In 1985, I developed an obsession with getting my football players to “the next level” for three reasons:
- I saw a lot of wasted potential during my high school football career and more during my police career. During my football playing career in the early 1970’s, no one on my team was recruited. No one sent film because no one ever filmed a game. Not one college recruiter ever attended a practice, game, or even visited my high school. None were invited. The apathy was suffocating. Then, I experienced culture shock in policing – a daily psychological bloodbath – and wondered how human potential can be trashed so easily and what was the solution? When I became a high school head coach at 26, I made a pledge to change my part of the world by sending as much film as possible to as many colleges as I could find, long before Google would have made my search easy. My goal was to stop the waste of potential.
- The challenge. The chances of a high school player getting to the next level are almost lottery odds. A ruthless Athletic Darwinism cuts about body-temperature percentage of players; 98.6% will not make it to the next level. And, if they do, they won’t make the starting lineup.
- I needed to lift. Reasons number 1 and 2 built a fire in me to lift as many student-athletes as possible in the weight room and to help them make their dreams materialize or at least give them the very best shot at it. Lifting became my calling to compensate for the culture shock I experienced in frontline policing.
My definition of “the next-level” was myopic in 1985. I was narrow-minded about what next-level performance meant. It changed when my “paying” career changed. When I quit policing in 1990, I became a college law enforcement professor in charge of different dreams – paying careers instead of playing careers. The odds of those dreams materializing were the same as in football – over 90% would not make the cut to the next-level. Vocations have different uniforms but each one is a calling to the next-level nonetheless. I still sent film all over North America for my football players after 1990 but my definition of “next-level” spread wider than my no-huddle spread offense. My experience at my second unpaid head coaching job helped me see a new meaning to “next-level.”
In 1991, I was hired as a volunteer head coach at my second lost-cause high school program. At our first off-season lifting workout, I met a running back, Leon Robinson, a rookie who was starting from scratch but wanted to become a starter. Leon told me his goal was to get a Division 1 scholarship. It told him that his goal was my goal. Leon was an underdog. The experts gave him no chance. But he built a strong case during a three-year career, matching the performance of another running back, from my first high school team, who went on to become a Division II All-American. I knew there was hope for Leon because 11.8 yards per carry for an entire season carries weight, especially on a team with middleweight offensive linemen. Not one lineman was over 200 lbs. I sent film obsessively for three years. No interest. Leon finally got one visit. Then his career changed from a playing career to a paying career. He became an artist.
In 1993, I wrote my first book – a 362-page textbook called Criminal investigation: Forming Reasonable Grounds. It was an underdog book. The experts gave it no chance. The publisher agreed to my suggestion to have Leon draw the cover. The textbook became a bestseller. It’s in its 5th edition, and has been adopted for use in colleges across the country for two decades. Here’s the cover Leon drew:
Twenty years later, I started writing non-academic books. They were underdog books, literally and figuratively. Dual meaning. The experts gave these books no chance and the books are true stories about real-life underdogs. Leon did both covers. Here they are:
Leon was a guest recently on my podcast, Blunt Talk Podcast, where we focus on Good Inspiring News Only. Leon’s story is an inspiration to the entire amateur sports world, an example for student-athletes, parents, and coaches about the real-life highs and lows of getting to the next-level both on the field and off. Here is the link to the podcast entitled Nothing Just Happens.
Leon’s interview is titled, “Nothing Just Happens.” The theme focuses on crossing paths. Like I wrote in my Criminal Investigation textbook two decades ago, there are no coincidences, just connections. Paths are crossed for a reason. We can choose to ignore the reason or wake up to the purpose of our path-crossings. What we invest in others is an investment into self. Guest Leon Robinson, artist and ex-football player, explains his story, sharing blunt-talk insights about how to reach your professional goals.
Please share the podcast with your players, parents, and coaches.
Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., Level 3 NCCP (Nat’l Coaching Certification Program)
Head coach – Niagara X-Men Football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.
Blogs – www.GinoArcaro.com and www.SWATFootball.ca