Tom Herman coached football at Houston before he moved on to take over the Texas program. Back in the fall, with his star clearly on the rise, a news story grabbed my attention.
Really? I thought that there had to be a catch. Something other than a coach's lips making contact with his players heads, necks, and cheeks.
No catch. Just kisses.
The New York Times explained...
Physical expressions of affection certainly exist in big-time sports. Nothing says “Good job!” in baseball like a firm pat on the behind from a coach, and in international soccer it is not uncommon to see teammates peck each other on the cheek after a big play.
But kisses in football’s gladiatorial culture seem as incongruous as a Gatorade shower at the ballet.
For Herman, 41, there is no better way to demand the painful sacrifices of the game than to forthrightly convey his affection for his players.
“How do you motivate a human being to do things against his own nature?” Herman said in an interview. “There’s two things: love and fear. And to me, love wins every time.”
Herman reckoned he has kissed his players for more than a decade, going back to his days as the wide receivers coach at Sam Houston State.
“I’m a bit confused as to why it’s garnered so much attention and why it’s seemed so odd,” he said, “because I think most college coaches would tell a young man in recruiting — or his parents — ‘Hey, I’m going to love you’ or ‘treat you like my son.’”
In fact, Herman expressed sadness that the ritual seems so uncommon.
“I can tell you I was disappointed — they said it was the first time they’ve ever been kissed by a man,” Herman said, noting that several of his players grew up fatherless.
“Which,” he added, “is a shame in our society.”I must confess that this challenged my own perception of masculine shows of affection. Handshakes are fine. I can add a shoulder slap if I really mean it. Hugs are OK. I was raised by New Englanders, so I have to work at this one--alcohol and/or sports helps.
But kisses. That's just no. Not at all.
But as a parent, I kiss my kids all the time. In fact, I never give it a second thought. When I watch Tom Herman kissing his players, this is what I see--a loving exchange between a parent and a child. I don't know much of anything about this coach and his team. But this gesture seems entirely authentic and sincere.
This brings be to this whole teaching thing that I do.
I have said before that I continue to learn about my profession by hanging out with coaches. The best ones know how to show their love for their players. I know that this doesn't just happen either. Coaches spend more time with their athletes than any professor would over a four year period.
Still... I could do better with showing that I care. And no, there won't be kisses. That's a bridge too far. A creepy bridge too. And one that ends in me getting fired. So maybe I'll stick with fist bumps.