Sunday, October 26, 2008


Motivation is such a difficult concept. How one gets somebody else to do something they can't or won't do on their own is an absolute mystery. Dial up the drama and danger elements and it gets even more complex. You can induce with money (far and away the most common), intimidate, educate, bribe, threaten or blackmail, but the only true success you can have in the attempt to motivate is to be yourself, share your enthusiasm, prepare, and try to find a way to keep the focus on the positives.

If you are thinking that I am about to write yet another commentary on the sorry state of the University of Washington football team, your are right. Because I think this one needs to be written and read, and then used.

Every column, article and blog in Seattle's two majors, the Times and the PI, are filled with comments on how low the once mighty and proud Husky program has sunk. 99% of them want head coach Ty Willingham fired immediately, and the other 1% say wait until the end of the season. We are 0-7. In his tenure here Ty has gone 11-33. He has displayed an uncanny knack for being unprepared for games, being unable to develop players, losing key in-state recruits, being stoic and surly towards media and fans, alienating former players and alumni, and, worse of all perhaps, being unable to motivate the kids.

I will give him credit. He was brought here to "clean-up" the program and re-establish discipline and decorum. I think he has done that. But very much like the situation we see today in Iraq, one must ask, "at what cost?". I don't go to the UW and sit in on Organic Chemistry 101, yet I trust that the teachers are qualified, successful and respected. I go to Husky football games to watch kids play football, and in paying my $70 per ticket expect the same, with an emphasis on successful. The kids on the field are here to play football and place their NFL futures in the hands of the assembled coaches. Yes, they are student athletes, and I care about education, BUT THIS IS FOOTBALL, an education of a completely different type. We give away 85 or so scholarships so that the kids can get an education free as long as they are able to play. So we are in effect subsidizing 85 kids, sponsoring them for four years, sometimes five, as they get an education, and all we ask in return is that they give us some entertainment on Saturday afternoons in the fall. And that entertainment of late, like the last seven years, has been one tragedy after another.

Which takes us right back to motivation. We got creamed last night by the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who in all reality, didn't have to fight too much or too hard. We were out-classed, out-matched out-played and out-coached. It was painful to watch. In the photo above, we finally score a TD on a botched pass, with four minus left against ND's third string defense, WITH LESS THAN HALF OF THE STADIUM EMPTY. The fans who have come here since the days of McKeta and McElhenney, Moon and Millen, Mincey and Malloy had left. Many of them in various stages of disgust or disbelief. You could see a string of their red taillights across the 520 bridge as they headed home. They had motivation to leave.

The motivation to make them stay, to return is pretty simple. We are not going to the Rose Bowl, we are not even going to the Google/Mountain Dew/ Bowl. We may go 0-12. We suck. BUT WE ARE STILL A TEAM and THIS IS STILL A GAME. If you can't use the motivation of winning, getting exposure, playing in the big games, making the impressions that allow high draft rankings, beating your rivals, then take it back to the basics; Playing is supposed to be fun. There is joy in competing, in not giving up and in doing the best you can for yourself and your teammates. One fun play, one successful drive down the field, one diving catch, third down stop, a big play by the special teams or recovered fumble is sometimes all the spark it takes for individual fun to spread to the entire team. And it is infectious. If you can motivate 22 kids into having fun on the same time on the same field, you will win some games. Right now, Ty's team has given up. There is dissent, finger pointing, rebellion and talk of mutiny. They are NOT having fun. Neither are the fans. Or alumni. Or TV audiences.

Motivate them by fun, by remembering that this is supposed to be fun. Go out there and have as much fun as you can possibly fit into four-fifteen minute quarters. Blitz. Go long. On sides kick. Send the house. Sure, you still have to block and tackle, run for daylight and wrap-up, but what do we have to lose? When the Dawgs return to having fun on the field I will too, and won't e-mail the AD for a refund.

Motivate by making it fun again.

'Cause winning is fun, too.

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