drug test.”

“BOOOOO . . . HISSSSSS. . . .” “Yes, I know. Just think of the big stud hosses we lost on account of that guy.”

“Coach, seeing as this is my first big recruiting season as head coach, are there any tips you can give me?”

“Certainly, Coach Moeller. In recruiting, there are only three sentences, and you must repeat them as often as possible. 1) ‘Son, you are the best athlete I have ever seen.’ 2) ‘The Heisman? When we’re finished, you’ll have two of them.’ 3) ‘Mrs. Jones, this is the best apple pie I ever tasted.’ “

“That’ll work?”

“Always has.”

“Coach, how do you choose the right guy in a quarterback controversy?”

“Whoever won last week’s game.”

“Coach, what if you can’t decide who to cut on your roster?”

“That’s why they invented the injured reserve list.”

“Coach, should college football games be played at night?”

“Not if you have a golf game scheduled for the following morning.”

“Coach, I’ve noticed a lot of books by coaches getting published recently. When is the proper time to write a book?”

“That depends. If you want to talk about your childhood and the wonderful people who made your career possible, you should wait until after you win the Super Bowl or the national championship. Of course, if you want to tell the truth, you should wait until you retire.”

“Coach, how come we’re always the ones to get fired? It doesn’t seem fair.”

“Life is unfair, men. Sometimes, a coach has a ton of a talent, but his team doesn’t listen and he gets fired. Sometimes, a coach has no talent, but his team just ignores him and he gets a raise. And sometimes, you get Darryl Rogers.”


“Never mind. Let’s eat. It’s Thursday, right? I wonder what the Man of the Year banquet is serving this morning. . . .”


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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