SportsLeader is a virtue-based mentoring and motivation program for coaches. This blog shares stories from coaches all over the country transforming lives. For more information contact Lou Judd -

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nostalgic in the Airport

By Scott M Schoettgen
WR at Willamette University

As many of you know, I spent a few weeks in Costa Rica this summer with Ryan Bourke and a study abroad program that is designed to allow athletes to study abroad, train, and share their love for sports with kids in other countries. The mission is to connect the world through sports. Working with these kids for the brief time that I did was one of the most impacting things I have ever done recently, not only for them, but also for myself. I attached a short reflection piece I wrote while I was in the airport on my way home. I'm sharing it because I think perspective and respect for what you have are invaluable pieces to success, however you define it. So if you're interested, have  a look and feel free to let me know if it sparks any thoughts of your own.  The experience I describe will be a reminder to myself of how fortunate we all are to tie up our cleats every day and go to work with each other. So take a look if you like.
Love you guys,

Nostalgic in the Airport
At 4:30 in the morning I am tired, a little spaced out, but none the less inspired by my time spent in Costa Rica, down to the very waning moments in the airport. Yesterday I almost cried at the sight of a young Costa Rican boy carrying a football down the street in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Jose. At this moment, on this special afternoon, there was nothing poor about this kid.  Under any other circumstances, I would have continued walking on with my day without acknowledging the significance of what I just witnessed, it’s just a boy with a ball, but today this was this kid’s first time holding the very object that I have dedicated the majority of my recent years to catching week in and week out. This was this kid’s first football. 
Just an hour prior, this boy was one of about 60 children who attended Beyond’s first day of youth sports camps, and he was one of the kids who I had the opportunity to share some rudimentary football knowledge with.  The simple things like positions, how to throw a football semi-properly, and how to release all aggression onto a four-foot tall, yellow tackling bag, all things which I have for too long just accepted as the mundane and obvious pieces of my sport, took on much bigger forms with what I experienced yesterday afternoon. 
As this boy ran up the street holding his football with more pride and enjoyment than any teammate or competitor carrying the same ball ever would, he saw my fellow athletes and coaches walking in the opposite direction on the other sidewalk. The only connection that he had to us was the ball he held in his hand, and the acknowledgement, which he made from across the street by yelling in joy and stopping just short of throwing his new ball threw traffic to us, that myself, Ryan Bourke, Ryan Belcher, and Grant Leslie were the ones who had taught him how to use one. But, that connection was strong enough to have more impact on me than any other single moment in my recent recollection. The joy that child had running down the street, with holes in his shoes that let his bare toes poke through onto the sidewalk surface, his smile almost painfully stretched across his face from ear to ear, will carry more emotional influence than any single run, catch, tackle, or other such big play made by myself or any teammate on any team I’ve ever been on.  This moment gratifies every intention to share the sport I love with the kids who may have otherwise never touched a football in their lives.
Throughout my life, my experiences with sports have mitigated the most trying times and most difficult personal experiences. My commitment to teams, teammates, and my own career has helped place me in the most advantageous positions for my own personal advancement, and now I have the ability to share that love with kids internationally. A single football and a positive influence have the power to be a foundation for the same life full of fulfillment. This is just one instance enlightening the power of sports. Yesterday, that boy on the street in Costa Rica was the richest man alive.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Coach Ted Fairchild - Personal Story

An assistant football coach at Parkway High School in Rockford, OH shares some of his life and what he thinks helps turn boys into men.

