How A College Football Coach Motivates His Team With Geese And Bernie Madoff
You always hear about head coaches' long hours, and how they all have to be "part CEO" because of all the non-game aspects of the job. Today, Rutgers beat reporter Keith Sargeant gave us an inside look at the school's football coach, Greg Schiano, and just what goes into a day in the life of a major college football coach. Suffice to say, there's one more mention of Ponzi schemes than we expected.
The day Sargeant followed Schiano around (for an article appropriately titled "Part Coach, Part CEO") was in the middle of training camp, so it was probably still a bit more hectic than usual. Still, head coaches are notorious workaholics, so it wasn't a surprise that when Schiano arrived at work (7 a.m.), he said to Sargeant, "You ready for a long day? Try to keep up."
Sargeant appears to have done a good job of this, also squeezing enough interview time out of Schiano for the coach to open up about one of the more interesting motivational tactics we've heard:
"People think geese poop all over the place — which they do — but not a lot of people know that they're all about teamwork," Schiano says. They always fly in a V-formation, and you'll always see them taking turns leading the flock because the goose in front has to work that much harder than the rest to lead.
Schiano shared this tale with his team early in his first season, vowing to buy one life-sized, replica goose for every victory. He looks across the room, where sitting between his desk and a flat-screen TV are a pair of replica geese (ed. note: Rutgers went 2-9 in Schiano's first season).
In Schiano's defense, nothing he could have done in his first years on the job would have made much of a difference, such was the shape the program was in. Sargeant continued to follow Schiano around, culminating in a disappointing practice, after which Schiano broke out another interesting ploy.
Schiano steps to the podium and runs through the practice report provided by his assistants. He stews over the most egregious errors, then speaks about the importance of "investing."
He shares an anecdote about Bernie Madoff, explaining in detail about his ponzi scheme and how it crashed on all those innocent investors.
"When you pick your investments," Schiano says, "you have to pick them carefully. As coaches, we spend all our energy on this program because we're your investment brokers. You have to trust us to make sure we're investing wisely. Up until today we thought we were doing a good job — until the market crashed.
We've certainly heard of coaching letting their players hear it after lackluster performances, but lumping them in with a guy who committed $50 billion worth of fraud? That's just cold.
Sargeant also shared tidbits like that Schiano tasked his players with answering questions like What legacy do you want to leave behind? and What makes your life really worth living? Oh, and also there's that Schiano didn't leave work until well after midnight (putting in upwards of 18 hours on the day).
It was inspiring stuff, enough to get an RU alum like me extra fired up for the start of the season. Well, at least until I remember that this is the routine every year, and last season began like this. But no matter - this is the time for optimism. If this season disappoints, it certainly won't be for lack of trying on the head coach's part. Thursday, it begins. I can't wait.
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