The Worst Play Call of the Year

On September 30, 2018, Penn State Head Football Coach James Franklin made a very questionable play call against Ohio State during their biggest game of the season. He made the call for a run on 4th and 5, down 1 point with a minute remaining. Analysts would call it “the worst call of the year”. Fans would berate Franklin as he walked to the locker room, and social media would have a field day1 criticizing the call.

On February 1, 2015, Seattle Seahawks Head Football Coach Pete Carrol was a yard away from his team winning back-to-back Super Bowls. Instead of handing the ball to “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch, they passed, and the ball was intercepted, ending the game for the Seahawks. Carrol is still criticized by analysts and his fanbase to this day for making that call.

Now, both these coaches have achieved a great deal in their careers: Carroll is a future Hall of Fame coach, and Franklin has revived the Penn State football program.

But, this is the way society operates. No coach is free from criticism—even the greatest ones. Coaches like Bill Bilechick, Geno Auriemma, and Coach K can’t lose a game—much less have a season of struggles—without people starting to criticize and claim they have “lost it” as a coach.

Criticism of coaches is nothing new. It’s easy and fun to play armchair quarterback, right? The problem is when we bring this mentality to our own team.

Coaching Critic

“My coach just isn’t that good.”

This is a very popular response I get, both from players when I ask them how their season is going and from parents when I ask if their child is enjoying the season. I don’t even ask about the coach, but people love to look to the coach for all their problems.

Look, I get it. If I attend any youth, high school, or even collegiate sporting event, I can be just as critical. There are a lot of coaches who aren’t doing a “great job”; Coaches who communicate poorly, teach poorly, overemphasize winning, have no control over their emotions, and are unable to build relationships with their athletes. We can find a lot of things wrong with coaches today!

But, the truth is there are a lot of bad players out there, as well. Players who are out of shape, have poor fundamentals, play selfishly, and have little mental toughness and bad attitudes. Yet, I’ve never heard a player respond with, “I’m not a very good player” when asked why his team is doing poorly.

My Coaching Evaluation

If you had asked me about my high school coach back in the day, I would have told you, “My coach isn’t very good.” Now, my assessment could have been correct. But, whether I was right or wrong wasn’t important or helpful.

It didn’t really matter if I had a coach who couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag. What really mattered was my response, and for many years, my response was no better than that of the countless critics on social media. I blamed my coach for both my team’s struggles and my personal struggles. I was convinced he didn’t know how to coach me.

The 1 Thing You Can Do To Change Your Team

If you could change one thing about your team, what would it be? When I ask players this question, I am likely to get the following answers:

  • Leadership
  • Play-calling
  • Mental toughness
  • Attitude
  • Work ethic
  • Focus
  • Communication
  • Heart

But, all these answers are wrong.

The only thing you can do is change yourself. You can’t change your coach or your teammates. You can only invite them to change—and the best way to do that starts with changing your behavior.


When did things change for me? Well, I quit waiting around for my coach, and I started to do the work myself. Between my junior and senior season, I went to the gym with my best friend nearly every day. We planned, executed, and recorded every aspect of our workouts. We coached and encouraged each other, and gave each other feedback on our shots and our footwork.

We also coached ourselves: Every shot, every move, every drill, and every workout. We asked ourselves, “What happened? Why did it happen? How can I do it better?”

It didn’t matter how good or bad my coach was; what mattered was that I started to put in the work. I worked hard, and I worked smart.

You don’t need a good coach—or even a good teammate—to do this. You only need yourself. You are your best coach. If you aren’t willing to put in the work and coach yourself, you won’t get any better—no matter how good your coach is!

Now, the best athletes in the world will give credit to some of their coaches for their success, but if you ask them, “Who is the person most responsible for your success?”, they will always tell you the same thing: “Myself.”

Remember: The only coach who will ruin your progress is you, and the only coach who will make you a great player is you.

Works Referenced