Coach Jack Harbaugh, father of head coach Jim Harbaugh, gathered our team two days into summer training camp.
Practice finally ended, the sun was hot, our bodies were beat up, and we were exhausted.
Coach Jack always spoke loudly, with confidence and with enthusiasm. We would quickly find out he always had something to teach our team. Sometimes small, yet other times not so small, Coach Jack would tell tales and teach lessons that would extend far beyond our lives as football players.
"Has anyone seen Frederick P Soft!?" Coach Jack began.
Many of us had met for the first time just a few days before and we hadn’t spent enough time together to have committed each other’s names to memory, so the team looked amongst one another searching for the culprit. Perhaps the upper classmen had seen Frederick…?
Nobody seemed to know who Frederick P. Soft was so coach Jack went on speaking.
“Freddy!?” Coach Jack continued.
I had no clue who Freddy was, but I was sure as heck happy that it wasn’t me. He was clearly in some trouble.
Meeting Freddy Soft
"Maybe it will help to find Freddy Soft if I explained exactly how he looks. You see, Freddy is hard to spot because he's only 4 inches tall...He tends to latch on to your shoulder, right behind your ear. You see, that’s what is dangerous about Freddy. He’s tough to spot!
"Freddy will tell you exactly what you want to hear too...
- He will tell you it’s okay to slow down during sprints, not to get to parallel on our squats, to take a play off.
- Freddy will tell you it's okay to take a practice off because you’re not feeling as fresh as you usually feel.
- Freddy always reminds you that you’re right, coach is wrong, and the easy way of doing things makes the most sense.
Freddy is your biggest fan and he will praise you and pat you on your back all day long.”
He kept going, “Fellas, Frederick P. Soft is always lurking, he is always closeby. He hangs out in the wooded shady areas, under trees. He loves to hang out in the training room and with injured players…"
Coach Jack knew everything there was to know about this 4-inch character, and he made sure that we had the chance to familiarize ourselves with his intentions as well.
As I looked around, my teammates listened with a smile on their face. Leaning in toward Coach Jack Harbaugh, listening to every single word. We thought the story about Freddy was hilarious.
Coach Jack didn't.
You see, Coach Jack is a National Championship winning football coach. Coach Jack has seen Freddy Soft affect and infect too many athletes and too many teams, and he was not willing to stand around and allow that to happen to our team. Coach Jack made sure that our team found Freddy right here and right now. He demanded that we separate ourselves from him immediately.
Coach Jack continued...
"We cannot allow Frederick P. Soft to be around this football team!!! In fact, we must not allow him to step onto this practice field, in our film rooms, in our classrooms, or in our lives! If you see Freddy on the shoulder of a teammate, coach, parent, or anyone else YOU MUST go up to Freddy and wipe him off!"
Coach Jack approached an offensive lineman and brushed his shoulder aggressively with his hand as he explained how to rid Freddy from someone's shoulder.
“It’s not a slap, it’s a brush; you gotta brush him off like this!”
Again, the team laughed. And again, Coach Jack was dead serious.
“Frederick P. Soft has affected each and every one of us. Freddy is sometimes responsible for you being called 'lazy,' or he’ll convince you to 'take the easy way out.' As athletes and as competitors, we must always be wary of Freddy Soft's presence... We have to have the self-control to tune Freddy out of our lives.
"The beauty of being part of a team is that Freddy is always easier to see on others’ shoulders than he is on your own. If and when you do see that Freddy is on the shoulder of a teammate, friend, or anyone else for that matter, politely brush Freddy off of their shoulder and explain that Freddy Soft was clinging to them, whispering in their ear. They’ll thank you.
"We have to be good teammates in seeing Freddy on the shoulders of one another. If Freddy is lurking on your shoulder and a teammate has your back in getting Freddy off of you, you better thank them!"
Freddy Soft hung around the usual spots: the training room and in the wooded shady areas, under trees. He would cling to the shoulder of teammates at times, but we were watching, and everyone was on-board.
We’d routinely see teammates running up to one another, brushing Freddy off with a sense of urgency, and then we’d get back to work.
Before long, Freddy didn’t even bother to show up to practice.
Freddy Soft Today
The culture of that team was molded as a result of the seed that Coach Jack Harbaugh planted that day in training camp. We went on to win 11 games that year and were ranked the #1 Division 1 AA Mid Major team in the country.
More importantly, as I sit here more than 10 years removed from that practice field, I still hear Coach Jack’s voice and still think about Freddy Soft today.
I think about how Freddy would love to hang out, even if it was just for a bit. But that just can’t happen. I don’t have time for that.
I've surrounded myself with a team that knows all about Freddy, and I know they have my back.
I encourage you to let your athletes know all about Freddy too, so they can defend themselves and their teammates from his influence.
They’ll thank you, even if it’s not for another 10 years.
If I can help to give more details about the legendary Frederick P. Soft, or if I can be helpful in getting you more comfortable with how we can help here at TrainHeroic, just say so.
You can call me anytime at 720-863-6890.
Have an awesome day, Coach!