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Byline: Gary Washburn Daily News Staff Writer

Thirty minutes before a Friday-night football game at Poly High School, Sylmar High football coach Jeff Engilman shuts off the locker room lights.

For 10 minutes, after listening to a barrage of orders and assignments, the Sylmar players think in silence - and in darkness - about their responsibilities on the field.

``Nobody says anything,'' Sylmar wide receiver Shaun Avalos explained. ``If you do, you deal with the coaches and team captains afterward.''

For Engilman, a winner of two City Section 4-A championships, such calm in the middle of chaos is one answer to a problem that all high-school coaches face: How do you inspire teen-agers to set aside thoughts of schoolwork and dating to play their best football, even though they get no tangible reward and, in most cases, have no hope of a championship?

The coach has to call plays, set schemes, figure a game plan - and motivate.

Not all coaches take credit for getting their players pumped up.

``Motivation is an individual thing,'' St. Francis football coach Bill Redell said. ``I don't think you can depend on a coach, teacher or parent, it has to come from within.''

But most coaches agree that self-motivated kids are rare. Most go through the motions until their pride is challenged by an opponent or a coach.

The word motivation is an extension for ``motive.'' Webster's defines motive as ``some inner drive, impulse, intention, etc., that causes a person to do something or act in a certain way; incentive; goal.''

The goal of every football team is to win. But another layer of motivation may be needed to get there.

For Sylmar receiver Ralph Yoakum, it's newspaper clippings. He searches the local newspapers every day for words written about Sylmar or the opposing team. He puts these clippings in his locker and, before a recent game against Antelope Valley, put one in his wallet.

``The article said we didn't have any superstar players,'' Yoakum said. ``That really pumped me up. I want to prove it wrong.''

Actually, Yoakum says, he begins to prepare himself for a game two days after the last one. He rests on Saturday, but all those NFL games and highlights on Sunday have him thinking about Friday's opponent.

By Monday's practice, Yoakum is itching to get started. Engilman admires that mentality, because, as he says, every player isn't like that.

``Ralph's a real self-starter,'' Engilman said. ``I don't have to say anything to get him ready to play. He's already prepared for every game. He's a pleasure to coach.''

Engilman's favorite style of motivation is yelling. He yells insults, orders and jokes, and even makes ``choke'' signs on the bench. Longtime players appear to ignore it. Others get angry and respond in different manners.

``I would make the choke sign to Durell Price, and that would make him mad and make him play better,'' Engilman said. ``You have to know how to push the right buttons, and that's hard to do.''

Yelling is one way to motivate. But it may not be the best.

Sports psychologist Drew Yellen was head football coach at Grant. In his opinion the type of motivation must vary with each young person.

``Different individuals respond to different type of situations,'' Yellen said. ``I'd get to know the athlete on the personal level and decide what to do then.''

Yellen points out to a particular player at Grant.

``He was huge and had a deep voice, but his ego was frail. Yelling at him would just destroy it,'' Yellen said. ``I had to sit with him and pat him on the back.''

In the heat of a game, especially during one that's in serious doubt, a coach's emotions can race out of control. But different people respond to different stimuli. Even the kids themselves notice when certain motivation is effective.

``Some guys don't get pumped until the fourth quarter,'' Newbury Park quarterback Chris Czernek said. ``Others are just wired; I mean they are crazy. They are hitting themselves or each other waiting to play.''

A Newbury Park assistant coach went through the locker room at halftime running into lockers to get the Panthers pumped up for a recent game.

Redell and Engilman agreed there are a plethora of mentalities and mind-sets when game time begins. Some kids, like Yoakum, need no inspiration to play while others wait until the fourth quarter to realize their pride is on the line.

``I guess it's like that Rocky song, the `Eye of the Tiger,' '' Yellen said. ``You really can't teach that. That type of inspiration comes from home.''

Many kids who overcome adversity in their personal life apply that underdog attitude to the football field. Taft's Donte Morgan gets so excited on the football field that he jumps around after every tackle.

