The most important issue in football today that directly affects player-safety and the very survival of the sport is the epidemic called Fail to Appear.
Fail to Appear is the offence of not showing up for practice, workouts, even games. Fail to Appear has reached a crisis-point. It’s the biggest problem that needs a solution to make the sport safe. Anything less than 100% attendance by 100% of your players exposes players to harm by being Unfit For Duty and exposes coaches to liability for the offence of Neglect of Duty by letting the Unfit for Duty play in a contact sport that can kill or maim players without the proper level of preparation. Coaches and players can fool themselves by re-defining ‘Fit For Duty’ to suit their needs to justify why players are allowed to play after missing practice, but the reality is that allowing players to play after missing practices and workouts is a ticking time bomb.
Fail to Appear has a two part definition – not showing up physically and not showing up mentally. Missed practices have dramatically risen in the second half of my 40-season coaching career. It’s a crisis that threatens the sport because:
1. The number one threat to player-safety is lack of ‘Training Continuity.’
2. Missing practice is the equivalent to missing work.
Training Continuity is the unbroken chain of:
(a) learning outcomes regarding skill and system, and
(b) strength & conditioning progression needed to meet a level of physical fitness to survive high-risk sports that have potential for catastrophic injury.
It’s impossible for amateur student-athletes to be physically and mentally prepared for combat sports by missing training. Training for high-risk contact sports is the equivalent of any other curriculum that has structured learning outcomes. It’s also the equivalent of job commitment where you’re expected to show up for work or get fired.
I’ve heard every excuse for missing practice – work, vacations, kayaking trips, other sports. My message to players is this – I fully understand that you have priorities. I admire that. But you will not threaten yourself of your team by playing while Unfit for Duty. Missing practice reveals a player’s Value System. It shows the value they place on football and the training that prepares you for it. If football practice and working out are low on your value scale, I understand, but my conscience will not allow you to play and jeopardize your life and the lives of your teammates. If you don’t value football enough to show up for work 100% of the time, you’re fired. It’s the only way to protect unfit players from themselves and from threatening their teammates.
I never had a problem in the first half of my coaching career with attendance at practice or working out. Then the slide started. It’s worsened. I never had to cut a player, not one single player, for missed practice until this century. Now, all that has changed. I routinely cut players for missed practice. And it’s happened at three different levels – collegiate, semi-pro, and high school.
There’s a formula for player-safety and winning by whatever definition you choose, that requires hardcore training and 100% commitment. The lack of commitment to training is the number-one problem that has to be solved. There’s a ripple effect to the missed practice epidemic – losing coaches. It’s hard enough to find assistant coaches who will work for free. They will walk away from the sport if they work for free and for nothing, trying to prepare a team that shows up when they feel like it.
In 2010, I made the biggest decision of my coaching career. I cut 90% of my collegiate team in mid-season for failure to appear. I suspended the team and forfeited half a season because the team was a waste of my time and money. I used to believe I could change the world by instilling work ethic. I was wrong. I learned the difference between rewarding and enabling. Reward what needs to be rewarded. Don’t reward was doesn’t deserve to be rewarded.
During the past decade, a growing number of players believe that they can just show up for games and be fit for duty. It’s part of the modern delusion that somehow you can get full return for minimal investment. The delusion of maximum return-minimum investment doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t happen accidentally or randomly or overnight. Like everything else, it’s learned.
The problem with team sports is that your struggle for success is at the mercy of uncommitted people who love the fame but truly hate the game and the process of preparing for it. The beauty of individual sports, like working out, is the perfect ROI – the return is directly proportionate to the investment. You can’t ride the coat-tails of hardworking teammates. You get back exactly what you put in – like working out. Working out is life-saving and life-altering. The sport of working out will not reward enablers with unearned strength or unearned muscle or unearned fat loss, or unearned definition.
The crisis of missed practices motivates me even more to outwork every player on my team with workouts that set a high bar for them to aspire to. What they do with their opportunity depends on how they exercise free will. If they make the most of their opportunity, they will change their lives positively forever. If they don’t, they will waste an opportunity that they can’t repeat.
Here’s the workout song of the week. Top 10 of all-time. The link is after my signature. Life is too short to be weak. Life is too short to feel sorry for yourself. And life is too short to worry about uncommitted football players. There’s life beyond football. Value what you do. Place a high value on your time.
Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., Level 3 Nat’l Coaching Certification Program
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
head coach- Robert Bateman High School – GO WILD.
Owner – X Fitness Inc.
Gino Arcaro is a widely published author. His website, blog, Youtube channel, and list of books are at: www.ginoarcaro.com His books include: 4th & hell: seasons 1-5, Soul of a Lifter, SWAT Offense, SWAT Defense, X Fitness Workout System, and a 3 business book series called Soul of an Entrepreneur . He also has written 20 editions of 6 law enforcement academic textbooks. A new 8-volume interrogation book series will be released in the spring of 2014. And just released, a new children’s book called “BE FIT – DON’T QUIT.” His latest book on human potential called “Hashtag Peace” is at the editing stage. He is currently writing “Lifter’s High.” Both will be released soon.