Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Emergency Hugs

Emergency hugs can change the world. I remember it like it was just yesterday. It was a brisk, fall evening in 2019 when the concept of emergency hugs came into existence. We were wrapping up football practice with conditioning as we usually did.

As a result of their inability to follow instructions set forth by the coaching staff that fateful evening, the boys made the decision to participate in additional conditioning! Typically additional conditioning under these circumstances resulted in the occasional tears where consoling was needed.

Whenever these corrective measures were taken, we always tried to huddle up after and reestablish expectations with the boys. A teachable moment. It served as a great opportunity to reinforce the need to follow instructions and practice well. As I was delivering the message, one of the players needed a level of consoling that was interrupting my ability to properly communicate with the rest of the team.

I looked at this player who will remain nameless (and who I love dearly) and asked, “do you need a hug?” This was my typical response during these situations to offer my heartfelt condolences to the player. Then, through the team’s collective heavy breathing brought on by the conditioning, a voice emerged from the back of the huddle. That player said, “yeah…an emergency hug!”  So, the team collectively embraced the player in need with a giant group hug and the rest is history.

The player who said those infamous words that evening would go on to receive his fair share of emergency hugs over the next two seasons as well. These special hugs greatly impacted our team culture moving forward. Struggling with extra conditioning…emergency hug. Down because you fumbled…emergency hug. Upset because a coach got on you for missing an assignment…you guessed it…emergency hug.

Here are five important things you need to know about emergency hugs:

Emergency Hugs Can Be Met With Resistance

The first emergency hug ever issued was met with resistance. That is why it was a “collective embrace.” No matter what the player’s resistance level was, he was not going to outrun the love of his teammates that evening!

I enjoy my personal space. My DISC behavioral profile specifically states that I prefer two to three feet of space between me and the next person. Hugs can invade that bubble, but I have learned the value of a good hug over time. It is only a temporary invasion of that space!

Are Critical For When Things Fall Apart

In another football related post, Calling Plays I shared a quote with the readers from one of my favorite movies of all time, Remember the Titans. When questioned on his limited playbook by an assistant coach, Coach Herman Boone replied with, “it’s like Novocain. Just give it time, it always works.” I strongly subscribed to that belief system as a play caller.

Emergency hugs are like Novocain too. They will not end the pain the player, student, employee, co-worker, or family member is walking through. Here is what they can do. The hug can provide temporary relief from the pain to point them in the direction of healing.

Can Be Reserved For Moments Of Celebration

Emergency hugs were invented in response to a moment of struggle. Over the next two seasons the concept was adapted to include celebratory moments. Touchdowns, interceptions, pancake blocks, fumble recoveries, and big wins.

As leaders, we cannot forget to celebrate what needs celebrated. Celebration is a form of encouragement. Encouragement leads to moments in the future that will require more celebration.  It is cyclical.

emergency hugs
With Connor Warner after a big win in 2019 to go to the Super Bowl.

For Showing Gratitude

Our social media feeds are starting to fill up with images of players at the youth, middle school, and high school levels kicking their new seasons off. For me, this is an odd start to the football season. For the first time in twenty-one years, I will not be roaming the sidelines as a coach.

I coached my last game this past fall, with the emergency hug team. After four years together, these boys would be headed in different directions to their respective middle school programs. Our last game together was the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, we lost that game. Fortunately, there were plenty of emergency hugs to go around. That evening, I received some of the most important emergency hugs ever.

Youth sports parents get a bad wrap these days. We had a special group of parents with that team. The hugs I received from them that evening were ones of gratitude. They were accompanied by words, grateful ones. Words sharing the positive impact that we as coaches had made on their child’s life. In fact, some even shared that they do not know where their kid would be without us.

Meant the world. Moments I will never forget.

Are Perfect For Reunions

Nothing brings me greater joy than to bump into a former player in the community and get a hug. I will never forget a hug that I received a couple of years ago.  It was youth night at the local high school game and the emergency hug team was there with me.

Prior to the game, we got to go on the field.  The Varsity team came around and shook all of our player’s hands.  As the players made their way around, one stopped, looked down at me (he’s 6’3” now), smiled, and gave me a huge hug. 

It was a former player who played for us when he was seven.  He was one of the best players on the team that year, but we had to drag him kicking, screaming, and crying through the season!  The last thing he wanted to do was play football.  He was a recipient of emergency hugs before they were ever a thing! 

We saw more in him than he saw in himself, that is what leaders and coaches do.  They never give up on you either.  Now he is a highly sought-after DI prospect and football will simply be a key that opens a door to a limitless future.


What if you are not a hugger? Well, use your socially distant words! Write a note, comment on a social media post, send a text, give whatever virtual emergency hug resource you have available! 

Please do not forget the awesome responsibility you have as a leader in your local community to better others and the world you live in.  Especially in that moment someone needs you.  Add in person or virtual emergency hugs to your leadership toolbox today. The world needs them more than ever. 

Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection

Who do you know that needs an emergency hug today?  Do you need one?

Grateful for you taking the time to read this post!  Like what you read?  Share this post with your friends and followers with the icons provided below.  Are you interested in joining us on this leadership journey and having these posts delivered to your inbox weekly?  Subscribe here.  Would love for you to connect with us on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Share this post