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Trey Reely | April 2017

    I have watched many sports movies over the years, and I have always envied the coaches’ uncanny gift of giving adrenaline-pumping, awe-inspiring speeches that drive the teams on to victory, no matter how high the obstacles or low the odds. The speeches become defining moments in the lives of all involved.
    The reality is typically quite different and less memorable. I often coached my children’s elementary teams in their formative years, and I only remember one thing I ever said, which was in a halftime speech that inspired the team to turn a 20-point defecit into a 28-point deficit. My former players probably don’t remember anything I said. I do remember my son’s basketball coach urging his team to picture the ball as a fried chicken leg and to “go get that chicken leg!” Apparently the team really liked chicken because it worked; I’ve never seen such an aggressive group of fifth graders. Colonel Sanders would have been proud.
    If the results of pre-game and halftime speeches are negligible, and I believe they are, then why do it? I suspect it is actually more for the coach than any of the players, serving as some type of tension release. Some may even do it just because that’s the way it has always been done. Really, if a coach has done his job right, students learned what they need to know during practice. A last minute, cliché-filled speech lathered with statements like “we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” “treat this like it’s life or death,” “stick to the plan,” and “fulfill your destiny” usually bounce off cliché-callused ear drums.
    Nonetheless, coaches persist. As with almost everything else, the internet has come to the rescue of coaches who need help inspiring their charges after finding that their pep talks are growing as stale as an old energy bar. provides all the verbal fireworks necessary to light up the football field with packaged speeches bearing titles like Give 100 Percent, Win One for the Gipper, and When Tragedy Strikes.
    Of course, band directors do much the same thing, but without the intimacy (or smell) of a locker room. Like coaches, we always feel the need to give some last minute tidbit of inspiration or instruction to push students on to musical glory. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. I do it all the time. However, there is a way to make the last minutes before a performance more effective.
    First, think about what your students need. A group can have a different collective personality each year. Some groups are more naturally excited and don’t need a lot of rah-rah talk. Other groups may require a little fire to be put under them. Younger, inexperienced groups may need a few more reminders than others to help them focus better. Some groups focus better when loose, others better with a tighter rein.
    Next, keep last-second instructions short and simple. If your aim is to help your students perform well, give them a few points to remember and leave it at that.
    Also, don’t introduce any new information. This is a time when you want to reinforce prior instructions, not introduce new ones that may cause information overload or overthinking during the performance.
    Finally, be positive. Negativity at this point only causes more stress. Saying things like “You better do it better than our last practice or it’s going to be a disaster” does more harm than good.
    I hope these tips help you get the most out of your band. Now go out there and leave it all on the field! And always remember – the other band puts their band pants on one leg at a time, just like yours does.