Five basic responses: Part 1

I spent 4 years beside the Chesapeake Bay at the U.S. Naval Academy.  It was an incredible experience that I treasure.

It started on July 3, 1994….plebe summer.  I hugged my Dad, kissed my Mom, and checked in to Bancroft Hall at 7:30am.  By 7:31, some upperclassman was in my face explaining how I was to communicate for the next 10 months.

He barked (use your best drill sergeant voice), “You are allowed to give five responses.  When asked a question or given direction, you will answer with 1) the correct answer, 2) ‘yes, Sir’ or ‘no, Sir’, 3) ‘I’ll find out, Sir’, 4) ‘No excuse, Sir’, or 5) ‘aye, aye, Sir’.” (In your world, aye,aye roughly translates to “yes, Coach, I’ll do it”)

Seems harsh, does it not?

I had a tough time with this…at first.  After a few run-ins with upperclassmen who “encouraged” me to do flutter kicks until I puked, I got pretty good at these responses.

The toughest one, by far, was #4: No excuse, Sir.  We would do “uniform changes” in a drill where we had to change from wearing workout clothes to a full dress uniform in 2 minutes.  Of course, we’d fail.  Then, they would completely trash our rooms…toss our perfectly folded socks all over the place, then give us 5 minutes to prepare for an inspection.  We’d fail.  They forced us to memorize a poem with 30+ stanzas.  We’d fail tongue-tied.  They’d make us run a 1/2 mile obstacle course in 3 minutes.  We’d fail breathless.  They’d ask, “Kirby, what’s wrong with you…why didn’t you finish on time????”  “No excuse, Sir.”

What I know now is that there is something incredibly admirable about a man who has a “no excuses” attitude.  Your parents love it.  Women (your future wives) are attracted to a man who lives that way.  Employers love it.  Teachers love it.  And coaches love it.

When you say, “no excuse, Sir”, you are acknowledging that you are responsible for your actions and not someone else.  You are giving your parent/teacher/coach the respect he or she deserves by NOT wasting their time with a worthless explanation.  You are getting your mind focused on what it takes, next time, to get it right.

In truth, plebe summer was designed so that we would fail.  Some days, football is that way too.  We want you to become humble men who know what it means to carry responsibility for yourself, for your wives, for your families…your teammates.

Sure, there are days when things go poorly, and it really is not your fault.  Boys feel the need to explain themselves because they need others to know that we are not to blame.  Men who have developed strong moral character and disciplined habits usually don’t feel the need to explain themselves.  They let their yes mean yes, and their no mean no.  Let’s be that kind of man.

The next time you drop a pass, miss a block, forget an assignment, show up late, forget your shoes, wear a hat indoors…be a man who accepts responsibility.  Just say, “no excuse, Mom/Dad/Teacher/Coach…I’ll get it done next time.”  Then do what it takes to get it done.

What is that feeling that boils inside you when you have to say, “no excuse, Coach”?  What would have to happen in you to make it easier to say?  How could you avoid having to say it?



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