Friday, August 27, 2010


“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” 
1 Corinthians 3:9
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Ephesians 4:29
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
 Thessalonians 5:11
I was struck the past few days of the many uses of the word “build”. 
*** For example, my 3 year old daughter watched Bob the Builder this morning.(and my son and I sang the song for the next hour, much to my wife’s annoyance!)
***  Jeff Jordan’s State Champ Camp has written on their merchandise, Noah didn’t wait for his ship to come in…he built one.  
***Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, first wrote the best seller, Built to Last.
*** We all have wanted to be “bodybuilders”, especially the ultimate bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger(sp?). 
***Probably my favorite is in the movie, Field of Dreams, when Kevin Costner keeps hearing that mysterious voice urging him…. “Build it and he will come!”
At Winton Woods High School we are attempting to build a championship wrestling program.  We are attempting to build boys up into championship men.  We are builders.  I’ve never thought about it, but what a noble profession! Not necessarily to be a coach but to be a builder.  To take something, and mold it, shape it, urge it into something different, something new, something better than what is was before, dare I say is heavenly.  As we all know, we have not built ourselves.  God built us, he created us.  What is more, He is constantly creating us, making us better every day on this earth…..with or without our consent.  For us to participate in the art of building is to connect us intimately to Our Creator, the Master Builder.  
What have you built recently?  Have you built up another person?  Have you built up muscles you never thought you had before?  Have you built an addition to your house?  Have you built a sandcastle with your kids this summer?  Have you helped build a school curriculum plan? Have you built your lesson plans/football plans for the season?  Have you have helped build team unity on your team for the upcoming season?  Have you helped build up a struggling wrestling program?(I know many of you have done this!)  I am sure you have built something recently.  Now take a minute to think of the joy you had during the building, the excitement, the lying in bed at night, not being able to fall asleep, because you just can’t turn off your brain. Then think of the joy when you accomplished the task.  How proud were you?  How good did you feel?  I know that feeling comes from God.  Does God feel the same way when he builds me? God, I hope so!  We are meant to build life here on earth.  We are meant to experience the glory of God on earth, doing God’s bidding.  We are meant to build.
Think hard……..Pray harder…….Ask friends and family…..pray again.  What does God want you to build?  I KNOW He wants us all to build something or somebody.  The question is, do you? 
Turn off the TV and computer, get off the couch and get going.  The sooner you start tearing up your backyard to build a baseball field…..the sooner you’ll be playing catch with your Father on that field you built together!  May it bring tears to your eyes!
Coach Willertz
Winton Woods Wrestling:  If you can’t stand the heat..get out of the kitchen!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lasting Memories

Back in June the Covington Catholic Colonels football team went camping with Sports Leader.  Our young men had the opportunity to grow individually and collectively in their faith.  From the moment we stepped off the bus and climbed the rocky road to base camp, our team met challenge after challenge head on.  Lou Judd created 24 hours of lasting memories for our football program and gave our kids a lifetime of virtue based skills.
As a veteran teacher and coach in Catholic high schools, I have been blessed to attend many retreats.  This event was special because it spoke so sincerely and directly to our student-athletes.  It was a series of physical, spiritual, and reflective activities that brought out the best in our team.  The virtues of Fortitude, Perseverance, and Courage were ever present. I was privileged to share this experience with our team and would encourage other coaches to take advantage of this outstanding program as well. 
God Bless,
Todd Naumann

Monday, August 23, 2010

Players Can Change

Ed Kuhn, head football coach at Parkway High School in Rockford, OH, explains how one of his football players, a linebacker, has changed. SportsLeader is making a positive impact.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The “Dog Days”

To: The Sportsleader Family
From: Steve Frommeyer Eminence High School principal and head football coach
The “Dog Days” of summer practice are upon us. The season is not quite started but the long practices in the heat are starting to get really tough. These are “times that try men’s souls”. They are also the times that often make or break a football team. How teams handle this challenge is often an indicator of how they will respond as the season goes by.
We have those same type of challenges in our personal and spiritual life. It is easy to be on board in the good times. However, when the “Dog Days” of our lives happen, it is then that we show if we are truly committed to our principles and to our Savior. Players and people in general can all get through life’s challenges as long as they don’t quit. It is only in quitting that we cannot be helped.
Please, stay committed to your goals, dreams, principles, and your Creator!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Used To Be A Football Coach

