The best football coaches are always looking for new ways to reach out to their players and connect with them on a personal level. University of Georgia head coach Mark Richt is no exception. As you might expect, recruiting players from around the country can result in an acclimation period in which players must get to know each other and learn why they will play not only for Georgia, but for each other in the trenches.
To build team chemistry, Richt created what he calls “The Hot Seat.”
“The Hot Seat, for us, is when we are going through our acclimation period, we have our meal, and then right after our meal, we always have a team meeting,” says Richt. “The first thing we do is we take a chair, and we set it up in front of this theater-style seating. I’ll set the chair there, and then I will step aside and say, ‘Men, the chair is yours. The Hot Seat is open.’”
When The Hot Seat opens, players can come forward, take their place in The Hot Seat, and express themselves in whatever manner they choose. Many players will explain to the rest of the team what it means to them to be a Georgia Bulldog.
Others will talk about the path they traveled to win their position on the team. Others will talk about difficulties or triumphs they’ve experienced at Georgia.
“What’s said in The Hot Seat stays in The Hot Seat,” says Richt. “Guys really do have a chance to pour out what’s on their heart. Some men just don’t like to pour their feelings out. They don’t want others to see what’s inside. But The Hot Seat is a safe place for us, where those players get to say what they want to say. Everyone takes it seriously. It gives a guy a chance to let everyone know what he’s thinking about, what he thinks about Georgia.”
The Hot Seat has been huge for the Bulldogs. Most football fans — and many football players — will never truly understand the extreme level of competition that takes place in an FBS Division I football program.
That high level of competition even occurs with individual football programs, and can potentially create tension between teammates who are trying to win every competitive battle. The Hot Seat can help diffuse some of those tensions, says Richt.
“You hear about what a guy has been through, where he’s come from,” he says. “You start hearing stories about the lack of fathers, what it meant just to get a chance to walk on for the team, and all the sacrifices that a person has made just to get his chance. Before you know it, it has brought everyone together.”