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Poets and conquerers: The mottos shaping young football players
Terry Pluto says high school coaches have to get creative to moviate young football players

Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
From T.S. Eliot to Hernan Cortes, coaches look for creative tools to help motivate their young football players
Courtesy of Amanda Rabinowitz
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Starting this week, Friday nights in Ohio belong to high school football. But in many ways, football in Ohio is a study in contrast. And many coaches, especially those at schools with small budgets, have to get creative to inspire their players --- on the field and as young men.

WKSU commentator Terry Pluto talks to Amanda Rabinowitz about the mottos coaches use to shape young players.
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The tools they’re given

But big teams or small, all coaches  employ certain tactics. And one is mottos.  

At Benedictine, it’s “Together.”

Parma Padua, another Catholic school with twice the number of players, has adopted the slogan, “Win the Day,” which the players employed sardonically the day they were ordered to clean up the locker room.

Perhaps the oddest mottos have been employed by Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, which is employing “Burn the ships” to try to turn around a team that’s been going 1-8.

Poets and conquerors

It’s a reference that goes back about 600 years to the legend of Hernan Cortes conquering Mexico. “He had his 600 men burn their ships so they knew there was no way out,” recounts Pluto.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Western Reserve coach “came up with a quote from T.S. Eliot that ‘You won’t know how far you can go until you realize how much you’re willing to risk,’” says Pluto. “I never heard of a team leaving the locker room with T.S Eliot ringing in their years.”

Motivation: Boys to men

Overall, says Pluto, the coaches use the tools they are given and for the right reasons. “In many cases, they’re dealing with situations not like Massillon, where they have a big booster club, or Canton McKinley with the big stadium in the shadows of the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame or not like Cleveland St. Ignatius, where you look on the sidelines and there are all these ... guys who are volunteer coaches who played in the Big 10 and some in the NFL.

“They’re in smaller schools where they’re frankly pulling kids out of the hallway to try to try to talk them into playing. But yet they feel a real connection. They’ll say, ‘We’re taking boys to men.’”


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