Recently, I ran across a quote from the current Biggersville basketball coach Cliff Little in a tweet from Southern Sentinel’s Kedrick Storey. Coach Little in reference to his upcoming opponent, Blue Mountain, said that they were “hungry…They’re like a man by a dumpster looking for a crumb.” Though some may see that as a slight at Blue Mountain or maybe even a negative remark about homelessness, Coach Little’s remark about Blue Mountain was the biggest compliment. Never would I want to be in an all-out brawl with someone who was that hungry.
Though I am very young, I do always love to hear a quote which resonates within me. It always seems to come from a leader. Yet it is not always a public figure or someone with a microphone in their face that easily reaches multiple forums, but usually a person willing to take a group of young men or young women and mold them with his or her words. And sometimes a reporter like Storey is blessed to hear a quote which he shares with the public and it gives a small glimpse into the coach and team dynamic. All in all, coaches will leave nuggets between the ears of young people everywhere saying the darndest things.
Many of the quotes I will remember until the day I die came from my junior high football coach. Coach Terry Smithhart was gentle like a grandfather and as hard-nosed as a five-star general. Coach Smithhart, or as we preferred to call him simply “Smithhart,” always seemed to have some kind of colloquial saying from yesteryear which could always accurately characterize a situation in just a few words. Some of my favorites came during Oklahoma, a drill where a running back and linebacker lined up to test their wills and strength within a five yard gap. If someone was clobbered during the process of the drill, Smithhart would quip “you got whipped like a red-headed stepchild!” Even better was when a player would look absolutely lost during practice and Smithhart would pull the young man aside and call out “…you look like a fart in a whirlwind!” That always got a group of eighth grade boys laughing and asking “did he just say fart?”
One of the most memorable and meaningful quotes Coach Smithhart spoke occurred following a hard fought, gut and heart wrenching battle against Northwest Rankin Junior High. After escaping Flowood, Mississippi with a win, Smithhart gathered the whole team after a well-deserved overtime victory at the twenty yard-line. He talked about how much this victory meant and how formidable an opponent the Cougars were that day. Then like something that would not even make the cut of a movie, Smithhart spoke the words that made me think that hair may burst from my chest and grow like a rainforest. Smithhart said “…after this game, y’all’s [expletive] just dropped…” Yep, I’ll let you fill in the blank. But with that quote, Coach Smithhart reached legendary status with every single one of us on the team. Now Smithhart was far from being crude, but just wanted us to know that we were men in his eyes and that was enough to make me into a man.
As I continued to go through football, I wondered if I would ever hear another orator like Coach Smithhart. I soon found Coach Scott Brown, former head coach of Clinton High School and now head coach at Pontotoc High. Coach Brown, or as we the players preferred to refer to him as Scott, was usually very quiet and soft-spoken around the players. Scott was notorious for forgetting players’ names and simply would come up with his very own names for them such as “Tex” or “Donkey Kong.” But one of the more memorable moments was when Coach Brown entered into the weight room at CHS on a sultry September Friday prior to a televised kick-off against arch-rival Madison Central. Scott asked how everyone was feeling…then followed the joke from his mouth. “So who is still number four?” Well everyone looked absolutely shocked, “Is this the pep talk?,” “I don’t know if I’m excited anymore?,” or “HUH?” Well I will give you the answer, “Ole Miss isn’t number four but Brett Favre is!” in reference to the drumming the Rebels had received to the hands of South Carolina the night before. Though at the time I did not think this was the right time for jokes, looking back I feel that the joke may have been a great relaxer had everyone taking grasp of it. In a way, the joke was the perfect anecdote for the upcoming storm which we found ourselves in.
We all know in life, as well as sports, that the words we speak have a profound effect, good or bad, on those that they are directed to, or even those that overhear them. These examples from my playing career are some of the classic coaching quips that did have a positive effect on me. My hope is that all coaches, as well as all of us in everyday life, use their words for good, to achieve goals and objectives, and not for evil or hurt, even when unintended.
What these coaches say during the impressionable times of these young men and women’s lives will leave deep impacts on them forever. When you are young, it does seem like a coach does say the darndest things, but with a few years further down the line, it seems to finally soak in. You never want to be “...the fart in a whirlwind...” or let work “whip you like a red-headed stepchild.” Sometimes it is okay to be that man beside a dumpster, hungry, and waiting for a crumb. But most importantly, it is sometimes best to just laugh in the face of a serious coming storm.