Things were different back in 1979 when I started coaching football. Sure, you had your kids that had some character problems, but overall most kids had a pretty good moral foundation.  We coaches focused primarily on coaching the X’s and O’s, athletic conditioning, and trying to win ball games.  Things are much different nowadays.  The kids have changed, but it seems that our coaching styles are stuck in the 80’s.  It’s time we coaches enter the new millennium.
So I asked myself, “What does the world today ask for when they are seeking a sports coach?” “What is the job description that we are asked to fulfill?”.  I “Googled” coaching job descriptions and what I came up with confirmed my suspicions. 
For the most part, the typical coach’s job description looks like this:
Coaches Job Description: Instruct and work the athlete to prepare them for competition, instruct the athlete on proper form and technique in beginning and, later, in advanced exercises attempting to maximize the players' physical potential; oversee athletes as they refine their individual skills; manage the team during both practice sessions and competitions; select, store, issue, and inventory equipment, materials, and supplies; substitute players for optimum team chemistry and success; evaluate or "scout" the opposing team prior to the competition; direct team strategy and call specific plays during competition to surprise or overpower the opponent; be and expert on the rules, strategies, and techniques of the sport.
Sure, most coaches do those things, but they should be only a small part of what coaches do every day. Today’s coaches should spend most of their time coaching their player’s lives, not their athletic techniques. “Coaching” has evolved way beyond the confines of teaching sports skills and winning ball games.

The kids we coach today live in a world tainted by vulgarity, violence, drug use, alcohol abuse, and sexual promiscuity.  Many have broken homes and broken families.  The system has failed them and most have lost all faith and hope in adults and society in general.  They are wandering in the wasteland looking for nourishment. For many of them, a sports program and a positive relationship with a coach is their best shot at turning their lives around.
We have a moral obligation to stop being “coaches” and to start being “COACHES”.  Instead of being X’s and O’s guys, we need to focus on educating and inspiring our kids with virtue in order to help them reconstruct their moral foundations.  We need to give them real tools to help them deal with the vulgarity, violence, drug use, alcohol abuse, and sexual promiscuity temptations that they are bombarded with every day.  
Are you yelling at one of your players about why he can’t get in a proper three point stance, while all the while he is thinking about whether dad will be drunk tonight and worried about his mother’s safety.  The kid needs a “hug” not a “holler”.  Do you really know what’s going on in the lives of all your players?

There isn’t a coach I know that hasn’t whined about how they used to be able to just coach their sport, but now they are forced to be baby-sitters, academic tutors, sociologists, counselors, psychologists, mentors, therapists, values assessors, theologians, personal trainers, and behavior modification experts.
Yup, that’s the new job description. 

Welcome to the company.
By Randy Traeger

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another Attack on Men

Jennifer Aniston stars in a new and extremely unfortunate movie called "Switch". The premise of the movie:

"Women are realizing more and more that you don't have to settle, they don't have to fiddle with a man to have that child, "They are realizing if it's that time in their life and they want this part, they can do it with or without that. The point of the movie is, what is that which defines family?" Aniston continued. "It isn't necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and a dog named Spot."

The above movie clip simply shows how utterly wrong she is.

It also shows how important your work is Coaches! We need to form valiant, virtuous, strong young men ... young men who inspire young women instead of this idea of "settling" ...

I just started reading a great book called Theology of His Body/Theology of Her Body by Jason Evert. Here are some great lessons I've learned so far:

The truth of manhood is found in conquering ourselves for the good of others.

Through this full giving of ourselves, we discover why God has made us men.

The closer you get to God, the more you become who He made you to be as a man.

Instead of giving men often resort to taking.

True masculinity requires interior strength ... Strength to serve and sacrifice.

Physical strength points to the deeper reality of our spiritual strength. We toil for a great physique but then are incapable of resisting a tiny temptation?

If a man does not possess interior strength, he is a walking contradiction of what it means to be a man.

If we men lived these truths ... a movie like this would quickly fade into nothingness.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coaches and Daughters putt-putt night

Here is an idea that I thought would be great to see happen with all our teams. The Stallions are a youth football organization near Cincinnati with over 400 kids. They are one of the best youth programs SportsLeader has the honor to be associated with. 

I know many of you coaches have daughters ... how about it?

God bless, Lou
* For a great book - check out - Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker

Hey Coaches, I'm happy to announce that the Stallions will have a Coaches and Daughters putt-putt night. This is a night that all coaches in the organization are encouraged to spend with your daughter just playing a game of putt-putt and not talking XXXX's and OOOO's. Inspired by coach Randy Bruce and myself, we had a great time with our daughters by taking a break from football for just one night and giving our girls some great attention that they missed once football started.

The Coaches and Daughters putt-putt night will be held August the 18th (Wednesday) at Eagle Tee Golf Center at 9200 Cin-Day Rd from 6:00-9:00
When you check-in, tell them you coach for the Stallions and you'll get a reduced rate. They also have a driving range on site also, along with soft serve ice cream.

