I love coaching ambitious players. They make it an absolute thrill to come to work each and every day knowing that they will give their all in practice and in games, and are willing to do whatever it takes for the benefit of the team. They come to practice with a great attitude and always put in the work necessary to compete on a high level on game day.
As the defensive coordinator, it is my job to put together a defensive game plan that puts my players into good position, so they can make good plays and reduce the offense’s chance of scoring. Every week we work on two phases that will help us get ready to face our opponent each week. Those two phases are the running game, and the passing game.
In practice we spend a great amount of time working on defending what we think the offense will do in the passing game. Most often we work zone coverage. Zone coverage is when everybody except the front defensive line drops to an area of the field to defend the offensive players going out for a pass. In zone coverage everyone has to work together to defend the whole field. If one defensive player gets distracted or lured out of his zone, it causes holes in the defense for the offense to take advantage of, and that could mean disaster for the defense. This is how big pass plays for touchdowns are developed.
Right now I coach a very ambitious player, and he is a joy to work with the majority of the time. He works hard, and gives me everything he has whenever he is on the field. But there are times when he is too ambitious. He illustrates his overt ambition sometimes in the coverage portion of his game, and as a consequence he puts the defense in some very vulnerable positions. Here is what I mean. Sometimes he will see a play develop in front of him and aggressively attack what he sees, without considering what is developing around him. Well that is what the offense wants him to do. Most often, offensive pass plays are designed for the defense to become distracted with the seemingly easy play. The defensive player will leave his zone, allowing the offense to take advantage of an even bigger play in the area in which is now vacant. Most of the time the receiver is wide open because my player has left his zone for something seemingly much more attractive in front of him. The result may be an offensive touchdown.
Sounds a lot like life doesn’t it? How many times have you come up with a solid plan to carry out a specific goal? You start the execution of your plan, things are going well, and then you get side tracked by something right in front of you instead of sticking to the plan. What do you do? You jump all over it, but the quarterback throws the ball right behind you into the zone you just left wide open. Distractions are momentum killers. Sometimes we hurt ourselves the most by not waiting patiently for what we originally planned for. In other words, we settle for short term satisfaction instead continuing on with the process that will lead us to our desired destination.
The majority of the time it is the opportunities that side track us, and sometimes we leave our zone for opportunities that only make us more frustrated than we were in our original position. Last year I had an opportunity to leave my job for an opportunity to move up the professional ranks of being a football coach. At first it sounded like a great idea and I accepted. The new job seemed like an opportunity for me to position myself for better professional advancement. I have a tough job now and all I saw was a chance to leave, but I had to really sit back and evaluate the whole situation. If I accepted the new job I would take on a much lesser role, make less money, and the job offered no benefits. I began to feel uncomfortable just thinking about it and I hadn’t even stepped foot on the campus yet. Most of all, the main factor that caused me to stay is that I knew I deserved much better than what I was being offered. I understood that I would have brought more value to the position than what I would get in return; I turned the job down and I just stayed in my zone. I admit I got distracted from my overall goal, but it served as a valuable learning tool for the future. I’m willing to bet I will thank myself later on in life for not making that decision to leave. Instead of improving my situation, I know it only would have delayed my original plan from being fulfilled.
My advice to all of my players is stay in your zone and defend the long ball. Stay patient and watch everything happening in front of you, so when the quarterback throws the ball you will be in the right position to make a play. That is my same message to you. Stay in your zone and watch things develop in front of you. Trust me. It may seem as if you are not doing very much, but your mere presence in your zone is the key to success. Eventually the right opportunity will come your way, and then you will be able to capitalize on it. If you get distracted by something that only satisfies your short term, it is impossible to be in position to take advantage of something much greater. You are worthy of the very best things in life, but without patience, the greater things in life are just thoughts. I encourage you to focus on the goal at hand with the full intention of carrying out the full process. It may take you some time to get where you would like to be, but after you get there, you will definitely have an appreciation for the process.
Written by Coach Aaron DeBerry