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We are in the fourth quarter of a ninth-grade 'b' game, and we are in a dogfight. The score is tied 6-6. The game is hanging in the balance, and we just held them on third down to force a punt. You can cut the tension with a knife.

The punter booms it; well, this is a freshman 'b' game, so, actually, the ball is in the air about 25 yards, so we cannot field it. As the ball lands, all of our coaches begin screaming at the top of our lungs, "peter, peter, peter!" 'Peter' is a universal term that has been used for decades to alert the punt return team that the ball has hit the ground and to GET AWAY! If the ball touches any player on the return team, it becomes 'live', which means the punt team can now recover and go back to offense.

For some reason, many punt return players are drawn to the ball like a 'bug to a light'. They just want to be close to the ball, although it is the opposite of where we want them to be. 'Little Jimmy' can't resist the temptation and is dangerously close to the ball. If the ball were a fire, he would look like he was warming up his hands on a cold night. Every coach on our sideline yells for him to get away, some still using the term 'peter' and some screaming 'get away', but he doesn't hear us. He is locked in with laser focus.

One of our coaches goes 'nuclear' for lack of a better term.




(I am giggling typing this because this exact scene has happened too many times for me to count in my 31-years of coaching).

The play ends, and Jimmy is coming over to our sideline. The coach now has his attention and is letting him have it. "YOU HAVE TO USE YOUR HEAD OUT THERE, SON! IF THAT BALL WOULD HAVE HIT YOU...!!!"

I go up to the coach and say, "relax, we obviously haven't covered this enough. He will learn." The coach looks at me, eyes still big because he is still in frustration mode, and says, "that's no excuse, EVERYBODY KNOWS PETER."

Everybody knows Peter.

Do they?

This is a true story, by the way. Elite coaches realize everyone doesn't know Peter. You have to coach anything and everything you want to see on the field, court, or track.

In 1989, I was doing my student teaching at West Ouachita Middle School in Calhoun, Louisiana. The coaching staff was a little short-handed, so I was allowed to coach the 7th-grade 'b' boys basketball team. I grew up playing basketball, so I was more than a little fired up. In the first game of the season, I looked down the bench and gave our version of 'Jimmy' this simple assignment, "Johnny is in foul trouble; go check in for him."

Jimmy shook his head at me and did what he thought was right. He ran immediately on the court and told Johnny to go to the bench.

The referees blew their whistle and stopped the game. They then told Jimmy to go to the scorers table and check in correctly (basically, they coached him). I was shocked and appalled, but mostly embarrassed. I had not ever seen this before. Who doesn't know to go to the scorers' table and check-in? Everybody knows Peter! I remember saying this to Jimmy, "haven't you ever been to a game before? Do you not watch basketball on T.V.?" Instead of apologizing to Jimmy for not going over the correct procedure to enter a game, I blamed him for not knowing.

The 22-year old coaching version of me blamed Jimmy for me not introducing him to Peter. I didn't know yet that you must coach EVERYTHING.

Elite coaches coach everything. They have systems in place for warm-up, timeouts, unique situations that rarely happen in games...everything.

The next time you have a player who does something 'dumb', ask yourself if you have taken the time to introduce him or her to 'Peter' because your players will not know him unless you intentionally introduce them to each other.

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