So many youth football coaches try to reinvent the wheel and end up having disastrous seasons, we see it every year in every youth football league out there. A recent personal experience makes me believe maybe this is just part of human nature.
Stay with me on this story, there is a valuable youth football coaching nugget in it at the end. Last week one of my assistant coaches came over to show me how to make deer jerky. While I’m not a deer hunter, last year a different assistant coach had shot a deer for us and we had it make up into steaks, ground and sausage. In this area of the country deer season is almost a national holiday and over half of my coaching staff hunts deer. My goal in having a deer butchered was to see if it was something we liked well enough to hunt ourselves and see what all this deer hunting fuss is about.
My coach brought over his dehydrating machine, jerky recipes and spices and we commenced the process. Coach Bill is an avid outdoorsman and claims his jerky recipe is very popular with friends and family, he is what most would call an “expert” jerky maker. We started by working the recommended amount of spices into the ground meat as called for in the recipe. We rolled it out at ¼ inch thickness between wax paper, trimmed off the edges so it would fit into the tray, scored it with a pizza cutter to make it easy to break apart and put it into the dehydrator. The first batch took about 12 hours in the dehydrator to get to the level of doneness Bill said it needed to be at.
For the subsequent batches I was on my own and of course I didn’t stick with the proven process and recipe Bill had painstakingly showed me. For the first batch I only mixed the spices in for about 5 minutes instead of the 15 Bill had done, it looked to me like it was overkill. After waiting the prescribed 3 hours for the spices to “marinate” when I spread it on the pan it was VERY obvious the spices hadn’t been distributed throughout the meat. There were lots of places where the meat was red rather than the brown color where the spices had obviously penetrated the meat. Needless to say that batch had jerky that was either too spicy or too bland. Hmm there was a reason for the 15 minute mix. Maybe my friend Bill who had successfully made hundreds of batches of jerky had found out from trial and error, that 15 minutes was about the right amount of time for mixing. Any less time the spices won’e get distributed properly, any more was time wasted.
On the next batch I did work the spices in for the prescribed 15 minutes but I rolled it out to about 1/8 inch thickness instead of ¼. It just seemed that the jerky was too thick and was taking too long to cook. When I took this batch out of the dehydrator, the jerky was too thin. It broke into lots of very small pieces and had cooked down to the point it was almost paper thin. On the third batch I substituted teriyaki sauce for the water as I had seen a lot of the jerky being sold in stores was flavored with teriyaki. I did work it into the meat for 15 minutes and I did spread the meat at ¼ inch thickness. This batch also turned out poorly, it was very sticky and just didn’t taste right. Needless to say my dogs were loving all this, in three days time they must have eaten 8-10 pounds of cast off deer jerky.
Finally I relented and went back to following Bills recipe and process to the letter and viola, finally an edible batch was made. During this three day exercise in futility I found the ONLY thing that I added to the process was on how to transfer the flattened out meat from the wax paper to the tray. You can slide the wax paper and flattened meat over the edge of the counter directly onto the tray with one person much easier than flipping it end over the tray edge with two people.
When Bill picked up the dehydrator I felt compelled to tell him of my ineptness at making jerky. He smiled and said “happens every time.” We laughed and he told me that at least I had learned my lesson and went back to the original recipe and process. He patted me on the back and told me at least I didn’t repeat my mistakes and hope for different results- something he related right back to football.
Many of us coaching youth football continue to do the very same thing over and over again and expect different results. We somehow think that if we just have different ingredients our end results are going to be different. No matter how many times I added the spices and worked them in for just 5 minutes, I was always going to get very spotty tasting jerky. Had I kept rolling out my jerky to 1/8 inch thickness I would still be getting worthless paper thin jerky. For some reason many of us feel compelled to take proven methods and stand them on their heads and then wonder while we failed. Others of us wander aimlessly from successful recipe to successful recipe never really following any of them. Had I just checked my ego at the door and followed Bill’s proven process and recipe, I would have had a garage refrigerator stuffed with jerky bags instead of a few paltry bags sitting by themselves in one of the crisper drawers. Why did I think I could in my very first try, improve upon a process a very successful man had used for over 30 years? 90% of what I tried didn’t work worth a lick from quality control to ingredients to following proven processes. When you apply this to youth football you have more serious issues than the opportunity cost of some ground deer meat- when the season’s over it’s done, its gone forever. If you have an awful season many kids won’t bother taking the game up again- ever.
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