Business 1.0 July/August 2023

July 27th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

The Coach

By Lyle R. Hill

He was huge … maybe the biggest human being I’d ever been that close to—a former lineman for the Eagles. But that was the past because starting as of that hot, humid August afternoon so many years ago, he was the new head coach of the sophomore football team at my high school.

High Expectations

Expectations were high for this group of 15- and 16-year-olds. As freshmen, the team had gone undefeated in what, at that time, was considered to be one of the toughest conferences in the state. And the games were usually not close. By the second half of most games, the second-stringers were getting the bulk of the playing time.

“Okay, you bunch of cream puffs,” he bellowed at our very first meeting. “It’s my job to turn you bunch of babies into real men. And believe me, it won’t take me long to separate the men from the boys around here.”

We were dead silent and, while there was this slight amount of fear just under the surface, there was also the feeling that we were going somewhere and that the coach probably knew the best and quickest way to get us there. After all, there was something to be said for becoming a real man. I mean, we all knew we couldn’t remain cream puffs forever.

Keep Running

“Start running,” he screamed as he pointed to the quarter-mile oval track that went around the football field. “And don’t quit until I tell you to stop.”

After a few laps he stopped us, let us get some water and then lined us up in front of him.

“Are you tired? Are you hot?” he yelled. Of course we were hot and tired. It was 90-something degrees and not a cloud in the sky. We shook our heads in unison. “Well, remember this,” he went on yelling. “No one has ever drowned in sweat. And furthermore, if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Now get back to running.”

The Routine

Day after day, he worked us without mercy, screaming and cursing and constantly reminding us that history had yet to record a drowning death due to sweat. If anyone dared to moan, he’d get the standard, “No pain, no gain,” fired back at him.

The man worked us like animals and, while we were the best-conditioned team in the conference, we were also without a win after our first five games. One night, after a long and grueling practice that concluded with the customary two-mile run, our quarterback, Tom Rush, spoke up.

“Coach,” he began, “I’m a little discouraged. We haven’t won a game yet, and this Saturday we’ve gotta face a team that’s undefeated. We’re disorganized on the field, our plays are third-rate and we don’t always seem to have the right people playing the right positions. We’re gonna get killed!”

“Men,” the coach responded, “always remember, from an aerodynamic point of view, the bumblebee cannot fly. As for you, Tom, if you were pulling on the oars you wouldn’t have time to rock the boat, so go back out there and do an extra mile for me.”

The entire team stood silent to see what Tom would do. We were all totally spent, and an extra mile was just too much to ask. But before Tom could move, the coach came up with yet another of his never-ending sayings: “Tom,” he stated in that know-it-all voice we’d all come to dread, “in life, you’ll find that there’s no traffic jam on the extra mile.”

Calling it Quits

Tom quit and so did several others. We never won a single game that year, and looking back on the experience, I now realize that the coach was like a lot of people I’ve met over the years, particularly in business. You see, a lot of people know the cute buzz words and catchy phrases of the business world. They talk a good game, and they wrap themselves up in what seems to be worthwhile efforts and preparation. But when the game is on the line, they really can’t perform. Ultimately, they move on. I believe most levels of business management are filled with people who know the words and have the appearance of knowing what it takes to succeed; but they are, as the old coach would most likely have said, “all show and no go.” And at the end of the day, that’s all they have—words and appearances.

Humor columnist Lyle R. Hill is the former owner of a window film company in the Midwest. He also serves as president of Glass.com®, an information portal and job generation company. Hill has more than 50 years of experience in film and glass-related industries and can be reached at lhill@glass.com

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