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Corpun file 26610 at www.corpun.com
Abilene Reporter-News, Texas, 26 August 2017
Coaching styles change as society, times change
By Joey D. Richards
From the time football took its first steps in Texas in the late 1800s to the second decade of the 21st Century, the game has evolved. Not only the way it's played, but the way it's coached. What was fine in the 1940s and '50s, isn't acceptable anymore.
Before President Theodore Roosevelt forced a change in the rules in the early 20th Century, football was a brutal, savage sport. What most people know as American football is a legacy of Roosevelt's reformation of the game.
While the game changed, the war-like approach to coaching the game didn't. Remember, the country went through the Great Depression (1929-1941) and two world wars. Some of the veterans coming back from World War II and later the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, joined the coaching profession and took a warlike approach to the game. You had to be tough to survive in combat, and, likewise, you had to be tough to win on the football field.
Or so many football coaches thought. Until Texas went through a major shift from being primarily a farming state to an industrialized state, fueled in part by the oil boom and growth in big cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, along with integration in the schools in the late '60s and early '70s, no one questioned a football coach -- not even the parents, regardless of what methods were used to train or discipline a student.
Practices could be brutal with no water breaks. Coaches had no qualms about getting in a player's face, berating unmercifully before his teammates or turning to corporal punishment. Then there were the wind sprints or laps around the track. Discipline and conditioning were seen as keys to not only a winning team, but good citizens. They still are today, though how coaches go about those practices are much different.
Wally Bullington, who coached at Abilene High (1960-65) and Abilene Christian University (1968-76), after playing at ACU (1949-52), remembers how coaches approached the game back in the old days.
"Sometimes you could grab a facemask or tap a guy on his helmet," Bullington said. "You wouldn't dare do that now. You'd be facing a lawsuit."
Jerry Gayden, a 1968 Abilene High grad who coached 34 years at Richardson Lake Highlands, beginning in 1972, remembered some of the same tactics.
"You could put your hands on the shoulder pads, and, unfortunately, some of them would grab them by the facemask and things like that," he said. "We've learned you don't bring out the best in a kid by doing that."
Back in those days, nobody questioned the coach.
"The coach was in charge, without a doubt," Bullington said. "That was just the way it was expected to be. So they pretty well accepted that."
While many coaches enforced discipline with a paddle, Bullington said he, along with many of the people he played or coached with, preferred a different approach.
"I would run stands or run laps, maybe so many miles," Bullington said. "You might tell a guy he has to run five miles, a mile a day after practice. That kind of thing was accepted then. Usually the faculty really like that because it set a tone as far as discipline.
Gayden said he never questioned his coaches while playing at AHS.
"As a kid, I didn't know any different," he said. "I thought that was the way it was and the way everybody got coached across the state. I never questioned what Coach (David) McWilliams and the coaches were doing at the time. I can't recall they ever did anything inappropriate or out of line. The only thing I remember they did was they had a big, ol' paddle, and that paddle took care of a lot of problems or any discipline issues if you had any at school."
Practices were tough and physical, and two-a-days in the fall were even tougher.
"Two-a-days was sort of like Marine boot camp," Bullington said.
They could be long, too.
"Most schools now usually have just one practice during two-a-days and maybe take a break (during practice)," said Denney Faith, a 1978 Lovington, New Mexico grad, who has coached at Albany since 1982. "With the restrictions the UIL and state have put on us as far as the practice lengths, that's completely different from when I was playing. When I was playing, we may have two three-hour practices a day, plus another hour of weight room or meetings. During two-a-days then, we might have spent six or seven hours at the fieldhouse. You don't have that anymore."
Corporal punishment is still allowed in Texas, though few school districts still turn to the paddle as punishment. Three Rivers ISD, located between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, OK'd paddling as punishment at school in late July.
"I think there's a trend going back to corporal punishment," Faith said. "A lot of schools have gotten away from it, and now the pendulum is swinging back toward corporal punishment."
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