By J.M Henriksen
A lot of people like talking about luck, in fact almost everyone does. "Good luck with your job application !" you might say, or "I've just been lucky". I do too, probably every week, maybe every day. But when it comes to football, it is time to shy away. Why ? -Every coach has "luck" in his vocabulary, you might say. True, but should it be ? Let's take a closer look.
First of all, what is football ? Or even more correctly, what is football today ? It is a game, but unless you are talking about youth football (age 15-16 and below) it is a rather serious game. The top teams, whether it be a junior, senior, semi-pro or pro team, practise hard. They do the same things over and over again. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Practise that 3-point stand. Throw the ball a couple of hundred times on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Run wind sprints every day. Two-minute drill. You know what I'm talking about; they never stop drilling in the details. Ever.
Over the years more and more specialization has
taken place in football. No more ironman football in the pros. Full-time punters and
kickers. Special Teams Coordinators, Quality control coach. The last time I counted, the
San Francisco 49ers had 18 or so coaches on their staff. Specialization is just another
word for taking more care of the details. Leaving nothing to chance. And this is where my
dislike for the term "luck" comes into the picture.
When you as a coach start talking about the other team being lucky, as in "they got a lucky break", "that was a lucky play", or "they had luck on their side", then you are doing the other team a favor. It might seem like "luck", but then you are not commiting to details, the fundamentals; football. And then you might end up being beaten by the same team, the same way, again. We wouldn't want that, now would we ?
That is what the term "luck" does when you use it as an exuse - which is what a lot of football coaches (& players) do. I don't doubt there is such a thing as luck. I have often felt lucky myself, but when do we use the word "luck" ? We use it when there is something we just can't explain rationally. Like if a ball bounces on the receiver's helmet and into his hands. Or when watching Jake Plummer or Doug Flutie create something out of nothing. Or what about a play like "the immaculate reception"...and I can't blame the spectators for calling it "luck", but arrest me if I do ! Using the term "luck" we actually say that there's something we can't explain, and we're not going to try to find out what it is either. Saying "luck" is a way of giving up, the same way people refer to some things they experience as "supernatural". You can't respect that. They have seen or experienced something, and decides to put it in a category with other things they can't understand. That's giving up ! You can't do that in football; it's in the nature of the game. Therefore; don't use "luck" as a term to describe the play the other team just did, the play that cost you the game. Analyze it, realize what allowed them to do what they did. If it was one of your players slipping on the wet field, then check his shoes. Learn that you can't have players wearing those kind of shoes under those conditions ! And most importantly; show this attitude in front of your players, make them feel the same way. That way, the whole organisation will start looking more in to details, instead of calling the obstacles they couldn't get bye "luck".
Jake Plummer and Doug Flutie don't create things with magic, they do it with preparation, with knowledge, with an understandment of the game. They may play well, but my guess is they practise even better.
Preparation win football games. The word luck makes you forget something in your preparation. It makes you lose the football game the next time you play. Therefore: Don't use the term "luck" !