“I play with a lot of heart, I play with a lot of passion, I feel like I play like I am 10 feet tall. Those measurements to me are just a number.” – Johnny Manziel
Last night, I was watching Sportscenter. The NFL Combine is getting ready to start, and all of the top prospects for April’s NFL Draft are arriving to give teams a showcase of their football skills, strength, speed, intelligence, and character. Among the many things measured is the athlete himself.
Johnny Manziel measured in at 5’11 3/4″ tall and 207 lbs. This instantly became a story, and not a good one. The narrative switched to too short, red flag, and below the line.
Earlier this week, I was reading a message board forum discussing what coaches, recruiters, and scouts look for in athletes at the Division I level in baseball. The conversation quickly moved to the topic of genetics. The tone of the messages being posted seemed to imply that if you did not come from a lineage of great size or athletic ability that you just were not going to make it, or you were not going to be what someone is looking for. The conversation also discussed how genetics played into academics and intelligence levels too.
This quote is just one that stuck out: “I don(t) say this to sound rude, but at the same time, I see so many mom(s) and dad(s) out there in the Youth Leagues who are just average looking guys…ones that you can tell or know were either average, below average or didn’t play anything in HS, let alone college. Their mothers, the same…short, squatty bodied..you can just tell there is and never has been any athletic genes going through there at all; yet they TRULY believe their son will be what UK is after.”
I remember having a conversation with a scout one day on the phone, and he told me that I had all of the skills they were looking for, yet I needed to get taller (as if I have control of that) and stronger. I have had coaches tell me that they did not think I could hack it in college or that pitchers would knock the bat out of my hands. These guys never saw me play one game. They just looked at me, and thought they knew me. How often do we do this with others?
Why is this the measuring stick? Why do we look at certain size requirements and automatically write people off as if they do not rise above the line to get on a roller coaster?
Why isn’t the measuring stick broken down into two questions: what kind of person is he and can he play?
Russell Wilson is 5’11”. People did not think he was tall enough to be a successful quarterback. Perhaps, they did not think they would be able to get quite as good of a view when he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as a Super Bowl Champion.
Drew Brees is 6′ tall, or right on the cut line of acceptable heights. We can just stack up all of the awards he has won so that he can climb on top and get a better view.
David Eckstein is listed at 5’6″ or 5’7″ on a good day. But, don’t try to tell the two-time MLB All-Star and 2006 World Series Most Valuable Player that he is too short.
Maybe, the red flag we need to raise is how we judge players without ever seeing them play. Maybe, just maybe we need to do a better job of coaching kids up to get the most ability from them. Maybe, we need to spend our time more efficiently to develop them.
No one ever thought Manziel was too short to amount to anything when he was captivating college football Saturdays with his obstacle course like runs and electric throws. No one ever mentioned he was 1/4″ too small when they were handing him his Heisman Trophy as a freshman. (Maybe, they should’ve had one of the bigger taller guys there to help him lift it.)
Give me a competitor. Give me a guy that loves to play the game. Give me passion. Give me a hard worker. Give me a high character guy that is a great teammate. If he is 5’10 or 6’4″, I do not care.
Perhaps, my measuring stick is a little different. But, coaches, we need to do a better job of not stereotyping our players. Coach them. Teach them. Develop them. Encourage them. Build them up. The same goes for parents and children, employers and employees, and friends.
Let’s start measuring players and people productively.
Bring your best today!