On Kennedy's sideline, reserve cornerback Wajih Blanchand spends most of the game in a frenzy pumping up his teammates.

Kennedy coach Bob Francola gives his kids awards for the best defensive and offensive players of the game. Some starters, by season's end, have their helmets splattered with Cougars stickers. Others don't.

``We assume the kids play for the same reason, and that's not the case,'' Francola said. ``Some of it's for a pure love of the game. Others like it when the lights come on. There are some kids who pray the spotlight never hits them and they never get the ball.''

Football evokes certain emotions. The competition can be an inspiration, the winning can cause excitement, the rivalries can spur school and self-pride and teamwork can make an otherwise insecure young person feel wanted.

``I don't know how those guys who don't play much get motivated,'' Czernek said. ``But it feels good to be out there when the lights are on and someone like Westlake is on the field. If you have a uniform that says Newbury Park on it, you've got to be pumped.''

On his wall two years ago, Czernek posted the Daily News' list of the top 10 quarterbacks for the 1994 season. It included Panthers quarterback Justin Vint, the expected successor to Keith Smith.

``I looked at that every day because he was my competition,'' said Czernek, then a sophomore. ``I guess it helped because I won the job.''

For Hart linebacker Todd Hourigan, the accolades of his older brother Ryan inspire him to improve. Ryan was an All-Southern Section defensive end in 1992.

``Todd has a great deal of respect for his brother,'' father Dave Hourigan said. ``And Todd hopes to someday achieve those same things. He wants to be as good as his brother and when the coaches tell him he's not playing up to his capabilities, it just makes him more motivated.''

Parents play a key role on young people's mental development and stimulation. Dave Hourigan, a former Pop Warner coach, said he rarely yells at Todd after subpar performances.

``I might say he didn't play well and point out what he didn't do,'' Dave Hourigan said. ``Then it's up to him to get better. He's very self-motivating and that wasn't from me yelling at him.''

Hourigan finished with 20 tackles in Hart's victory over Loyola and 13 in the win over Palmdale. Yet it was Todd who was talking on the way home about the tackle he didn't make.

``He wants his team to win,'' Dave Hourigan said.

The lack of a team concept is one factor that encouraged Granada Hills coach Darryl Stroh to retire. No longer was a piercing pregame speech and team pride enough to motivate most of his players.

Stroh feels society has coerced young people to become more individualistic. In turn, their motivation becomes more personal and, in his opinion, more selfish.

``Red hair, green hair, it's not in the team concept,'' Stroh said. ``Those are things that separate us and therefore draw us apart. They might motivate you, but what about the team?''

So the question arises, should players be motivated for personal reasons or for the good of the team? Stroh thinks the former answer became too prevalent in recent years.

``I just couldn't get through to them,'' Stroh said. ``They became tougher to coach. I know you have to have different ways with different kids, but I've got one way. Maybe that's why I'm not coaching.''

Stroh realized, as do many other veteran coaches, that the minds of players have changed just as much as fashion and exposure. Getting inside of a teen-ager's head is much more difficult because there are so many temptations to rebel.

``What you've got to be today is more flexible and have a great understanding on psychology,'' Yellen said. ``The times are different. If you say, `I'm the coach, just do it like I say,' it won't work. Unless kids can relate to somebody, they will not have respect and not perform. Motivation instills confidence, and that results in success.''

Motivation is different for each individual. But one thing that hasn't changed is its affect on sports and on self-esteem.

``The ones who are motivated and really love the game stand out,'' Redell said. ``You've got to be a little special to play this game. Motivation is important in building character.''


3 Photos

Photo: (1) The El Camino Real football squad bursts thro ugh a poster designed to pump them up before taking the field.

(2--cover) FIRED UP

David Richard Crane / Daily News

(3) Thousand Oaks coach Mike Kelly and Glenn Perrault get motivated at the beginning of a game against Westlake.

Joe Binoya / Special to the Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 25, 1996

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