From Worst to First (Part I)
Imagine that you are hanging onto a rope over the edge of a cliff. Imagine that you look down and see a great chasm with certain death should you fall. Now look up and see who is on the other end of the rope to save your life. If you get to pick that person, and you want to ensure that either you get pulled to safety or both of you are going down, who do you pick?
This scenario is how I opened my first talk with my new players when I was hired by the University of Regina Rams. I told them to look around the room – look into the eyes of your teammates. How many of them would you trust with the other end of your rope? I said, “I want you to choose me!” I told them that either I will pull you up or we are both going down. I needed them to know that I will have their backs. “If you fight for me, then I will always fight for you,” I told them. If their goal is to be a champion, then your goal needs to become that person for everyone else in the locker room. As soon as our locker room no longer houses players that people would doubt with the other end of their rope, then we will be champions!
Coaching the Rams had been a long time ambition of mine. It is a team that gave me a lot by means of development of character and discipline. The Rams offered me a fraternity and provided me with the challenges and reinforcement that allowed me to grow into the person that I have become. I expressed to a couple of my friends in the eighth grade that I would play for the Rams some day, and I was laughed at for it. When I met Rams’ players when I was young they always seemed bigger than life, but the thing that resonated with me was that the players always seemed to be very classy people. They never seemed too busy to talk to a kid, or even throw the football around at the park with kids they’ve never met.
I coached and taught in California for a number of years. I have some great friends today because of the time and effort spent with some amazing people on the Etiwanda Eagles High School Football Team. I was a head coach for 7 years. I met my wife there and had two daughters there. Together, with my friends and coaches, we build a team that was a perennial contender for the Baseline League Championship. After a total of 18 years in California, though, I felt it would be a good family decision to move home to Canada and raise my daughters around family. So we quit our jobs, packed up and moved home – and we didn’t quite know what we were going to do when we got there.
I had the opportunity to watch the Rams play the previous season as I was coaching a bantam team and a Selects program as soon as we moved in. I watched the Rams go 0-8, and in many cases snatch defeat right from the jaws of victory. The Rams were a team that had a lot of talent, and they had played very well at times. The Rams had seemingly lost their winning spirit and tradition. As a player on the Rams it was clear that winning was an expectation. Winning was our culture. It was sad to see a team who, after many National Championships, were foundering in mediocrity.