One Look from Coach Said Everything

Note: Ted Monica of Madison, NJ, the Madison High School Football Coach from 1955 to 1980, was honored on September 14, 2007 in ceremonies to name the football stadium at the high school the "Ted Monica Stadium at Twombley Field". The following letter was published in my hometown paper, The Madison Eagle, on September 13. Please excuse some redundancy from a previous blog. Coach embodied many the characteristics of a great motivator. These theories follow the article.  

 Coaching and Motivating Others Coach Monica was a Lombardi disciple. In fact, he helped the Green Bay Packers on draft day for years. He and his football program were highly organized. He was very tough and gruff on the exterior, but we responded to his honesty and underlying goodness. For me, he represented the ultimate definition of a coach, or teacher. He was smart, a real expert in his field and very sharp and perceptive. Coach had a very strong presence and voice, and great eye contact. His quick glare made players shake in an instant. Few, if any, of the college head coaches who recruited me had his talents. I flourished under his high expectations and applied his structured approach to my classes. 

They seemed easy compared to his marine boot camp like (he was a Korean War Marine Veteran) triple sessions. I felt like I'd passed a mark to manhood by surviving the many physical challenges. They were balanced. He seemed to know when to cut back, just barely. He kept us hungry to improve, and to learn. My offensive line coach, Jack Francis, introduced the linemen to training camp by stating: "in order to play at Madison, all you need to be able to do is tell your right hand from your left, and to count from one to ten". I did a quick self-assessment and felt relieved knowing I could pass his first criteria. Our confidence grew. In truth, we ran an intricate veer offense, but coach kept it simple. We flourished. 

During my three years as a starter, we never lost a game and ended our seasons consecutively ranked 3rd, 2nd, and 1st in NJ. When questioned by concerned parents and media about whether all the winning was a good and real teacher for us, as life is full of setbacks, coach would state: they lose everyday in practice. He was right. He had a way of keeping egos in check. One time, Joe Butler, the star, 1000 yard rusher my junior year (I had three consecutive 1000 yard rushers run to my side; Chris Jilleba in 1977, Joe in 1978, and Steve Doherty in 1979) was feeling pretty confident after a good game and said, after reviewing a missed assignment during film review on Monday afternoons: "sorry coach, my fault". 

No one ever volunteered a comment during films unless questioned by coach. There was dead silence and dread in the room. People feared Joe's response would summon coach to punish the whole team with sprints, or the dreaded "Green Bays" - 10 consecutive 440-yard sprints with a minute's rest between each lap. The first 440 had to be run under 2:00 minutes and each subsequent lap reduced by 5 seconds, so the last lap had to be run in under 70 seconds. Finally, coach said: "No, it's MY fault, for having YOU in there." We giggled in relief we weren't sent to the track, and Joe learned to keep quiet. Needless to say, we reminded Joe of the incident every time someone apologized. 

Coach created an environment where we enjoyed each other. This was a trademark of my high school teams. When we practiced, we were totally committed and concerned with making every collective effort possible to execute. When we played our games, this individual execution was augmented with a sense of trust and interdependency. We felt like 11 people all working as one, like brothers. Since my days at Madison, I've searched to find this feeling outside of my family. Most organizations create incentives so individuals put themselves ahead of the good of the whole. Our Madison teams functioned as one, and it elevated our performance, and results. 

Our success was quite an accomplishment considering the small size of Madison High. The culture coach created, common bonds and purpose galvanized us. Our senior season blew by in a blur. My mom was granted special permission to watch my last game before she died. She watched us play Summit from the car on the Monica Stadium access road. We ran a fake punt, it was supposed to be run to the other side, but Dotes (Steve Doherty) saw a crease and headed my way. I sensed his coming, so I shifted my position and pushed off my right foot to adjust my block. The ankle I'd injured the previous spring throwing the discus turned. I heard a pop and felt a sharp pain. I missed the rest of the game, but anticipated playing the following week against Verona. 

