BILL YOAST … HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH FEATURED IN THE MOVIE REMEMBER THE TITANS (PORTRAYED BY WILL PATTON) Most coaches study the films when they lose. I study them when we winto see if I can figure out what I did right. BEAR BRYANT, legendary University of Alabama football coach 28 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Igrew up in Florence, Alabama. When I played football it was really about having fun. Coaching was more personal back then, not the way it is today. I remember my coach saying, If you’re not having fun out there, then I don’t want to see you back here tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, we were worked hard, but winning wasn’t everything. If we lost, we didn’t hang our heads. Our coach wouldn’t stand for that. He was the dominant figure in my sports life and his philosophy is how I approached the game for the rest of my life. WHEN PLAYER BECOMES TEACHER I like to think I’ve learned a lot from all my coaches and mentors along the way. The person who I learned the most from wasn’t a peer or a pro but a player, Gary Bertier (played by Ryan Hurst in the movie). As you know, if you watched Remember the Titans, Gary was one of the best players I ever had.
But, tragically, he was in an accident and lost the use of his legs. Instead of getting down, he started participating in the wheelchair Olympics. He never felt bad for himself, and he battled for the rights of the handicapped. WHAT I LEARNED FROM COACH BOONE What I learned from Coach Boone (portrayed by Denzel Washington) is that no matter your approach to sports or life, you can still work together and learn from each other. He was a yeller, an in-your-face type coach, and I wasn’t. We wanted the same thing, we just took a different route to the goal. Over time, he learned that my way also got the job done. I wanted to learn as much as possible about his offense, because it was unique and dominant. But I also shared my philosophy on defense with him, and I’m sure he’d tell you I taught him a thing or two. MY WAY I learned that you do not treat all players the same because each player is different. Remember Peete? He was getting screamed at on offense by BILL YOAST 29 Coach Boone and came over to defense. I made him a starter and he made all-state, but only because I knew you can’t scream at a guy like him. Coach Boone also noticed I was too soft on a few guys and so he gave them a kick in the rear end. We had an amazing relationship.
LIFE WITHOUT SPORTS? If I didn’t play sports I would never have gotten out of high school. I was a poor kid with little confidence. I was looking for an identity and I just dove headfirst into sportsall sportsincluding basketball and track. I learned that it’s not how hard you fall but how high you bounce back up. Winning is important, but failure is a great teacher. Play the best you can, but if you don’t win, don’t have any regrets. Coach Herman Boone would fight me on this, but I just think life is so much more important than a game. ON RACE The more I coach, the more I realize that all kids, race and creed aside, have the same dreams, the same hopes. I’ve never coached a kid I didn’t love and I think that’ll never change. ON THE MOVIE The season portrayed was 1971 and here we are all these years later in Hollywood watching our lives being rehearsed and perfected before our eyes. I thought about how far both Herman and I have come. Me, a white kid from the cotton fields of Alabama. Herm, a black kid from the tobacco fields of North Carolina. Now we’re in the Rose Bowl, hanging out with Denzel Washington. It was just an incredible experience. HOW DO YOU PLAY THE GAME? Prepare yourself well. Play with intensity. Be ready to change and adjust. Brace yourself for adversity, because it’s part of life.
You are not born with character; it’s something you work at and learn. Here’s how I put it best to a group of all-stars I was asked to address: Most of you are here because you are talented, but if you got here on your talent alone, this could be the 30 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME last game you play. What will take you to the top is attitude, loyalty and integrity, and those are things you can’t measure. Most coaches go easy on their blue-chippers because they don’t want to upset them. But those are the ones you have to push the hardest because they have to learn the work ethic that will eventually take them to the top in whatever they choose to do. If you get blue-chippers with the plugger attitude there’s no telling what your team can do.
I know because I just had a plugger who came to my house to tell me he just became a member of the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. And I just crossed paths with another plugger who had been the assistant secretary of state under Bush Forty-one. MY WRAP Coach Yoast also told me that his evolution as a coach went from loving his blue-chippers to worshipping his pluggers. Often it’s the pluggers who enjoy the most success in life because they don’t know what it’s like to have anything come easy. They find their thing and attack it like only a plugger can, and then they come out on top by a mile. I loved the movie and this story, don’t you? BILL YOAST
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