MLK Thanksgiving Day Game interview with MLK Coach Malik Jones

The Martin Luther King/Germantown Thanksgiving game. Defensive schemes. Workouts, Mental Health and Hamilton. What do all these things have in common? The answer is Coach Malik. He is well versed in all of these subjects. I got a chance to listen to him share his wealth of knowledge on a few things.

We’re pretty close to Thanksgiving, and I will always associate football with this holiday. Locally the MLK/Germantown game was always a big deal as far as bragging rights were concerned. I asked coach if he had any memories of the Thanksgiving game.

That question took him back to 1990. He said he was in the bleachers watching his brother play. It was in this moment that the energy in the crowd and the action on the field made him fall in love with the game of football.

The conversation transitioned to on the field where I asked how the season was going. Coach spoke on the contributing factors that lead to the rough season the team has had. Early in the season the team had a bout with Covid which led to players missing time. Facing some of the top football programs in the country when you’re not at full strength is less than ideal, but Coach always stays upbeat and positive. “Never let them see you down”.

I asked if as a coach are you married to a certain scheme or style of play. “Marriage suggests complacency” Coach said

Coach also made it clear that his preference when coaching defense is to attack. He approaches defense with an offensive mindset meaning he is constantly looking for the weakness and how to attack it. Coach is also a stickler for the details. His players must know what their keys are pre-snap, what technique they are to use and exactly what part of an offense they are attacking. Sound advice from the arhitect of a defense that produces 20 turnovers a season.

So how do you get your players ready to run your attacking defensive scheme?

“Every player has their own customized workout based on their individual strengths and weaknesses”. Throughout the year the workouts vary from being centered on strength and endurance to focusing on speed. Coach wants to build a team of fast twitch athletes that can attack in the blink of an eye.

As passionate as Coach Malik is about football, I got the impression that he is just as passionate about mental health. Not just that of his players, but his own as well. Coach Malik is on the forefront of the movement to bring awareness and acknowledgement to the  mental health of young players and students.

“Introduce them to mental health. Make them emotionally aware. Understand the relationship between mental health and what happens on the football field. Let them know they don’t have to go it alone.”

Football is an emotional sport. There is a certain amount of anger, energy and aggression you have to play with in order to be effective on the field. Sometimes the lines get blurred on when to turn those emotions on and off. 

The coaching of football and mental health isn’t just limited to the football season. Coach Malik has implemented “Wellness Tuesday’s” where the goal is to present the best version of yourself on that day, your best clothes, your best attitude, your best frame of mind. An exercise that gets the players in a positive mindset that carries over throughout the week.

Coach also spoke on managing his own mental health and anger. ” Anger is cumulative and transferrable”. Meaning that if you’re keeping anger bottled up inside, there is a good chance it can negatively affect the people around you. Coach focuses on having “productive anger”, channelling that energy into productive action either on the field or off of it.

Coach Malik also spoke on his upbringing and how there were not a lot of options for young men of color in the early to mid 90’s. Along with many of us, Coach had friends that took the path that led to incarceration or the cemetery. What changed things for Coach Malik was having the courage to create a different path. That’s where Hamilton comes in.

Hamilton is a stage play and musical from 2015 that tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was an immigrant that came over to America, fought alongside George Washington in the revolutionary war and created a system of credit that is still used to this very day. He’s also that guy on the ten dollar bill. 

The correlation between Hamilton and what Coach Malik is talking about lies in the idea of walking your own path and not being afraid to speak up for yourself, even if everybody thinks you are wrong. People fought Hamilton every step of the way when he came up with crazy ideas like a naval fleet and abolishment of slavery. But Hamilton still persisted. That is the message Coach Malik conveyed, set the example now, never be afraid of being the first one to do something. You just might build something great enough that continues on after you. 

It was a true joy in speaking with a great coach and a great man.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s