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FOOTBALL '93 : COVER STORY : HEAD GAMES : Players Must Motivate Themselves, but a Lift From Coaches Also Helps


Could these possibly be the same guys who spent the summer sleeping until noon and whining about wheeling a few trash cans to the curb?

Talk about motivated. They pump iron, thump heads and jump to attention every time their coaches whistle while they work out.

Players and coaches alike realize that navigating a high school football season requires drive. "Go Hard or Go Home" read the T-shirts at one school.

Beware motivation's maddening impermanence, however. When starting positions are set and homework and hot dates become impossible to ignore, staying hungry for pigskin becomes a constant challenge.

Tested will be the resolve of players who must remind themselves--and one another--of the sacrifices made and rewards that await.

Tested will be the imagination of coaches who must bust into their duffle bag of gimmicks for something persuasive, something distinctive.

The aim is to keep the fire blazing as the long season drags on, even if things get so bad cheerleaders wear T-shirts that read, "Football Is Not Our Only Sport," as players at winless Burroughs found last year.


"All motivation comes from within. It is virtually impossible to motivate somebody who has no interest in being motivated."

-- Don Hutson, Motivational expert and cousin of Hall-of-Fame receiver


"For every pass I caught in a game, I caught a thousand in practice."

-- Don Hutson, Hall-of-Fame receiver


Tyrone Crenshaw, Sylmar's senior running back, reached the pinnacle last season, and he revels in it. City Section 4-A Division player of the year. City 4-A champion. Twenty-two touchdowns and 1,875 yards rushing.

Yet there he is, hustling through grass drills like some freshman praying that the coach will learn his name.

"I want to repeat as champion, I want to experience that feeling again," he says. "It can only happen if we spend the extra time and devote ourselves.

"When I first came to Sylmar, I thought it was (hogwash), but now I know practicing hard pays off on Friday night."

Taking a momentary breather, Crenshaw spies a player from a rival team saunter past the Sylmar practice field. He feels a burst of energy and kicks into an agility drill.

"We are out pushing and he is hanging with friends, probably going to look at some TV," Crenshaw tells himself.

Fifteen miles away, the tongue of Canyon tailback Ed Williams is hanging because it's 90 degrees and he's lifting his knees. "Higher," implores a shirtless coach gripping a bullhorn.

Williams, a senior, has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The secret, he reveals, is the four figures worth of yardage he churns out every day in practice.

"When it's 80 degrees, you can go through that very intensely," Williams says. "But when it's 102 and things aren't going your way, you must maintain the same intensity. That way, you are ready on game day. That way, you care."

Being pushed in practice enables Williams to push himself when the Friday night lights are focused on him and the coach is calling plays instead of screaming through the bullhorn.

Williams, like Crenshaw, has learned that motivation begins the first moment of the first day of practice. It builds slowly, a tiny spark that grows into a raging flame.

Grasping the concept is as difficult for most high school players as grasping Crenshaw and Williams when they are carrying the football.

"Getting (players) to understand they are working toward a goal is a great challenge," says Tom Harp, co-coach at Granada Hills. "When they understand that, it helps them motivate themselves."

Once the idea of practicing diligently every day is understood, players must take action. They must do it.

"Instilling the frame of mind that we will not give in, not give up, play as hard as we can from beginning to end, is the foundation of the training regimen," Littlerock Coach Jim Bauer says.

That point was hammered home to the Buena football team in memorable fashion at a practice two years ago.

During Coach Rick Scott's closing remarks to the team, several players were discreetly peeling off shoulder and forearm pads, getting a head start on undressing. Scott reached his boiling point, but instead of verbally undressing his charges, he undressed himself, first taking off his hat and throwing it to the ground.

Next came his jacket, his shirt, even his pants. The sight of their coach in only his jock strap has not been forgotten at Buena. The story is passed down year to year, ensuring that Scott needn't repeat the performance.

Also passed down is the message: Remain focused.


"How are you, young gentlemen? I have always admired animal acts."

-- Calvin Coolidge, 30th U.S. president, upon being introduced to George Halas and Red Grange of the Chicago Bears


For all the meticulous preparation done in practice, a booster shot of motivation is necessary before a game.

And the imagination of a coach in search of an edge knows no bounds.

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