I encourage you to take advantage of this chance to spend some time with your daughter during football season, they will truly like it.

Coaches it's event's like this that set us apart from the other organizations in the area.

Go Stallions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks, Trent Todd

Friday, August 13, 2010

Enthusiasm is Contagious - Fun is Necessary

I was working with some young men at a camp this summer on a college campus. I asked the coach if I could speak with his 6 best leaders alone. I was amazed at how honest and straightforward these guys were.

One of the things that came out of this discussion was that commitment was waning with a lot of their teammates because they felt like the atmosphere on the team was too serious - not enough fun.

Later that morning, I spoke with the head coach about this and he said, "Well let's give something a try." 

The team was divided into different "stations" where they did drills. One of the stations was now going to be Ultimate Frisbee - in other words - FUN. The guys were shocked. They loved it!

They started hollerin and jumping ... enthusiasm quickly spread throughout the whole team. Everyone couldn't wait to get to the frisbee station.

After a while it was time to get back to work. Receivers were making incredible catches, QB's were pinpoint ... O-Line was shoutin ... The kids execution level was through the roof and they maintained the enthusiasm - all the while it was extremely hot outside - no one was complaining.

While all of this was going on, another school was practicing on the field next to us. Their coaches were more serious than an NFL staff, constantly screaming ... their kids were looking over at us ... I could tell where they wanted to be - WITH US. 

Later that afternoon we went to a classroom to watch a movie to highlight some virtues ... the other team just happened to be going to a classroom to review practice film. We overheard the coaching staff chewing their guys out because they didn't have any enthusiasm "like that other team across the field"


So ask yourself: Am I taking this game too seriously? Am I making this the NFL when I am dealing with teenagers or even younger kids?

Plus - kids perform better when they have fun - so it is in your best interest to have more fun anyway.

If you would like some fun drills that Coach Randy Traeger put together, shoot me an email and we will get them to you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inner City Experience

I spent 2 days with an inner city high school football team last week. I don't think I will ever forget the experience. It showed the necessity of FATHERING!

As the guys were arriving I tried saying good morning to most of them as they came in - most walked by without responding or looking at me, some looked at me as if I just landed from planet 816. 

I told the head coach - lets get the guys talking (35 of them), lets learn some more about them personally. Here goes:

- 5 had been in prison already, one for 3 years.
- 70% had been arrested at least once
- 34 of the 35 suspended from school at least once
- Only 2 lived with both Mom and Dad

Some questions we asked:

- Who had breakfast this morning (it was 10 AM)?: 0
- If we organized a father-son event, who would invite their Dads? 2 hands went up
We then learned some Dads were in jail, dead, missing ... had never met him before.

It was apparent that the only goal I wanted to go for was some healing. These kids were hurting in ways I couldn't fathom ...

At one point Coach asked everyone in the room (myself included) to stand up and talk about something they regret. 35 players and 5 coaches ... I think 33 were weeping at one point ... not welling up ... no - weeping.

The Head Coach was amazing. The kids respected and loved him so much. He was absolutely the only person many of these guys had - seriously - the only one. He would hug many of them for a long time as they wept ... "You're one of us now. You're wanted. You're one of. You belong here." It was amazing.

At the end of the day we had the players write letters to someone they wanted to thank. Coach told them to invite this person to the end of practice tomorrow (Saturday).
13 of the 35 had someone present ... heartbreaking. 

Coach asked one player, "J where is your Mom?" "She never came home last night. I called her but nothin" "Did you have dinner last night?" "No" ...

Coach shook his head and began to cry ...

May the testimony of this coach persevering amidst all this adversity encourage you to COACH and TEACH for the right reasons - the real reasons.

God bless, Lou

Monday, August 9, 2010

Troy Polamalu - Living and Praying

A great example of an NFL player who has his priorities in order. 

Troy Polamalu 

Strive to live in such a way that the words "living" and "praying" are synonymous and interchangeable: a life where you cannot tell when prayers begin or end and your daily actions are but the humble words to a life-long prayer.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Who is your son’s trainer? Is he qualified?

