This is how to manage mercy rules…on the losing end.
I am Coach Phil Tran, championship-winning high school football coach and award-winning strength coach.
I have coached great teams. I have coached bad teams. I have had one of football’s mercy rules, the running clock, imposed on my team.
I have seen other other coaches let the running clock run while playing at a slow tempo on offense to drain the clock. I have seen other coaches signal to their opponents that they didn’t want to play anymore and everybody just stood around as the running clock drains. I have seen other coaches just quit and call the game.
I am adamantly against all these approaches.
In my lifetime as a coach, if I had such authority, every time we were on the losing end of a mercy rule, we played aggressively to not lose by a mercy rule.
Where I coach, there is a running clock in the second half of a football game when there is a 35 point lead. I would coach to prevent the running clock from being imposed even when talent-wise the lead was insurmountable.
I like coaching football. I hope my players like playing football too. We can’t coach and play more football if we have a running clock imposed on us. If we have a running clock imposed on us, we play aggressively at a high tempo with a hurry-up offense to attempt to score to reduce to point differential so we can stop the running clock.
It is true that if you have a running clock in the 2nd half and play aggressively, you will leave more time on the clock for the opponent to run up the score if you cannot move the ball on offense. In my world, it does not matter if we lose 0-35 or 0-70. We are playing aggressively in an effort to make something happen.
I once coached an under squad football game in which we could not gain a first down all game and had a running clock imposed on us. I had the audacity to call timeouts on offense at the end of the game in an effort to gain one first down on offense. We succeeded in gaining that first down.
I don’t care if my aggressive approach to score while on the losing end of a mercy rule causes the opponents to lose the opportunity to go home early and watch television. My job is to teach kids about the importance of never quitting.
You have to throw a blanket over the scoreboard and set immediate goals for your team to achieve. If there is any possibility of it happening, this is how every miracle comeback begins.
If you are on the losing end of a mercy rule, there is absolutely no reason why you should not play aggressively.
This is an opportunity to play backups, empty the bench, and see if anyone can generate a spark.
This is an opportunity to get more live reps in game situations.
Most importantly, this is an opportunity to teach your kids that you never quit under any circumstances.
Just make sure that whenever you score on offense or make a stop on defense in a losing situation that such player celebrations are kept to a minimum and at a low key. You want to teach the importance of not giving up and you simultaneously want to teach self-awareness and humility.
How you lose matters. There is a deep divide between teams that play hard to the very end looking to secure any minor statistical victory they set for themselves versus teams that just want the misery to end. You can lose, but you cannot be a loser.
I have been fortunate to coach championship teams and athletes. I have been on the losing end of a mercy rule. I have a championship mentality in all circumstances and never quit. That is the mindset I want all my players to possess. How you respond as a coach and as a player when you lose will determine if winning is your destiny.
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So long. I will see you next time.