Cristobal Should Take Advice From … Aristotle?

Coach Tony DeMeo Editorials

In the offseason, it is fun to look at how coaches advise other coaches, and the article below by legendary Coach Tony DeMeo got me to thinking about how Coach Mario Cristobal is assembling his team. How much of Aristotle’s advice are we seeing with this current team? More coaching advice can be found at Coach DeMeo’s site right here if you want to learn more football.  – Charles Fischer

What does an ancient Greek philosopher know about coaching football? How can studying the great Aristotle help a team get a first down? Was he an offensive or defensive guy, anyway?

To answer these questions (most of them, at least), let’s look at a famous Aristotle quote: “The purpose of education is to pass on values.” There’s no doubt in my mind that football is a big part of a young man’s education. A coach’s job is to pass on values to his players. No sport involves more values than football. Here are a few of them:

The value of hard work. If a player works hard in football, there will be a place for him on the football team. It may “just” be as a special teams player, but every spot is important. He may not be a great athlete, but his heart and determination will get him on the field. This is not the case in other sports. Hard work pays off.

Vernon Adams Jr. worked hard to go from unranked recruit to college football superstar.

The value of courage. The physicality of football requires courage. Golf takes great skill but not a lot of physical courage. I’m a big proponent of safety, but the collisions in football are almost a “rite of passage” for a young man. Overcoming the fear of contact is a lesson unique to football.

The value of perseverance. The ability to keep giving everything one has when all seems lost is necessary in football. If you want to know who the competitors are, watch film of a team when they are behind. One of our own team mottos was, “The Fourth Quarter Is Ours.” We were always 60-minute men.

The value of preparation. Football is a sport that takes a tremendous commitment to offseason conditioning. Strength and conditioning programs are grueling, both physically and mentally. The great Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The job of a coach is to make sure the team never gets fatigued through proper preparation.

The value of teamwork. No value is more important to learn in today’s “me, me, me” society. The sacrifice of individual goals for the good of the team is one of the greatest lessons that a player can learn. Players must develop the “WE not ME” attitude for their team to be successful.

Marcus Mariota was famously humble.

These values create the foundation for success throughout a player’s life, not just in football. Aristotle also said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” Players need to learn that excellence can’t be turned on and off like a faucet. It must become a way of life.

Regardless if they’re in the classroom, the weight room, the practice field, or a championship game, athletes need to strive for excellence. And to be clear, excellence is about what you become, not what you receive. Teaching excellence is big part of a player’s education. Perhaps the biggest part.

So maybe Coach Cristobal can study up on Aristotle a little in the offseason. It might give the Ducks the edge they’re looking for.

Coach Tony DeMeo
Charleston, West Virginia                                                                                                                                    Top Photo by Ahsan Awan


Spencer Thomas, the Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches High School Football for Hillgrove HS in Powder Springs, GA.


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