At Winton Woods High School, our wrestling program is all about training our wrestlers.  We are training them to be championship wrestlers but also to be championship men.  We believe so strongly about this, we have it painted on the wall of the wrestling room.  It is our mission!  This has always been central to our wrestling program.  However, how to train the boys has been a continuous evolution.  At the start of Year III, we feel very good about how our boys should be trained.  Let me share with you the four parts of our boys to men program at Winton Woods.
First and foremost we are going to train the boys to be championship wrestlers.  Physical training is an essential part of any young man’s growth. Possessing sports skills that can help you win, adds to a boy’s confidence and growth.  Let’s face it, to pursue strength and achieve it is every young man’s dream, whether that’s through football, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse or any sport.  To know that you can physically fight and defend yourself and/or others is also so very satisfying.  We want our wrestlers to train hard, learn skills and win battles, every day, and to push their bodies beyond their limits.  Sadly, this is not the norm in our culture today, for so many boys.  We are an obese country, lazy too. We are training our guys to change this.
Secondly, we are going to emphasize academic success.  Talented, skilled athletes are a dime a dozen.  Talented, skilled athletes that are intelligent and academically successful are far more rare.  Winton Woods High School is primarily a minority dominated school.  Our boys are expected to be athletes.  So many, however, are not expected to be scholars.  We must celebrate academic success, kids are expected to excel in class, to do extra after school if need be, to go to college.  Being able to read and write intelligently is a key to success in any field, in college and beyond.  Coaches that preach and foster academics in their programs, give credibility to school.  We will not be coaches that “put up” with school so the boys can wrestle at Winton Woods. 
Thirdly, we are going to expect our boys to be virtuous.  We are going to train them to be virtuous.  We have weekly virtues that we practice and have goals in such virtues as charity, self-control, perseverance, work ethic, etc.  Wrestlers must make commitments to improve on these virtues throughout the season.  They will have opportunities at home, in their community, in the classroom and on the wrestling team to practice these virtues.  We will constantly talk about the virtues we are working on as a team and one on one, coach with the athletes.  We are in dire need of virtuous athletes!  Look at the news any day, we are doing young men an injustice in not helping them act right.
Finally, we are going to give our boys real-life experiences outside the classroom to foster their understanding of the world.  These real-life experiences will vary.  Snow shoveling in the winter for free, taking care of the high school building, helping out in the community are all volunteer programs meant to help the boys understand the importance of giving.  Manual labor, provided by donors and community members can provide ways to give the boys skills, can give the boys an idea what life after high school could look like, or can give the boys a chance to earn some money the old-fashioned way……by working for it!  Climbing mountains, camping trips, mission trips are all in the program as well as initiations for the boys to discover their strength and possibly give some insight on what God might have planned for them. 
As you can see, the wrestling program at Winton Woods is so much more than wrestling.  It has to be!  We hope through our program, our boys will be equipped to take on the world when they graduate from high school.  We want them to be ready and I know in my heart our program will go a long way in helping them.  But as you already know, we can not do this alone.  We need your prayers, your financial support, your ideas, your commitment, your enthusiasm.  To put on a first rate program, one that is national and excellent, like-minded men and women must come together and rally.  I hope you rally around our program.  I hope you rally around whatever mission you see as yours, it gives you so much more purpose in your life.  I know it has for me.
Coach Willertz
Winton Woods Wrestling:  “Wisdom comes only through suffering!”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jim Tressel Team Building Exercise at his Home

Another great idea from a big time coach trying to build young men who will lead for life.

By Doug Lesmerises, The Plain Dealer

One of OSU coach Jim Tressel's latest team-building exercises was to invite his players to his Upper Arlington home, each class having a cookout and game night called "Competition at the Crib," according to senior receiver Ricky Crawford.

"I had never been to his house before," said fifth-year senior offensive lineman Bryant Browning. "I was just saying to somebody earlier this year, 'I don't know where coach Tressel lives.' Then we had this thing, and it was real fun."

Tressel always attempts to motivate his players by pitting them against each other, and this was no different. The way the players explained it, it should come as no surprise that there was a Tressel plan for the fun.

The players rotated through a card game, playing video games, having a free-throw shooting contest, building a toolbox at a woodworking station and cooking meat on the grill.

