Since it’s football season I thought you might enjoy this true story about a coach from my High School. It’s related by my brother, Roy. I am posting it because I needed a smile, and thought you might like to have one, too.
Mr. Shultz’s Theory
We had a run of good seasons in football, and a guy on the team at Boulder High could wear his football jacket with pride. Then, after years as coach, our beloved (and feared)Mr. Miles retired.
Since we’d had a fairly good team, the school board decided to go all out. They hired a coach from a university in Michigan. The whole town was ecstatic. This year we’d move from good to spectacular.
We lost the first three games. The coach said we weren’t anything but runts. Actually he was close to the truth. He stuck it out for two years, then left to take an offer back in Michigan.
The school board tried again. This time it was a coach from a university in Wisconsin. They’d heard that in the Midwest, football wasn’t just recreation, it was a sustaining life force. (Besides that, our Boulder High fight song was based on “On Wisconsin,” and what team wouldn’t like to play like the Green Bay Packers!)
The Wisconsin coach took one look at our team and turned white. We had 200 kids in the whole high school, half girls of course, and most of the guys under 5’10” and 150 pounds. He lasted one season. The school board threw up their hands in total frustration. They wrestled with the choice of hiring one more coach or forgetting the sport entirely, when Mr. Schultz, the History teacher, made a suggestion.
Mr. Schultz had grown up in our town. He was only six years older than the seniors. His first name was Gene, but his friends all called him Buster. Buster had been on the football team when he went to high school here, but I can’t remember him ever getting off the bench. He fit the small guy category too, and the Coach Miles had always played the bigger man.
By the time school let out just before Memorial Day, the school board had decided to accept Mr. Schultz’s suggestion. Schultz himself was going to be our next football coach.
He promptly disappeared for the summer. It was just as well. He didn’t have to listen to the talk around town. “Buster Schultz, the football coach?” The incredulous question would be followed by loud guffaws and then, “I guess he thinks you learn more about football observing from the bench than playing on the field!” More laughter.
Inside I was rooting for him. I wasn’t so big myself, and I was a pretty good baseball player. But football was different.
To make matter worse, during the summer, our quarterback, our one really good player, defected a rival high school in a neighboring town so he could play “real” football. That dashed any hopes we might have had.
In August Schultz returned. He made visits to guys homes, talked to them at the malt shop, and recruited them at the annual picnic and boat regatta. We all liked Schultz, and when the first meeting of the football squad took place, the best the town had showed up. The problem was, the best the town had was still pretty puny. Schultz didn’t seem perturbed at all.
His opening statement to the guys was a stunner. “Alright men, this school has had three years of vacation on the football field. This year we take state!” There may have been plenty of wavering hearts at that moment but how could a player not follow optimism like that?
“All summer I’ve been attending football clinics. I spent all day in classes and on the field, and I spent most of the night drawing diagrams. I feel absolutely confident that what I thought years ago, when I spent a lot of time o the bench, is true. There are two ways to play football: with bulk, or with brains. That’s why I volunteered to coach you. I’ve never had much bulk—most of you don’t either—but, by George, we’ve got brains!” A cheer went up. “And what’s more, we’ve got spirit, we’ve got guts, and we’re willing to work harder than any team in this state!” Pandemonium broke loose.
Football practice was anything but standard. Sure, the guys stretched and built muscle. But they spent as much time learning what Schultz called “a roll off.” It was a way to take a hit without getting killed when you only weighed 150 pounds. And the “Ax.” That was how to hit the opponent at an angle to drop him without sheer weight. And that was just the physical workout. Even with sweat dripping from one’s eyeballs, that was the easy part. The mental workout would have taxed a physics major.
One day some big mouth spectator came to practice and laughed at our team, calling them a bunch of hot dogs and hamburgers. Schultz capitalized on what could have been a degrading experience and immediately began calling his plays by food names instead of numbers. There was the hot dog pass, the hamburger run, the banana split, and so on. The team loved it. Most of the plays were what football know-it-alls call “flee flickers,” which simply means outsmarting the defense.
We won our first game. We won our second game. Other towns were astonished. W beat the neighboring town were our quarterback moved. We beat the teams that sent outstanding individual players to well known football universities. We took the state championship. We beat every team we played. We took the state championship the next year!
Then Buster Schultz retired as our football coach. He’d proven his theory. Maybe we won some championships after that, and maybe we didn’t. I don’t remember. I guess it was just that nothing would ever seem quite so great to me after Mr. Schultz had proven that small doesn’t mean a thing…even in football!