Man, it’s been a long time.
(This is the point in the blog post where I’m supposed to explain my absence, but honestly, what fun would that be?! Don’t groan. It’ll all unravel itself in future posts anyways.)
Today is about mom, and football, and growing up.
My mom had a stroke about a month ago. She’s okay (relatively) but it scared the living daylights out of me when it happened. It was the first time I came face-to-face with my parents’ mortality, and let. me. tell. you. … That is not a fun meeting.
I’m not old, but I’m not young. Relatively speaking, anyways. Many of my close friends have parents who have passed away, and I know it happens, and The Lion King and the Circle of Life and all that, but it’s still a somber thought and it ain’t ever easy. It’s one thing to have a parent pass away when you’re an adult, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to lose a parent as a teenager.
And this is where Craig Mager comes in.
Ah, yes. Cornerback Craig Mager, the player the Chargers selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Mager has one of those stories that sticks with you. His mom — (a single mother of four, Mager and three younger sisters) — passed away when he was just 15 years old; a hospital-administered overdose responsible for her death.
Mager: “It was like a nightmare. I had a little party the night before because my birthday was actually June ll and she passed away June 15, so I was hanging around with a couple friends and when I came home, I heard she was sick and that she went to the hospital. She thought she had meningitis because she had a stiff neck. So I came back that night … The next morning my youngest sister comes running into the room, talking about how my mom was unresponsive. I rolled out of bed and ran down there to see what was up. I called 911, and we found out after that.”
He had to grow up fast. Though his grandma lived nearby, she was older, and the responsibility fell on Mager to parent his siblings and run the household. While his friends were carefree teens, Mager was doing his best impression of being an adult. He drove his sisters around, made them dinner, helped with homework, did chores, and — oh yeah — played football, well enough to get a scholarship to Texas State. Though he didn’t know it at the time, football would become his sanctuary; the field, a safe place to release his emotions.
One of Mager’s last memories of his mom came during a freshman game, when Mager — (then a running back) — was tackled after a play. As he got up, a player on the opposing team grabbed his facemask and some shoving ensued. Mager’s mom, who was sitting in the stands, jumped over the fence and onto the track to try and protect her first-born — an embarrassing moment for the teenager, but one he would give anything to have back.
What he would do to look up in the stands and see his mom jumping the fence to try and help him…
What he would do, indeed.
Players come and go. Teams come and go. Jobs come and go. Some stuff, though, just goes. And when it goes, it can’t come back.
Mager is a thoughtful, well-spoken young man. He focuses on being respectful and disciplined as a man before all else. He may or may not make it in the NFL, but if he does, the intangible of his mental toughness, his ability to fight adversity and step up when needed, will thread his success story.
It’s easy to get lost in your job, or your problems, or the business of everyday life. Believe me, I know. It’s easy to get lost and forget what’s important. Today, my heart goes out to all those who don’t have someone to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to, who have no phone call to make or no present to buy or no annoying brunch plans.
To all the rest of us, who still have parents we can hug and love and roll our eyes at, savor the time. Savor it while it’s here.
I did a little twitter rant yesterday.
Take it from someone who is learning this the hard way — extreme results require extreme actions. You can’t change “a little” and think that’s enough for a completely different outcome. Sure, it might affect the outcome by 10-percent. Maybe 20. But the rest? That 80 or 90-percent?
You’re wasting time. Spinning wheels.
I have never played football (except that one time, at band camp) … I’m smart enough to know what I DON’T KNOW. I’m not in the trenches on Sundays and I can’t speak to what guys go through internally. I’m not allowed in meetings or closed-door discussions. I simply talk to a lot of players, and former players, on a daily basis, and that was the genesis for my rant. Allow me to explain:
***** The word “leader” gets thrown around a lot. Leadership cannot happen off the field if it doesn’t happen on it. You can have a player who is so wise, who really works hard to get other players up to speed and tries to look out for the good of the team … but guess what? If he’s not KILLING IT on the field, then do you know what he is?
He’s a hard worker. He sure works hard.
And that’s it.
If a player is going to “talk” and try to motivate, he’s going to have a heck of an easier time getting guys to listen if he’s playing like a beast.
Playing like a beast accomplishes two things: One, it ups the level of excellence and expectation (duh, Annie) … Two, it leads through action OFF the field. If a guy is playing like a beast — (and that might be reflected in hustle and urgency, not necessarily in stats) — the guys learning from him absorb his work ethic, how he takes care of his body, what he does to stay mentally and physically ready. And that breeds FUTURE GENERATIONS of beasts. A guy is much less likely to slack off if the player he respects at the locker next to him is the model of how an athlete should prepare and conduct oneself — that goes for how he acts in front of the media, in front of fans, how he plays through injury, how he takes coaching and critiques … all of it.
If there are a bunch of players who are all striving for that … it’s an inner competition, always. No one wants to be the weakest link.
A team that does not have enough of these kinds of players lacks motivation and leadership. Motivation comes from a lot of places, but that’s one. On top of that, a locker room that is veteran deficient makes all of that much tougher.
Who you surround yourself with becomes what you know.
***** Motivation is a slippery slope. It’s also a word that’s thrown around a lot. Even if it’s subconscious, guys need motivation. Most people do in some shape or form. So, as a coach, if you’re not an effective motivator, that will eventually reflect itself on the field.
What’s worse than not being an effective motivator? Thinking you are when you’re not.
The best external motivation comes from great play (see above) … If you don’t have that, you better surround yourself with the right pieces and personnel to get a team to perform at an above-average level.
***** Culture. Listen … People are afraid of change. It’s inherent. It’s a fact. So while someone may say, “Hey, look at me! I changed!” … In reality, they put on a blue shirt instead of a pink one. YES, it’s change. It’s an action. I applaud any personal change because it’s tough. But in a business … In a business, for change to happen, it usually has to happen at the CORE. If you tiptoe around it, you just — again — waste time. For big and bold change to happen, it usually requires a CULTURE change. It requires the entire organization, top to bottom, to have a shift in thinking. A new normal. Not just SAYING it, but really feeling it and doing it. That is TOUGH. That can hurt. That can require a lot of uncomfortableness from people who like being comfortable.
It can also take time. It might inch forward, sputter backward and then leap forward again.
But what’s worse? A year or two of that versus decades of doing the same thing and expecting a different result?
I’m not saying you have to clean house or fire people or go all crazy. It can be more subtle than that. Sometimes, it’s just admitting what you’re NOT, admitting what’s MISSING, learning from mistakes and from competitors who are succeeding where you’re not, taking a deep breath and going from there. But the first step is to honestly see what’s not working. If you can’t see that … hire someone who can. Not someone you’re comfortable with, or this pattern will repeat.
Not sure if this post is about football or life anymore … but the two sure can parallel one another, huh?
Until next time, peeps.