The doctor recommended against it. Verona was the first game I did not start in four years. During warm ups, I was dejected and concerned about not contributing to the offensive and defensive lines. It was a weird and empty feeling. I loved the adrenalin rush during pre game and the support demonstrated by the players and coaches. We were being tested. We had to rely on each other. 

Coach Monica and I had a respectful relationship. I felt he admired my talent, and liked me as a person. He often ended speeches by staring at me, or at least I thought he did. Probably everyone in the room felt this way. He had this type of personality. He never really hounded me the way he lit into some players. I think he knew how much I loved the game and the Dodgers and appreciated my effort. He did get mad at me once. I don't think he liked a girl I was dating when I was a junior and he made mention of her and how she might be interfering with my concentration as I jumped offside during practice once. 

Outside of this incident, we seemed to be on the same wavelength, wanting most to win, and I sensed our mutual admiration was beyond words. Perhaps it was his genius that kept me striving for his acceptance, so I would knock the lights out of opponents for his approval and recognition. 

During the Verona warm ups, I was on my crutches and looked over at coach Monica. My heart rate jumped. Under his customary maroon coach's coat he was wearing my #77 game jersey.  

Motivating Others to Peak Performance: Motivation: An emotion, desire, physiological need, or similar impulse acting as an incitement to action, causing or able to cause motion. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Actualization Esteem and Respect Belonging Safety and Security Physiological Through a process of policing and recognition, coach monitored and maintained a sense of team unity and accomplishment. Hazing was banished. Anyone caught bullying was subject to green bays, and removal from the team. Players of the week, representing different positions, had their pictures posted in the locker room. His structure and environment encouraged healthy relationships and recognition. It mobilized players to reach their potential. Level of Difficulty and Audience Involvement / Trust Needed in Speeches: Speeches to get Attitude Changes Speeches to get Action Speeches to Teach Definitions Introductions In order to change an attitude, a listener must have complete trust and involvement in the speaker. Coach was able to help us change our attitudes, to accomplish challenges we never thought possible. His presence and voice caught our attention and helped us listen. The content of his character and performance - his track record, his actions, and his sound decisions made us believe.  

Motives (Success): Success - We like to think of ourselves as winners. We are very sensitive to external reward and punishment. We are also highly self motivated and seek out ways to be recognized. Meaning - We desperately want meaning in our lives and will do much for people and organizations when they supply and support this meaning. Control - We also desire independence. We need to feel as though we are in charge of our own destinies and we need to have the ability to stick out. Coach had a way of making us feel like winners by engaging the community and making us feel special whenever we traveled in town. We were encouraged to make the right decisions, and given accountability with consequences. He made us feel like our decisions led to our success. 

(c) 2007 by Matt Paknis Training and Development, Inc.


irvs said…
Hi Matt,

I am very impressed with your synopsis. It's funny, reading those words and remembering my own period working with Coach, it was one of the most difficult and challenging time of my life...and I loved it. The things I learned have helped me both personally and professionally.

On some level, I owe my ability to write this comment, to Coach Monica. I am a cancer survivor. The cancer was discovered in 1980, 2 years after graduating from High School. I would not be beaten and I won. That is the real value to me of having worked with a great Coach.

In business, I use many of the principles that I learned from Coach Monica. I have high expectations, treat my team members with respect and push them to go beyond their perceived limitations.

Lastly, thanks to Matt for this blog. It is a great read. Irvs
Matt Paknis said…
Thanks for your fine comments Irvs!

It was great seeing you at the Monica Field Dedication. You were always a leader; tenacious, positive, and you knew how to lighten difficult situations.

In fact, I think you and Ralph Artigliere started calling me Howdy Doody. This caught on and I was greeted by the team singing the "It's Howdy Doody Time" theme song every time I entered a team meeting during the next three years. Management is a natural fit for you.

Your perspective combined with positive influences, like Coach Monica's, helped you overcome very trying times.

Madison is a beautiful place, with a higher than average cancer rate.

It's a blessing you were given a teacher / coach who helped your resilience despite being afflicted.

I'm proud to know you.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

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