4 Coaching Tips from Friday Night Lights

Coach Eric Taylor has a lot to teach us about what it means to grow young athletes

Sue Pierce

| 3 min read

NBC

Man, I love Friday Night Lights. And it’s not just because I love football and high school. And crying. The TV series, which debuted in 2006, is about so much more. Set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, where football is one small step below God, the show follows Coach Eric Taylor as he leads the high school football team to the State Championships. Along the way, we get to know the players and their friends as they grapple with serious subjects like racism, poverty and drug abuse. And, of course, there are heart-stopping football moments set to triumphant music. Cue those tears.  

Back to Coach Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler). He’s impossible not to love. He’s tough when he needs to be, but always fair. He connects deeply with his players – and it’s not just the intense eye contact. Before the state game, he tells his star player – who was bound for juvenile hall before joining the team – “You may never know how proud I am of you.” Vince replies, “You changed my life, Coach.” 

Yes, we know it’s just TV, but here are lessons from the show that work in real life and on the field.

1. Share your love of the game.

A coach should display the discipline, hard work and love that goes into any sport. Coach Taylor spends hours watching game footage in his office and at home. He chalks the lines himself on the dilapidated East Dillon field. It’s work, but it leads to the good stuff. 

“There’s a joy to this game, is there not? There’s a passion. There’s a reason why we’re all out here,” Coach Taylor says before a big game. Show your players just how much you love the sport you coach.

2. Own your apologies.

Don’t forget, you are also human. Model the path forward after (inevitable) mistakes. After a physically rough first half of one game, Coach Taylor forfeits. Later, he admits that was wrong, saying to the team, “I apologize for not giving you the chance to finish your fight.” 

As a coach, husband and father, he isn’t perfect, but he’s always working on it – like all of us. 

3. Remember who calls the shots.

Coach Taylor can’t go to the gas station or eat a burger without getting an earful from a Dillon resident. He gets advice from self-important parents, probing reporters, deep-pocketed boosters — even the mayor. As a parent-coach, you’re probably not going to get advice from the mayor, but no doubt you’ll face an overzealous parent at least once. Follow Coach Taylor’s lead: Be polite, listen to the advice, but make it clear — you make the decisions. 

4. Give them words to win by.

Friday Night Lights takes the prize for the best rallying cry in the history of rallying cries: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” The tip for the rest of us? Take a moment before the game to get your players focused on you, the team and the challenge ahead. Say a few inspiring words, if that’s your thing. But even the act of gathering in a circle can get kids dialed in. A cheer as simple as “Who are we?” “Broncos!” can get the team focused, pumped — and connected. 

Do that, and you’ve already won.

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