A Leader In Every Locker, Week 11; Courage

Courage is a mental quality recognizing the fear of physical injury and danger or the emotional fear of criticism and humiliation, yet courage enables one to proceed in the face of danger or concern with calmness and resolve.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the recognition of its existence, and the willingness to take decisive action in spite of it. Note: The Hero and the Coward feel the same feelings, the distinction between the two is the decisions and actions one takes despite the fear.

This past weekend our entire team faced the fear of criticism and perhaps humiliation as we played one of America’s oldest high school football rivalries. The 116th playing of “The Game” between St Johnsbury Academy and Lyndon Institute; a rivalry reaching back to 1894. In the past 6 seasons, the Academy has accumulated a comfortable 388 to 48 scoring margin winning those six games by an average of 55-7. No Academy team wants to be the one to end the winning streak. This year the Vikings brought in a talented team, bigger and stronger than ours, but we were able to come out on top 31-14 in a game actually far closer than the score reflects.


During the game, we had several players returning from injuries having missed the previous game and multiple practices. While they were all medically cleared to play, each faced understandable concerns of being reinjured or whether their performance would be worthy of the trust of their teammates. Despite their fears, they played well and contributed to our victory.


We also had several physical mismatches on the line of scrimmage. Our 176 lbs Sophomore Left Guard, who lives in Lyndon but chose to attend the Academy, faced a 300 lbs Senior Defensive Tackle all game. Knowing the opponent was bigger, stronger, more experienced, and understanding the threat of harm, our Sophomore Guard showed great resolve to do his personal best, utilize the techniques he has been taught, and relied on communication with his fellow offensive linemen to get help when needed.

Undoubtedly we will all face situations in life calling for courage. Sometimes physical, sometimes moral… The physical actions of first responders and our military are often top of mind, but many also show the courage of compassion while helping a friend or colleague in need, or the courage of conviction while taking a stand on moral issues where opinions significantly differ. Athletics offer student-athletes opportunities for small inoculations against fear (physical or moral) and helps prove their resilience, increasing self-confidence, reinforcing the importance of discipline and sacrifice, and ultimately readying them for much of what may lie ahead.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

The “I Test”

When most coaches here “I Test,” they’re more likely to think “Eye Test.” Not like the Optometrist or Optician, but rather their own discerning eye. An eye that helps a coach compare a potential player against years of accumulated context and understanding of the characteristics of a successful student athlete. For example, just by the “eye test,” DaVonta Smith, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is 6’1″and (generously) 175Lbs. Many coaches “eyes” wouldn’t have picked him to be the Division I All-Star he turned out to be. While his case brings to mind the adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” I’d like to focus on a different kind of “I Test.”

I recently listened to a podcast with Joanne Mccallie,  the only Division I women’s basketball coach to lead two different programs to 30-win seasons with three National Championship game appearances, and she earned National Coach of the Year in 2005. Coach talked about what she referred to as “The I Test,” she teaches her teams.

Regardless of sport, Coaches help players achieve more than they believed they could achieve on their own. Coach Mccallie’s “I Test” is a great example of a philosophy underpinning student athlete success, and is one I’ll look to impart to the Hilltopper Football team this summer and fall.

Coach Mccallie’s “I test” consists of three “I’s” and establishes a quick pattern to focus players’ (and coaches’) attention:

INTENSITY– Am I focused and dedicated to being the best I can mentally and physically be in this very instant?

INTELLIGENCE– Am I being thoughtful, applying all I’ve learned, practiced, and making good decisions to help my team achieve our goals?

IMMEDIACY– Am I playing in the now, focused on this instant, and avoiding distractions of past mistakes or things pulling me away from my team and our purpose?

The three “I’s” of Coach Mccallie’s “I Test” offer a quick check whether making decisions in practice, on game day, or in life.  Sometimes, we all need to step back and assess our perspective, decisions, and actions. “The I Test,” offers a quick and focused assessment of where we are versus where we want to be.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!