Any winning football program begins with setting goals at the beginning of the season. Michigan State University head coach Mark Dantonio, his staff and his players set a clear vision for the program at the beginning of the year.
Setting Goals: No. 1
The first goal was that lifelong relationships must be established between players, coaches, staff and the team as a whole.
“That’s the No. 1 goal,” says Dantonio. “In the end, it’s about the players and your relationships there as a coach. Those are wins and losses. If you have a guy go through your program – whether you’re coaching high school or college – and you don’t have a great relationship with him after the fact, that’s a loss. If you have a great relationship, and you can feel you had a part in his life, that’s a win. You’re going to have some sacrifices that you’ll go through for that young man. You’re going to have some opportunities where he’s struggling, and you’re going to have to discipline him. It’s easy to say, but it’s much more difficult to accomplish.”
Setting Goals: No. 2
The second goal for the program was to graduate all players with a meaningful and useful degree from Michigan State, degrees they can use to launch their careers and become self-sufficient men.
“We want them to be self-sufficient,” says Dantonio. “As coaches, you can remember the last day that you took off the pads. When the stadium lights go off for the last time, it’s tough. We want to allow our players to go forward in their lives and be very successful.”
Setting Goals: No. 3
The third goal is to win. That’s it. Success means winning Big Ten championships, winning bowl games, winning BCS games, winning the Rose Bowl, and ultimately, winning a National Championship. But, winning is about more than Xs and Os.
“How we get there is about our people; success is about people,” says Dantonio. “You have to make good choices and have good morals, because if you’re not doing the right thing, it is going to catch up to you at some point.
“You have to be able to trust your players. Trust is a very fragile thing. If you trust a person, then to me, you can endow yourself in that person and empower him. There is no question in my mind, the longer I am at this, it is all about the people. Your players have to understand that you are not going to sugar-coat anything. You are going to be someone they can trust and they can take that to the bank.”
Setting Goals: No. 4
Last, the goal of the Michigan State football program must be to have a positive impact on the university, the alumni, the community, the state and the NCAA football world. Players must prepare to be self-sufficient men and responsible citizens. Ultimately, that means players must focus on discipline.
“I really do believe that the more discipline you have, the more maturity you have as an individual, the better you are able to weather the storms of life or football,” he says. “It’s going to take a massive amount of discipline and maturity on the part of the athlete to be successful. We ask our players to do that.”
Mark Dantonio is head coach of the Michigan State University Spartans. Learn more about coaching philosophy with numerous other articles on AFCAweekly.com.
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