A Role for Every Player / by James Leath

Not every player can be the goalie. There is only one quarterback on the field at a time. Only one person can be the varsity wrestler at the 182 weight class. Alabama took out all their starters in the 4th quarter last week against Michigan State. As the backups played on the field, the starters stood on the sidelines yelling their tails off. In one instance, an Alabama defensive player made a tackle on his own sideline and he was immediately mauled by his teammates with hugs and slaps to the helmet. It was a true "Rudy" moment and was not an anomaly. Those starters truly loved the backups, and it showed. That is great team culture.

Students join a team because they want to be part of something. As a coach, it is your job to make sure there is a role for every player. If you only value and have roles for the number of athletes who start the game, then the other athletes won't stick around. And since a young person is constantly trying to fit in and be a part of a group, a sports team may be the only thing keeping them from going down a much more destructive path.

Mike Leach, head football coach of Washington State, coaches two games a week. One on Saturday, in front of the world, and one on Thursday, in front of the starters. For 30-45 minutes every Thursday, the backups get to put in their game jerseys and play under the lights in front of their peers. The starters are there, cheering on their teammates.

This is one way to create team culture. It doesn't happen on accident, but when a coach is intentional about creating a positive environment, great things happen.

It starts with you.