In the Shakespearean play “Henry V,” in which his troops are hungry and tired on St. Crispin’s Day, King Henry pumped up an army by uttering these words, in part:
“From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered – We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother.”
In the privacy of football locker rooms across the Ozarks tonight, coaches will speak in the quiet, waning moments before kickoff. While none of their teams will be fighting the French army, some will face difficult odds. Using the strength of words, coaches gain the power to inspire and motivate.
Coaches had an entire summer to think of their pregame speeches for the first high school football games of the 2014 season, but that doesn’t stop even veteran coaches from speaking off the cuff.
There will be talks of, “our house,” “your game,” or how “great moments are born from great opportunity.”
Parkview coach Anthony Hays tries to find a different way to motivate his players each week, but said his pregame pep talk before the Vikings host Kickapoo will reinforce a familiar message.
“It’s definitely going to be about what our theme is for the year, which is ‘unbreakable,’ ” Hays said.
The Viking players will be encouraged to play their way into the halls of Valhalla, “where the brave may live forever.”
“Nothing tears our team bond apart,” Hays said. “We’re going to play for the guy next to us, and we’re going to carry that theme into, hopefully, beyond the pregame speech and actually into the game where we’re going to be an unbreakable force.”
In the opposing locker room, Kickapoo coach Joel Wells will likely take a more subdued approach to the pregame speech, as confirmed by senior quarterback Brad Jarman.
“Coach Wells isn’t one to get real loud and rowdy before games, but he says the right things that need to be said before games,” Jarman said.
Said a smiling Wells, “There won’t any rah-rah speeches. It’ll be about how it’s game time and time to go to work, and have some fun.”
Wells says motivational speeches aren’t usually necessary for a season opener, in which football players are typically itching to play in front of a crowd and tackle someone other than their own teammates.
“If we have to really motivate them to play hard after practicing 25 days of the summer and then camps … they’re out here because they want to play and want to be there,” Wells said.
Camdenton coach Jeff Shore listened to more psych-up talks than most as the son and assistant to an iconic coach with 367 career victories to his name, Bob Shore. The former Southwest Missouri State Bear plans to keep his message to the Lakers simple before they tangle with Hillcrest at Shumate Stadium.
“Mainly go out and have fun playing,” Shore said. “You’re only guaranteed 10 of them a year, so just have a good time and give a great effort.”
Shore has been known to bring his father into the locker room to address the Lakers before big games.
“I’ll probably wait until later in the season to pull him out of retirement,” Shore quipped.
Whether soft-spoken like Dan Devine, calm and confident like Vince Lombardi, or loud and brazen like Bill Cowher, coaches across the state have a chance to leave a lasting impression in the moments before kickoff Friday night.
While their styles of delivery may differ, they often share an idea similar to what other coaches share with their players.
“No matter what adversity we face, we’re still going to keep fighting, and I think that’s what special football teams do,” Hays said.
The special shall be separated from the ordinary one week at a time, one game at a time, one play at a time beginning tonight at the first whistle.
May the special ones remember, “with advantages, what feats he did that day,” and may we all enjoy the game.