"This was new," said Crawford, who said he burned his steak in his haste to cook his meal. "We never hung out with coach Tressel before."

"A lot of people had questions about what his place was like," senior offensive lineman Chris Malone said. "It was a really cool experience. It was great to hang out with the guys in your class that you don't usually get to hang out with."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Discipline as Skill Building

A wise man once taught me, Father Matthew, that discipline is not something negative. It is positive skill building. Giving the young person the skills necessary to perform a certain activity well. 

More and more parents and coaches are afraid to discipline under the misconception that it is too negative or mean. This is a mistake.

By Fritz Knapp

Discipline: “‘Why?’ I asked the Coach. ‘Because it’s good for you!’  he said. ”

The expression keeping your nose to the grindstone comes to mind when thinking about discipline, the sister virtue of persistence. Discipline requires a commitment to do whatever it takes to master the fundamentals of a sport. It also demands something that many of us find hard to do: listen. That is, we must listen to our coaches and follow their instruction wholeheartedly.

My high school basketball coach was one tough hombre, still is. You did things his way, or you weren’t on his team. He had a battery of drills that his teams did every practice, dribbling, passing, defense, etc. If you were late to practice, God forbid, you did a suicide-double for every minute you were late.

Of course, this discipline proved good for our record, which ended 19-3 and a spot in the County championship game. We remain friends to this day, probably because I got the message.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Overcome that Fear - Be a Light

We recently did a one day leadership camp with our football team.  During the course of the time we spent planning and executing the camp, Lou and I discussed the challenge that players and coaches have with both letting “their light shine” for all to see and at the same time not coming across as arrogant or overly prideful. 

Jesus said a light is not meant to be put under a bushel but on a stand so all can see.  I believe many times coaches and/or players hesitate to tell their stories for fear of being seen as conceited.  However, I believe we must overcome that fear. 

Our student athletes are being bombarded with negative, sinful information and images.  In today’s world it is crucial for all of us in athletics to tell all the great stories about how God has so richly blessed us in our lives.  If our motivation is pure, with only intent to help others, I guarantee it will almost always come across in a way that you intended. 

One of the activities during our leadership camp was time set aside for coaches and players to simply tell their story or a story that was on their hearts and that needed to be told to possibly help other people.  Let’s don’t be shy.  God calls us to be courageous heralds of his good news!  Don’t take your stories to your grave untold! 

By: Steve Frommeyer, Eminence H.S., Principal & Head Football Coach

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Turner Gill - Demanding, Raise Expectations, Build Relationships

It is always inspiring to read about college coaches striving to do things the right way. Turner Gill, the new head football coach at Kansas ...

Do you have a mission statement for your team? 
Better question - do your players have the mission statement memorized? 
Even better - are they living it?

"We're here to challenge you, we're here to be demanding, we're here to raise your expectation of yourself," Gill said. "But we can do it in a way where you can still feel good about yourself." 

With first-year head coach Turner Gill at the helm, senior corner back Chris Harris knows this season is going to be different. “He’s a loving coach that wants the best for us,” Harris said. “Other college coaches are just like a robot.”

Gill's new players say he has treated all the Jayhawks like sons since being hired in January. From initially distributing a personal survey to providing an upbeat mission statement to ending each day with a positive feeling, they say they know he cares.

"He's there to guide us as a father figure and mentor," senior offensive lineman Brad Thorson said. "That's not typical for Division I coaches."

Gill’s positive idealism was evident during the recruiting process. Instead of focusing solely on the X’s and O’s of football, he communicated faith and good human qualities.

Senior defensive end Jake Laptad had nothing bad to say about his new coach. It struck him how caring his coach is to the students athletes.
“He’s more concentrated on your personal life,” Laptad said, “not only just getting you a better football player but a better person.”

With that mentality, Gill has instilled some unusual, but positive, customs.

Well, I'm a firm believer, which I think probably most coaches are, in building relationships.  That was the first thing I wanted our football program, our football team to do.  Building relationships from players to coaches, coaches to players, coaches to coaches, and players to players.  

So we put out a little bit of a survey that I gave to every single player, every single coach, and it had about eight to ten questions that were really detailed about who they are, where they came from, and how they came to where they are at today.  I had the players stand up in front of our football team and talk about certain questions.  

