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Coaching the Future: Raising young men, not just football players

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Gary Patterson’s coaching style is about raising men, not football players.

NCAA Football: SMU at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“There will come a time when we must choose between doing what is right and doing what is easy.” -- Albus Dumbledore

At Big XII Media Days, Gary Patterson made a statement, “I don’t let teenagers decide how to run my household and I won’t let them decide how to run my football program.”

AMEN, COACH. A-MEN.

There are so many different types of coaches in the world, and different types can be beneficial for different players. I spoke to two former athletes who are now youth football baseball coaches. I’ve kept their names, locations, and universities confidential here. They described their coaches growing up:

Youth Coach #1: “(Growing up) I’ve always had that non-violent-encouraging coach when everything is going good but once it turns into the worst, that’s when the go out there and kill-em mentality comes out... At (his university) we had all different types of coaches on the coaching staff. We had the go out and kill-em type, the screaming and yelling type, the you can’t do anything right type, the always positive type and non violent encouraging type. My Wide Receiver position coach was the screamer type that screamed and yelled all the time.”

Youth Coach #2: “My (youth) coaches were all mostly cerebral type coaches. I had two coaches in high school who were the rah rah type. One used to cry during games to fire us up. We had lost two games in a row and were in danger of losing again. We trailed at half time to an inferior team. He started crying at half time about how passionate he was about the game to fire us up. We came out and won the game and went on to be inspired the rest of the season. My head coach in football was quiet. He had a buck stops with me attitude. He would (say) very little but when he spoke his words carried weight. Wrestling, my coach was very vocal and tough on us. Never in a way that was insulting but he worked us hard and called us lazy, loafers, etc. He was not too positive but he was very engaged. Our assistants were more players coaches. They were the cool coaches. We got along well.”

We’ve all heard the post-game press bits. Coaches can be angry, heartbroken, accusatory... the possibilities are endless. After the loss in double overtime to Arkansas last season, Gary Patterson told the press he wasn’t happy with the team’s emotional response. There weren’t enough tears. He compared that to the 61-58 loss to Baylor two years prior, when every player was in tears. He wanted more emotion from his team. And look what happened this year? TCU Players showed a controlled passion, not letting their emotions get the best of them, yet playing with a much fiercer competitiveness than last year.

While many of us know Patterson’s style to be more mentoring than mean, it was never so obvious as the Alamo Bowl. Rather than yell and scream at his players for being down 31-0 at halftime, he quietly reminded quarterback Bram Kohlhausen of his deceased father, and what he would think of a comeback.

Brilliant.

Don’t get me wrong, we all know Coach P’s one-of-a-kind scratchy football season voice, and we’ve seen a good curse word or two thrown out there during games. But Patterson has said time and time again that his focus is on raising men, not just players. When Trevone Boykin was arrested two days before the Alamo Bowl, Patterson said the following at a press conference, “I think I saw a stat where 3 out of the 4 playoff teams had to send somebody home. You know one of the things that I think that people don’t give head coaches enough credit for is trying to raise men... everybody makes decisions. And what I hope, and one of the things that we stand behind in our program, is that you can help people, young people especially, learn from it... you’re not just teaching him. You're teaching the other 120 guys that on your team. That they understand that all your actions have a reaction and you have to learn from it. So for us, if I allowed it... well, then I’m going to have the same problem next year...Everybody wants to be the head coach... until yesterday.” Patterson isn’t that old-school-mentality coach that creates success with fear and threats. In fact, his mentality is quite the opposite.

TCU has created a reputation for greatness that is, in part, due to their high expectations for players. Gary Patterson will stand up for his players, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to overlook bad behavior. TCU was recently ranked the #2 school in the nation to attend to play Division 1 football and get a great education. And while TCU players have definitely seen a smattering of legal problems, it seems like the Horned Frogs haven’t had some of the more serious criminal issues that are seen in Division 1 schools. This could be, in part, due to his diligent recruiting tactics. TCU fans will recall the battle between Patterson and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. After Mayfield accused TCU of “hanging him out to dry” in terms of a scholarship offer, Patterson had enough. “I like Baker Mayfield. I think he’s a good kid and that’s what disappoints me... If Baker Mayfield wants to blame TCU for 128 BCS schools not offering him a scholarship, that’s fine. But ask Kliff Kingsbury why he didn’t offer him a scholarship at Texas Tech. Ask about Baker’s dad (James). He’s an arrogant guy who thinks he knows everything. If people knew the whole story, they might not have a great opinion of Baker or his father.” Sometimes it’s like GMFP can see the future, isn’t it? Someday, Baker Mayfield is going to have children, and he’s going to have to explain to them why grabbing his crotch and shaking his junk at an opposing team was deemed appropriate for a nationally televised game. He’s given more apologies this season than Gary Patterson has pulled up his pants.

In addition to considering the parents of players, TCU isn’t ashamed to admit they run criminal background checks on every recruit they consider. TCU was the only team in the 2010 preseason poll that didn’t have a player with a police record, according to CBS News and Sports Illustrated. In my sources mentioned above, Youth Coach #2 described how he handles discipline, teaching respect, and off-the-field incidents in youth football: “As a coach my program extends beyond the field. Parents would report issues in the classroom and at home and the athlete would pay the price at practice. I don’t believe in suspensions I believe in holding them accountable in other ways. Physical conditioning, cleaning up the fields, whatever I could think of to keep them in line... Sometimes I will make the whole team pay for one person’s indiscretion to encourage positive peer pressure to do the right thing... I routinely take ten to fifteen 12-13 year olds to social gatherings and with a look will silence my players during horseplay. I demand respect that’s why when I see these kids getting into trouble and they are star athletes their coaches have failed them. The players should feel like they don’t want to let their coaches or teammates down. This is the best way to have well behaved citizens. We teach them about life while on the field it’s not just about the game.”

Of course, you may be thinking this is all ironic, given the fact that Nick Orr was just suspended for the first half of this weekend’s game after the fight with Baylor last weekend. Whether you want to argue that he was the aggressor, or was just defending himself, the fact remains that we have to hold all student-athletes to a higher standard. And that might mean that our players have to face penalties when players from other teams don’t. Is it right? No. But is it something they’ll face in the working world? Yep. So they might as well learn to deal with it. There’s a difference between supporting your athletes and making excuses for them. Patterson made no excuses for the brawl on the field, but he did show frustration at the inconsistent discipline for poor behavior across the league.

You also need a good support system for the athletes, which I think TCU particularly excels at.

Programs like Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a good Student-Athlete Development Program can offer counseling, advice, and life skills to athletes who may not feel like a non-athlete can relate to them or understand the challenges they face. TCU has a fantastic FCA program, as well as a great SA Development program.

It’s that time of year where the college football coach merry-go-’round spins and spins, with people trying to jump on and off at their own risk. It’s this time of year that makes me thankful to continue calling Gary Patterson “Coach.” This world doesn’t need more Baker Mayfields, more Johnny Manziels, or apologies after-the-fact.

College athletes are young adults, and young adults make mistakes. They get caught up in the moment. But part of shaping them into competent adults is teaching them to control their emotions and think of the consequences before they act. We may not always be in the playoff conversation, and we may be overlooked by the talking sports heads, but TCU has always been about “learning to change the world,” and that means teaching our student athletes to be quality people on and off the playing field.

Thank you, Coach Patterson for continuing to support that mission. I’m looking forward to many more years of seeing you lead our players on the field and off.