I watched the Army/Navy football game last Saturday. Whenever any military academy plays on TV, I try to watch.
It reminds me why I decided to become a coach. It reinforces why I have stayed in coaching. Every athlete and coach should be required to watch academies play, watch how they play, understand why they play. The athletes who play for academies are what we should all aspire to be.
When two academies play, it is not about winning or losing. It is about what athletes and sports are supposed to be.
The United States Military Academy (West Point), the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis) and the United States Air Force Academy play Division I football. The rest of the schools that play football should take a good look at those teams and its players, coaches and administrators.
Army, Navy and Air Force truly field teams that have student/athletes.
Nobody goes to an academy to prepare for a job in the NFL. The cadets at said academies have other jobs in mind: keeping you safe and free.
When a cadet enters an academy, he or she makes a commitment, not just a commitment to an academy, a branch of the service, but a commitment to this country.
They don’t transfer if they get beat out. They don’t red shirt or gray shirt to get more playing time in the future. They don’t trash talk.
They attend classes. They take a demanding course load. They graduate on time. They play a tough schedule. They never play a team with smaller players, and they are never the most talented team on the field, unless they are playing another academy.
Cadets commit to a core of values, not slogans, not a motto, a core of values. Duty, Honor, Country; Honor, Courage, Commitment; Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do; three different cores of values with some different words; all saying fundamentally the same thing. They do not lie, steal or cheat nor tolerate those who do.
The institutions honor their contracts.
Their alumni don’t come up with millions of dollars for buyouts of coaches and cancel non-revenue producing teams. Their alumni don’t waste time calling talk radio hosts complaining about coaches or players. Their alumni are in Afghanistan, Iraq, at sea, preparing to accomplish a mission more important than going to a bowl game.
Commitment! Cadets make a commitment to serve the United States of America. They don’t go into the NFL draft. They beat the draft. They enlisted.
They commit to service to our country after they graduate. They commit to doing something harder and more important than playing in a bowl game.
It is unlikely that a service academy player will ever win another Heisman trophy. It is very possible that one or more will earn a Medal of Honor, because honor is what they are about.
It is unlikely that a cadet will ever accidentally shoot themselves in the leg in a bar. If they shoot someone, it will probably not be an accident.
Watch an academy team play. They play as a team. They run a team offense. They spread the ball around.
Nobody complains about not getting enough touches. Nobody throws a tantrum when he is replaced by a teammate. In an option attack nobody knows who is going to get the ball until after the ball is snapped.
They play team defense. They are in the Department of Defense.
This is the time of year when coaches are being fired and hired. This is the time of year when boosters clubs are raising millions of dollars to buy out coaches and pay new coaches. This is the time of year when the NFL is firing and hiring coaches.
The next time you hear a crybaby complaining about a coach or his calls or his recruiting ability, think about those brave men and women in our military, think about real recruiting, think about those athletes who give it their all and then go from a football uniform to a camouflaged uniform or a flight suit.
Think about the players, coaches and administrators who will honor their commitment. Think about honor.