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KALAMAZOO (WKZO) – “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
This Japanese proverb is often used to describe times of triumph over struggle. The focus of this statement isn’t how many times someone or something fails, instead it’s how many times they rise in spite of the failures.
In a sports context, failure can be looked at from many different angles, and in the same token so can success. The easiest measurement of success and failure is wins and losses.
What we’re often blind to is what goes into each win and each loss.
Missed tackles, dropped passes, and turnovers are among the thorns in the side of football teams trying to win games. The easiest explanation for a team’s missteps during a game is youth and inexperience. A less visible, and in my opinion most valuable factor, is team chemistry and leadership.
With Saturday’s 38-17 loss to Ball State , Western Michigan football suffered their eighth straight loss.
Youth and inexperience isn’t an excuse. It is the reality facing head coach PJ Fleck and his staff. I’m a numbers person, and the following numbers jumped off the page for me.
Through the halfway point of the season, 20 true and redshirt freshman took at least one snap on offense, defense, or special teams. 13 starts have been made by a redshirt or true freshman, and that number has and will certainly continue to grow in the coming weeks with the mounting injuries facing the team. Again, not an excuse, but the youth and inexperience is what it is for this team. The good news is that the team chemistry and leadership is clearly growing with every snap.
Another proverbial statement that comes to mind is, “patience is a virtue.”
In a culture desperate for immediate results, the spotlight was blazing on the youngest FBS head coach in the country when he was named the 15th head coach of the program . While the 0-8 record is disappointing to fans, no one wants to win for his players more than their head coach. The obvious response from an outsider’s perspective would be to throw in the towel.
The thing about this team is that’s not happening. A special teams unit is blocking field goals late in games, a redshirt freshman quarterback is commanding the huddle in his first collegiate starts, and that same quarterback is throwing with confidence to a group of receivers that continues to change. From top to bottom, this team is giving all they have every week. The goal of sustained success begins with this group.
8-0 would be an exciting thing for this football team and its fan base, and that day is coming. With every missed tackle, with every dropped pass, and every turnover comes growth. Growth feeds experience, experience feeds team chemistry, team chemistry feeds positive results. The next step to progress comes on Saturday.
Western Michigan (0-8/0-4 MAC) travels to UMass (1-6/1-2 MAC) on Saturday October 26th. Listen to Robin Hook and John Creek on the Bronco Radio Network starting at 2 pm.