Three Claps for Football


High school football returned to Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley. Old rivalries renewed. Pep bands, cheer squads, parents and families, boosters, and concessionaires. All are ready. If visiting fans are unsure of the location of the opponent’s playing field, they just look for the distant glow of lights. Pre-game and post-game, students and fans are bound to bring badly-needed business to local restaurants and pubs.

So what does a coach say to the players before a game? Years ago, New Orleans Saints football coach Sean Payton returned to his high school in Naperville, Illinois and delivered this message, set as the backdrop video to Kenny Chesney’s song, The Boys of Fall:

Coach Payton: “Three claps and we’re ready to play tonight (players and coaches respond: clap-clap-clap).
Three claps (clap-clap-clap).
Three claps (clap-clap-clap).
Twenty-seven years ago I sat in this locker room just like you guys, on a knee getting ready to play a game.
I walked down to the locker room, it still smells the same.
It takes you back real quick.
One of the things that caught me was how fast 27 years goes by.
There are so many people who live vicariously through you.
I would give anything tonight to jump into one of these uniforms with you guys.
That feeling goes away.
It goes away, and it doesn’t come every Friday night.
It comes when you get married.
It comes when your child is born.
So you get it, but you just don’t get it every Friday night.
You’re gonna miss that more than anything in the world.
That’s what I miss.
So you seniors, who are focused on college;
You’re focused on your work after high school;
What you’re gonna do next.
You’re focused on tomorrow, aren’t you?
You’ve got plenty of time for tomorrow.
But these tonight’s, they’re going by fast.
You focus on tonight.
This is about you guys.
This is about the guys in this room.
They care about each other.
They know there are only so many of these nights left.
It’s about you.
They’re a faceless opponent.
They just happened to draw the short straw tonight.
Now get your butts ready to play.
‘Win’ on three.

Here’s to bringing some normalcy to Friday nights in the St. Croix Valley.