Posted by: petemangurian | September 7, 2012

“Do What is Best for The Team”

I’ve told this story many times. It was a defining moment in my development as a coach and a person. It was the first Saturday of football in September 1984, on a bus from Ocala Florida, heading for Gainsville to play the University of Florida. Charlie Pell was the Florida coach, they were good, and I mean “really good”, huge offensive line, big and fast on defense, and they had this back named Emmitt Smith. I was 27 years old, had my dream job, coaching the offensive line at LSU. Bill Arnsparger was the head coach. Bill was the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and Don Shula when they were “really good”. Bill knew how to make the complicated seem simple, it’s a talent that great coaches have, and he did it better than anyone I’ve ever been around. The head coach always sits in the first seat on the right side of the bus, I believe I was sitting right behind him. He looked through the seats and said, “well, what do you think?” I said I felt good about everything but one, I didn’t know what we would do if we got behind early, I wasn’t sure how we would respond. Bill didn’t hesitate and said, “what are you going to do?”

We never stop preparing, there is always something to work on. Camp is over, we could use three more weeks, you never have enough time. Everyone wants to speculate, single out individuals, talk about the keys for our success, and what we should or should not do. We had a good camp, the players worked hard, they spent every minute together from 6:00 am until 11:00 pm. They ate, met, lifted, slept on the floor between practices, but most importantly they did it together, no distractions. As coaches we pushed and pulled, yelled and reasoned, talked constantly about personnel, who did well, who was getting it, and who we could count on. We worked on tackling, leverage and ball skills. We met as a team, met in small groups, the players met on their own between practices,leaders emerged. We learned the system, offense, defense and special teams, we are still learning. We learned to practice our way, to practice fast, good on good, take care of each other, to get better without having to scrimmage. We came out of it healthy for the most part, we have some rookies who haven’t quite figured out that you will never be 100 percent, you are always sore.

The season is a marathon, not a sprint,the truth is it started last December. In all honesty, I’ve changed my opinion concerning individual players in a lot of instances. We know each other now, the past will rear it’s ugly head, we will short circuit back to who we were, and I mean who we were yesterday or last week, not years ago.

But when it goes well, or it goes badly, when we are up big, or down at halftime, each of us have to ask, “what am I going to do?” The message is the same for everyone who has a stake in this program. As this season unfolds what are you going to do? There is no room for personal agendas, if you are a player, do your job and be a good team mate. If you are a fan be supportive, you have the right to be disappointed if we do not perform, we will be too. I can assure you we will show up the next opportunity and get it right, that’s our commitment to you.

I won’t talk openly about what we do, who is doing it, and individual players. It’s not everyone’s right to know everything we do, the product on Saturdays is what will define us. I can assure you there is a good reason for all that we do. I can also say with certainty that no one really knows what or why unless you are a player or a coach, and we aren’t talking.

Problems mostly occur when someone fails to be all they can be or tries to be more then they should be. We all have a role to play, to prepare, to lead, to support, to encourage, to work, to never be satisfied, to expect and demand our best. As this season begins and you speculate about how it will go, ask yourself, in all those scenarios, “what am I going to do?”

(By the way, we did fall behind 14-0 versus Florida. As a result of my conversation, I didn’t flinch and the players ended up tieing the Gators. They went undefeated in the SEC that year, we were the only blemish. Regardless, they had the best record in the SEC, but were sanctioned for recruiting violations. Coach Pell was fired, and Galen Hall took over.)

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