Bird Brown: When in doubt, just be yourself

I love football.

Yes, I know everybody knows that I love futbol, but I’m talking about football. Good ol’ American football. I live and die in the fall for every Notre Dame football game all the way up to the final disappointing loss at the end of the season that ends their hopes for another national championship (this year is different!).


I have been a Ravens season ticket holder since before they landed in Baltimore, and I was with the Baltimore CFL Colts before that. I’m not like my wife’s cousin, Steve LaPlanche, who went to 400 consecutive games before ending his streak amid the NFL kneeling controversy, but I have been to my share of games over the years.

When I was age eligible for youth sports, we were living in Rio de Janeiro at the time, so my options included futebol de salao, futebol de salao, or futebol de salao — known now as futsal.

When we moved back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, there was no soccer league to join so I was excited to sign up for and be selected by the Fort Bragg 49ers. After three weeks of practice, I was done and walked away from football as a player for good.

Looking back, it wasn’t the position that bothered me, it was the coaching style. I had come from a couple of years playing in an environment where we were just allowed to play, encouraged to be creative, and coaches provided instruction and guidance but let the game do the teaching.

The three weeks with the 49ers had a coach in my face at every practice demanding me to do as I’m told.

Not questioning the style, just didn’t work for me.

I’ve studied coaching styles my entire adult life. I learn from my opponents in every game, the coaches I’ve worked with at every practice, and relish the chance to talk coaching with my peers at meetings or social gatherings.

I watch professionals on TV, and countless videos on YouTube, and have seen practically every style imaginable.

When the Wolves organization was running strong, we brought in coaches from England to run summer camps for all of our teams to bring consistent coaching throughout the organization. Our coaches were actively communicating with our guest coaches during the camps and were learning through our involvement as well.

One of the things that I always admired was the amount of respect they commanded from our players through their strict discipline.

I envied their ability to keep command through fear of punishment.

Every year after they left, I would try to take the same approach with my players for the first few sessions but my players always saw through it and it just didn’t work the same.

I can be an intense coach and love being involved in the heat of competition, but I also am more laid back in my approach to my relationship with my players and always have been. My practices aren’t set up for me to be in each player’s grill at every mistake, and although sometimes I can be quick in a player’s replacement for a mistake in a game, if it was from a player not listening to instruction, I’m generally not punitive in nature and encourage players to learn from their mistakes.

We won our first-round playoff game Thursday night and gathered for practice after school on Friday, trying to beat the incoming storm. Our next opponent, Magruder, is formidable, bringing a 10-2 record and a first-round bye to the game so our attention needs to be laser focused and our play determined if we want to move on to the sectional final.


My first instincts were to grab their attention with a tough practice to concentrate on Magruder, but the players’ moods dictated that we just let them play.

They had just come off a win against a difficult opponent to make a 10-win season, so there was plenty to celebrate, and we have Monday to prepare for the next round.

I sat back and watched almost the entire practice as our boys needed no motivation other than to show up their teammates in the small-sided games, and I grinned ear-to-ear as this oddball collection of players, from many different walks of life and heading in different directions, have become a team ready to face what’s in front of us.

Every coach has our own style of handling our teams and we need to stay true to who we are, and not try to be someone else.

Players respond to the coach you really are, not who you try to be.

Being a disciplinarian has never worked for me as I want to earn respect from my players through my own respect for my players.

The great basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece.”

Friday’s practice was just one of those.