When I instituted the Champions of Character program the team chemistry was at an all time low. As many of you may or may not know high school athletic coaches tend to yell and scream and sometime belittle the children. I don’t think they do this purposefully, but damage is done nonetheless. I was honored to have the chance to coach High school football and basketball for all of my boys all the way through their career. Up to that point I was a little league coach for football, basketball, and baseball for about 8 years. Moving from the little league to the high school was such a culture shock to me. I just never bought into the idea that you had to berate and belittle a boy to motivate him.
When my boys graduated and after their senior season of football, we had a talk. I asked them this simple question, “Do you think the football coaches really cared for you as a person?” Their immediate answer was a firm, ‘NO!”
This became my main factor in the new program we instituted. I gathered our next years team during the off-season, and showed them the character program. I said, “We might not win all of our games, but one thing is a guarantee, when you leave this program you will know for sure that we care for you!”
Turner Gill was a Heisman trophy winner from the University of Nebraska. I saw an interview about him when he became the head coach of Buffalo (NY) University. Up to the point of him taking the head job, Buffalo had never had much of a winning season in all the years of their football program. But when Gill became coach he did a marvelous thing that captured my attention. I believe the first or second year he was there he led the team to their first ever championship season. One thing that he did different was he conducted personal one on one meetings with every single player. He wanted to know about their lives, their families, dreams, fears, and goals.
I think this alone has the power to change and motivate. I mean most people just want to know someone cares, and validates their story! These people will exceed talent and expectations. I believe a part of good leadership is extracting potential, and getting productivity out of people that they couldn’t even image accomplishing.
The first phase of our Champions of Character program was to get each coach to know something about their players that they coach. So it was a hard sell at first. But I told them I would like for them to know something about every single player, which of course would only happen by spending time with them outside of the coaching environment.