During this troubling time of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be tough to keep the ol’ spirits up.
There’s the uneasiness of going to the store or pharmacy. (“Hey bud, six feet!”) There’s the cabin fever of staying home. (I can only walk the dog so many times, folks.)
Yet we know what we must do. Physical distancing. (More accurate than social distancing, don’t you think?) Hand washing. Be smart.
But yeah, the head can drop.
Rather than allow it to stay so, though, today I called probably the best motivator I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around: College Football Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen.
Now 84 years young, Nehlen lives in Morgantown. And he, like all of us, are wrestling with the pandemic.
“It just blows you away,” Nehlen said on Wednesday. “You don’t know what to do. And having no sports just kills ya.”
Spoken like a true ball coach.
Yet I asked the former WVU football coach what he said to the troops when it was gloomy. I asked what he’d say now to motivate us in this time of need.
As was always the case, Coach came through.
“I always told my team, ‘We’re never as good as we think and we’re never as bad as we think,’” Nehlen said. “This mess we’re in is bad, but it could be worse.”
He paused and then restarted.
“I always told my team if 100 guys get together and go in one direction – and no one cares who gets the credit – we can do anything,” Nehlen said.
“Same way with this country. If we all hang together and go in one direction – and don’t fight each other – we’ll come out the other end stronger.”
“We can’t have half of the people saying this and the other half saying that and the young people running around and disobeying what the government says. Just do what they ask, wash your hands and do what you’re supposed to do.
“If we do that, we’ll whip this thing, the market will come back and we’ll have a great economy.”
Spoken like a true leader. And while on the subject, I asked how our president should handle the situation.
“Well,” he chuckled, “It’s a lot easier to motivate 100 than 340 million.”
Nehlen said he’s glad President Trump is making frequent televised appearances. That helps, he said. But he also offered this advice.
“One thing I know,” Nehlen said, “is whenever you lead, you’ve got to lead from a position of strength and positivity. If you get in front of your team and don’t know what you’re talking about and don’t have any enthusiasm, they know it in a minute. Same way with our country. If the president gets up and doesn’t know what he’s talking about, everybody knows it in a minute. That’s why he has to have good people around him.”
We can do this, Nehlen said.
We will do this.
“You’ve got to be optimistic,” said the coach. “There’s no question about it. The American people can handle this.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.