Hustleball

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Football is a game. The Huskies should start playing it.

Before I played in my first high school football game, before I even had my first high school football practice, the coach brought us all out to the school's baseball field. An odd move, to be sure. I wanted to play football. I had no interest in baseball, so when he brought out a baseball bat, and a softball sized nerf-type ball, I was a bit miffed.

Our coach (a former Husky great) then proceeded to tell us we were going to play a game called "Hustleball." The game was much like baseball in the most simplistic of ways: you go around the bases, you get home to score runs and you're allowed three outs. From there the game diverges. You had your own pitcher, and he better throw you a hittable pitch, because you're only getting one of them, and whether or not you hit it you better get on your horse because the ball is live. There is no such thing as a "foul" a "strike" or a "ball" in Hustleball. They're all just plays, so you can't take one off. The big part of Hustleball though was that everything was a judgement call for the umps (the coaches). There were no routine plays, because if you lined one into the gap and coasted your way in for a double you didn't really hustle. And that's the name of the game. Knock a ball over the outfield fence and coast your way home and you might get called out. Pop out to the third baseman but bust your ass down the line and slide headfirst into first base and you might be safe. You never knew with Hustleball. So you just had to go 100% all the time. As long as you did that, the rest kind of took care of itself.

I'm not sure the game itself was incredibly memorable- though I played it several times I can't remember any individual at-bats or plays - but the message of the game was. And it was, at its core, a game. It was fun. Just like football should be. Playing Hustleball was the prefect way to start the season for us because it was our identity, and set the tone for the kind of football team we were going to be. We were never the biggest, strongest, fastest or most talented team on the field, but dammit we were going to out hustle you and make you work whistle to whistle on every play, and we were going to have fun doing it. And we did. And we won way more games than a small private school playing in the WIAA's highest classification had any business winning.

The game of Hustleball isn't important. It's just a made up game that nobody plays or follows or cares about. But the idea of Hustleball means everything to the game of football, which people do play, follow and care about. Right now, the Huskies aren't playing Hustleball, and at times I'm not even sure they're playing football. They're working football, which would be fine, but they're working it really poorly most of the time. Steve Sarkisian needs to find this team's Hustleball: a way to get them to play 100% from the first snap of the game, to have fun on Saturdays, and - most importantly - establish their identity.

Coaching isn't all that different. You may only get one pitch, and then the next guy is up. Make your pitch count, Sark.

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