Sept. 12, 2009
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by Jeff Bechthold
One of the several themes that new Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian has tried to impart to his players is that they should have fun.
Seems simple enough. But, as Sarkisian will point out, being a college football player is something like a full-time job, emphasis on the word "job." After all, the dedicated football player is in training year-round. From the start of fall camp through, possibly, the New Year, it's a day-to-day, week-to-week grind. After that, there's winter conditioning and then spring ball.
In the summer, most players work out several times a week and get together to run through plays several times a week. It's almost non-stop. So, on those 12 or 13 days a year that the team gets to play (emphasis on "play"), Sarkisian thinks the players should have fun. In other words, games are the reward for the work that's been put in.
That's why you see players celebrating good plays so frequently. It may not be the way things used to be, when a player was admired more when he trotted back to the huddle, head down, unaffected by the 50-yard run he just had.
What is sometimes misconstrued as a lack of humility these days, when the players swarm one another to celebrate a play, isn't showing up the opponent. It's simply the players taking pleasure and exhibiting joy in the game. Who would begrudge them that, especially when you consider the work they put in?
Simple as having fun during a game seems, it's not so easy in practice. The stress of the game day, the focus necessary to execute, the physical pain and fatigue you endure during the course of a game all contrive to take away from the fun.
But the point is, a team that's having fun is usually succeeding. Taking pleasure and enjoyment in the game tends to make you play with more emotion, energy and spirit, all of which are desirable. It all goes hand in hand.
The funny thing is that, in a manner of speaking, all of this could apply to fans as well. Let's face it. We all know some fellow fans who probably spend more time than not in some state of rage during games.
But we all pay our money to come to the games because it's "fun," don't we? Wouldn't we all be better served to try and remember to simply enjoy the game?
Today's opposition holds a special place in the hearts of a good number of the members of the coaching staff.
In fact, six members of the UW staff played for the Vandals: Mike Cox, Dan Cozzetto, Doug Nussmeier, Joel Thomas, grad assistant Mike Anderson and strength coach Ivan Lewis. Nussmeier and Thomas are both in Idaho's athletic hall of fame.
The connection between UW and Idaho is a long one, though largely forgotten due to the passage of time. The two Northwest universities first met on the football field in 1900 and spent much of the 20th century together in what is now the Pac-10 Conference.
So, a special welcome to the Vandals and their fans, especially from the six alums who will be wearing Purple and Gold and coaching on the opposite sideline.