For example, one question I had everybody to answer was who was the most influential person in your life and why.  Had all of our players and all of our coaches stand in front of our team and talk about that.  I wanted to make sure that we got a chance to know that there's a lot more in common that we have with each other than we have differences.  

When we look from the outside, that's the initial thing is we try to figure out who the people that maybe doesn't look like us or maybe doesn't think that they were going to fit together, all those kinds of things.  So I was really big in building relationships.  We spent a lot of time on that.  Every team meeting that we had in the spring practice had a player stand up and had a coach stand up and talk about those things.  

So that's the biggest thing that I believe in when building a program, in building a really -- we start talking about team, we all talk about team.  We all talk about teamwork.  We all talk about hard work and all those things.  But the biggest thing is we have to get to know each other. And I really believe that, as men particularly, and particularly young men, we have to know how to communicate.  We've got to know how to talk.  

I believe in getting our players and our coaches to talk to each other in deeper details more than just the Xs and Os of football.  Obviously, we get into the football stuff, but we've really gotten into building relationships.

As one of his policies, Gill will not tolerate any swearing. Anywhere. "It's a little bit weird when you're out on the field," said senior tackle Brad Thorson. "But when you find out no one else is cursing, you find it becomes your lexicon."


While coaching at the University of Buffalo he created a mission statement for the team. Gill was so inspired by the word "Believe" that he built his program's mission around it. Here are the behaviors he values and prioritizes:

Believe in each other and the things not yet seen.

Empower people by encouragement.

Learn and push toward the goal.

Influence by being a positive role model.

Expect great effort all the time.

Visualize success.

Enjoy the college football experience.

"That's our mission statement for the University of Buffalo football program," Gill said. "I could go more into the details and explain the hows and the whys, but if you came here and asked anybody about our mission statement, they should be able to tell you what it is because we talk about it every day."

Gill points out there are seven letters in "BELIEVE" because he wanted the word to be relevant for all seven days in the week.

"B - Believe in each other - is for Sundays and the last E - Enjoy the college football experience - is for Saturdays," he said.

It works because in Tom Osborne teaching him that football is about more than winning, Turner Gill became the man that he always knew he could be.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thanks Elmo

I had a very interesting experience the other day. I had to return some rented movies back to Blockbuster. I always check the cases twice to make sure the DVDs are inside. This time I didn't. Well I get home and find "Elmo Visits the Doctor" as I'm cleaning up. Back to Blockbuster I go.

I arrive and there are a bunch of football players in the parking lot. They had attended a camp last year and we all connected pretty quickly. Some already graduated, some are still playing, one was kicked off the team ...

To my surprise they wanted to talk ... a lot ... even though I was sporting an Elmo DVD. They immediately opened up about a ton of things ... I must have been there for at least an hour.

Some interesting things I learned from things they said:

"It's a shame there are basically 2 people: Coach X and Mr X. Out of season Mr X is a totally different person. He listens, takes interest, is relaxed. During season Coach X ahh not so much ... But Mr X we all love hanging out with him."

"We talk about camp all the time. It was one of the best parts of the season. We even did that team party stuff we talked about. And that one party idea we got in trouble for ... we didn't do it ... whether we learned something I'm not sure but ..."

"I miss football already. I just graduated and I can't play in college due to injuries."

"Guys who think that team bonding is just sitting around don't get it. Team bonding is suffering through something really hard TOGETHER. That is what you talk about and remember. Like the Hill for example. We hated that but we loved it at the same time. A few times when we were losing last year, or a guy had to come off cause he got hurt ... in the huddle we remembered the Hill."

"Practice is really hard and really monotonous. It's the same all the time. At camp we got to do stuff that was hard but it was different from practice so that helped us do the hard stuff when we got back to practice or we would joke with each other ... at least we don't have to run that hill today."

"This year's team is talented but they don't seem as committed to each other. They need something."

Food for thought.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Story Time - Coach Barry Peel

One thing that we really encourage coaches to do is share some of their experiences with their players - tell stories. It helps the players connect with you on a personal level and often creates a strong bond because they see how much you care about them in opening up and getting real with them.

Coach Barry Peel of Parkway High School in Rockford, OH: