Posted by: petemangurian | March 13, 2012

Columbia Football: Finding an Identity

Welcome. This clearly falls under the title:” Teaching old dogs new tricks”, keeping that in mind, we move on.

As I write this, our players are on spring break. As a coach you worry about all of them getting back in one piece with minimal drama. They deserve the break, they have been working hard for the last eight weeks. The Ivy League allows us six hours a week for off-season conditioning. That’s not very much. We have spent three of those hours running, and the other three lifting. As coaches, we have spent all of them watching. Oh don’t get me wrong, we are involved, but our biggest challenge is to watch and observe.

I have been asked over the years, what is the biggest difference between Ivy League and other college kids? My answer is, capacity to multi-task at a high level. One of the other differences, and not always a positive one, is a sense of entitlement. These guys have been told how smart and special they are their whole lives. While having the capacity to do multiple things at once has value in football, more times than not, it is more important to do your job, when and how you have been taught, and do it that way every time. There is no room for self-expression in this game. Football is a complex team sport, there are eleven individual battles that take place every play. Nothing is given, you get only what you take. Discipline, unselfishness and accountability are paramount to the success of our Football program.

Over the last three months we have measured, recorded, timed and quantified who we are as a team. While the numbers are not what I would have expected, or will accept in the future, we are good enough to win. I will never accept that we can’t win, there is always a way. As coaches we have to find it. As players we have to execute it. Right now we are beginning to see who we can trust, who will compete, who will do their job. The challenge is to find out all these things in a stressful environment, one that in any aspect simulates the game itself. I believe practice has to be harder than the games, with more pressure and the same expectations. I believe that you have to live disciplined, unselfishly and you have to be accountable. It’s not just something you put on before a game.

Our players live in a competitive environment. They compete and are tested every time they enter a classroom at Columbia, so there is plenty of stress in their lives. They are asked to perform all day long. When they falter in the classroom, it tells us something about who they are. We have mandatory study hall four nights a week for two hours each night, for those who do not maintain what “we” consider a high enough GPA. Our standards are different. We expect more because you’ve got to “live it”. If there are issues with being on time, or not doing what is best for the team , then we do community service in an environment that promotes unselfishness. You’ve got to “live it”. To be accountable, you first have to understand how your failure can impact the team. Your teammates are counting on you, can you be trusted to play your part?

We watch everything our players do, how they interact with each other and anyone around them. How they handle the unexpected, both in a team setting, and on campus. We watch them in the most competitive situations we can find. In fact, we create those settings everyday in practice. I am glad to say that “our type of guys” are starting to assert themselves. We made some progress last week. We had more focus, a stronger work ethic. We were more competitive and determined. It just felt different. Everyday we talk as a staff about each player to share observations and evaluations. I have a great staff that is smart, diverse and committed to our success as a team. There are no agendas on this staff. I’ve seen that over the years, it won’t happen here. Most importantly, they respect each others opinion. The collective knowledge of the group is our most valuable coaching resource.

I like where we are right now as a team. We have a long way to go but we are on schedule. I like the energy in our alumni. They are pulling together and our players need that. We are going to do things the right way, no short cuts. I have one chance to rebuild the foundation of our program. It will be painful at times, but everyone involved in Columbia football wants this to happen.

On August 18th, 34 young men who don’t care about the past will report for training camp. They are all our type of guys – tough, smart and love football. We will bring the current players that we can trust and those 34 together, then we will see how good we can really be.

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