Our primary goal as coaches is to teach our players about life lessons through one of their greatest motivators – football. Even though we all like to X&O, I find the biggest challenge is building men into a team where they truly care for each other. Throughout camp, we believe in teaching our players a few basic life techniques that they can carry with them after they leave.
Building Men: Stay Organized
“Organization equals power” is a quote taught to me at a young age. If our players can learn to be organized, they will find themselves on the right track to success in school and in life. Like many programs, we teach this by giving each player a three-ring binder, tabs, a pen and a highlighter the first day of camp. Players must bring the binder to every meeting.
Using this binder, we teach them how to separate information with tabs, how to take notes, and how to highlight the important information that pertains to them. We also provide a calendar in the binder to teach them how to plan ahead and get mentally prepared for the next day and week. This great, simple tool teaches them how to organize football, school and their lives!
Building Men: Be Accountable
We teach this by keeping track of every time a person misses a scheduled meeting or workout, or comes late. We post this tardiness on an accountability board for everyone to see.
Building Men: Good Body Language
Some 70 percent of communication is non-verbal. So, we teach our players about using good body language: facial expressions, posture, dress, and more. Your opponent is always watching. Never show the opponent frustration, weakness or tiredness with your body language. Dress proper off the field. People will always look for the signs.
Our team dress rules include:
- We don’t want pants “below the below.”
- No earrings at any team gathering.
- No jewelry during workouts.
- Well-groomed head hair.
Read How to Read a Person like a Book by Nierenberg & Calero for more great information on body language.
Building Men: Be A Good Actor
We will all experience days when we do not feel like practicing or working but we must remain committed to do it. We can either look like we are tired and lackadaisical, or we can become good actors and never show weakness. Continue to remain high energy through mental toughness. This takes teaching and practice for most. Talk about it and teach players that their team needs them to remain consistent. This goes for our coaches as well!
Building Men: Learn Empathy
Feeling what others feel sets some people ahead of others; we call this “Putting yourself in another man’s shoes.” We all come from diverse backgrounds. Unless we know where a person comes from and why he acts the way he acts, we will not care for that person. If you haven’t read Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx, read it.
We teach empathy by having “Dinner with a Teammate” throughout camp. Each day, the coaching staff will post a spreadsheet that tells each player who he must eat dinner with that night. Our players love it! During “Blue Devil Time” each night, coaches give a 20-minute presentation on something about themselves. We want to open up to our players to show them that we are human as well.
The author of this article, Clayt Birmingham, is head coach for the University of Wisconsin-Stout. For more on building great men, check out our coaching philosophy articles.