I am hearing a lot about the “blue collar” mentality and work ethic these days. And the expression is manifesting itself in the form of some motivational gear. According to Steve DelVecchio of the San Jose Mercury News, 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh “has issued gas station work shirts with personalized name patches to each player on his roster. The message in handing out the blue-collar shirts is simple: Work hard. ‘It’s not real complicated what it stands for — a motivational symbol, if you will’.”
And at St. Ignatius College Prep, a select number of varsity athletes can be seen sporting a new long sleeve RED & BLUE COLLAR ATHLETE t-shirt. Why? The new leadership in the athletic department has implemented the “Red & Blue Collar Athlete Program.” Athletic director John Mulkerrins said “It’s an opportunity to honor a Varsity Wildcat Athlete whose ‘blue collar’ effort is recognized by his or her coach in practices, games, or during any strength and conditioning sessions over a period of two weeks.”
This athlete is recognized because when the tough get going, he or she is going. It’s almost paradoxical. As a coach, I recognize her because she demands little if any work on my behalf. This athlete does more than is required or expected and she does it well. Cutting corners is a foreign concept. When I say give me ten, she gives me twelve. When I’m not looking she is still working.Just today the SI girls’ cross country most recent "Red & Blue Collar Athlete" got a massive headache during her workout (running hill reps and sand stairs at Fort Funston); we advised her to take a break. Some athletes might be relieved by the respite, but not this Blue & Red Collar Athlete. She was disappointed that she couldn’t complete the given task or share the challenge in full with her team. I have no doubt this athlete sleeps well at night; she gives her sport physically and mentally her very best. The success of our team hinges on her example more than she knows.
And across town, as the Niners prove they are for real, it should not be taken for granted that success emanates from talent and new leadership, and a hard work ethic. It is no surprise that a successful team, by any definition, is a hard working team.
After the September 11 win over Seattle, Jim Harbaugh described the offense as “blue collar,” and tight end Delanie Walker went right along with the company line, “If he says we’re a blue-collar team, we’re a blue-collar team. At the end of the day we’re going to be dirty, muddy and stinky. It may not be pretty and it’s going to be ugly. That’s basically what he means by blue collar. We’re not trying to look pretty.”
Sure a shirt can honor a blue (and red) collar athlete but we know them by their headaches and sand or their mud and dirt. It may not be pretty, but these athletes wouldn’t have it any other way—they’re working too hard not to! They push me to work hard and to succeed—no time for anything less.
Blue Collar Niner Shirt
SF Sand Stairs