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Hunker Down with Kes

Don’t Misunderstand What You See

By Kesley Colbert
Posted 12/3/19

I should be writing some silly story about Christmas shopping this morning. Or maybe sharing a memory of buying a special gift for a special person at this special time of the year…hoping it …

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Hunker Down with Kes

Don’t Misunderstand What You See


I should be writing some silly story about Christmas shopping this morning. Or maybe sharing a memory of buying a special gift for a special person at this special time of the year…hoping it might awake a similar long ago Yuletide memory of yours…

But Christmas shopping is not on my mind today. And Heaven knows, I’m not a real writer. I don’t have the ability to write one thing while I’m thinking about something else.

What has got my attention is an article this week by a reporter strongly criticizing The University of Tennessee’s head football coach, Jeremy Pruitt. The author was apparently dismayed that Coach Pruitt “grabs his players when he is mad at them”, citing only two incidents—both when the players involved had used less than stellar judgment.

And listen, I’m not a Tennessee fan. Nor do I have any ties with Coach Pruitt. And no one here is defending real abuse in any shape, form or fashion. And I’m not saying any football coach is above it.

But I am absolutely saying let’s have a clue about life, about teaching, about caring, about genuine growth, courage, faith, teamwork, friendship, love and being part of a thing that is bigger than any one individual…

And I am also absolutely saying let’s be a little less caught up with mindless political correctness (by those who have never been in the arena) or unintelligent finger pointing or desperate attempts to uplift a personal writing career by climbing over the backs of easy targets.

The thrust of this reporter’s witch-hunt was that a high profile football coach shouldn’t use his authoritative position to abuse his players. The writer was judging, and condemning, the coach on these two very public moments.

I take high exception to every word he wrote down! It is the classic example of what New Orleans Saints Head Coach, Jim Mora was talking about years ago when he repeatedly said to a group of reporters, “You think you know, but you don’t know!”

If you count junior high, high school, college and the several decades I helped with football at Port St. Joe High School, I’ve got over fifty years of locker room experience either as a player or coach. Listen closely here, I never saw one time in all those games, practices, bus rides, film viewings, chalk talks and bull sessions one coach abuse one player! Never! Ever!

Oh, I’ve seen coaches chew players out. I’ve seen them grab players by the jersey, the facemask, sometimes by the shoulder pads…and explain a situation to them in the plainest, simplest, most straight forward English at their command. I have been the recipient of such action, as well as the bestower on many occasions.

But let me tell you something, for every one time a coached yelled at a player, he’d wrapped his arms around that young man and encouraged him to be a better football player, a better son, a better student, a better person a thousand times! For every time he’d grabbed his jersey, he’d driven him home after practice a hundred late afternoons or slapped him encouragingly on his back a zillion times.

And it never makes the news when a coach sits beside that player after a tough loss without comment or judgment, both sharing the emptiness of the moment…

Tough, demanding, dedicated, even a narrow minded one track football mind is a far cry from abusive. I am definitely a benefactor of those coaches that pushed me in my playing days...and I’ve had the good fortune from a coaching perspective to see the positive results of football manifest itself in hundreds of young men…

I never coached one kid that I didn’t love. You have no idea the price they pay. The work they put in. The hardships so many of them overcome. Or the appreciation they so readily give back.

It is difficult for outsiders to understand. I worked with a coach once who was as tough as they come. He was the real deal! I’ve seen him get behind a would-be linebacker during a scrimmage and literally push him into the C-gap to meet an oncoming fullback. We’d go into the office after practice and the kids had left and this “tough, mean, all business” coach’s eyes would fill up with tears as he discussed the dysfunctional life the young linebacker had to endure at home.

If we’re judging Coach Pruitt, or any coach for that matter, for a couple of moments on the sidelines in a hotly contested game…I pray we give them lots of room…





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