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Chalk Talk - How coaches influence lives

Coleman Feeley

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submitted Today, 04:01 PM in Texas Longhorns Football By Coleman Feeley

For athletes at an early age it’s Mom or Dad who plays the role of ‘Coach’. Parents are the first ones to place a football or baseball mitt in the hands of youngsters, and they teach you the basics – how to throw and catch.

Those first coaches, and always your biggest fans, Mom and Dad, don’t get to stick around as ‘Coach’ - men and Women whose livelihoods depend on your performance take over that role. At some point, trying your hardest takes the place of “just have funâ€, and giving your best ultimately becomes a given in the pursuit of athletic perfection.

My college footbal career was marked by change more than anything else. In five years, I had three Head Coaches, six Strength and Conditioning Coaches, two Offensive Coordinators, and four Offensive Line Coaches.

While in high school, I played for the Freshman, Junior Varsity, and Varsity squads; all those phases of high school football gave me an additional four Head Coaches, four Offensive Line Coaches, and I can’t remember how many Offensive Coordinators.

In short, I’ve seen a variety of coaching styles. As anyone who has played sports competitively can attest, there is always at least one coach who has truly and significantly impacted their life, and I am no different.

In the middle of my third year in college, as a redshirt sophomore, my team’s head coach was released. A mid-season firing left the program with more questions than answers, and at that time we were a program with few answers.

As the following offseason began, the Athletic Director announced our new head coach, Dan McCarney. Much like Charlie Strong did at UT, McCarney noted the value of self-discipline immediately – Coach ‘Mac’ told players that we were responsible for the program and that only we, the players, could change anything.


Yet, as I met my new Offensive Line Coach, Mike Simmonds, I knew that wasn’t exactly true. Simmonds, also known as ‘The Swede’, took over and really whipped the offensive line into shape quickly. It was, without a doubt, the most demanding offseason of my football career.

Coach Simmonds isn’t exactly a poet, but he told us something that I will never forget – “the only limitations you have, are the ones you set on yourself.â€

The following season (my redshirt junior year), North Texas finished the year only having allowed 16 sacks. That stat isn’t exactly something to hang your hat on, but as compared to UT’s 28 sacks allowed in 2014, it’s not bad.

The following season (my fifth), Coach Simmonds led us to the top of the nation – the North Texas offensive line only allowed six sacks. Coach Simmonds’ ability to motivate us beyond what we thought possible is a rare quality in a coach.

Not many coaches are able to influence players’ on-field ability as well as their off-field attitudes. Likewise, not every coach that makes an impact on players always does so in a positive manner.

At the end of my junior season in high school, I was 6’4’’ and weighed roughly 270 pounds. I had Division 1 interest and recruiting letters filled the mailbox every week – TCU, Baylor, New Mexico, New Mexico St., North Texas, and Tulane were some of the schools in contact.

However, I also had a coach who didn’t believe in my ability. My coach at the time, “Coach Gary†told Baylor that I was too slow and had “terrible feetâ€. In short, he spread word to Big 12 schools that I couldn’t play Division 1 or even FCS football.

In Summer conditioning, every single rep I did was driven by my need to prove Coach Gary wrong. I gained another 15 pounds and reduced my 3 cone shuttle time from 4.85 to a 4.62. I also improved my bench max by nearly 65 pounds, achieving a one-rep max of 400 pounds. Needless to say, it was a productive offseason.

But what I learned most from that offseason was that I was responsible for myself – each of us are the only driving force in this world that can produce results in our own life. Luckily, 2007 was the last year of Coach Gary’s tenure, and my game film along with Combine results did enough talking for me.

Whether the influence is positive or negative, some coaches truly change the fiber of an individual’s being. Reports from Texas are that Charlie Strong will be a coach remembered for his positivity, and unsurprisingly, the players at Texas are beginning to bond tightly and unify under Coach Strong’s leadership.

While at Louisville, players consistently talked about the “family†atmosphere that Coach Strong emphasized. Not only did Strong insist his players become a family, he supported the effort by having all players move back on campus and live together, as he has subsequently done at Texas.

The bond that Strong helped his players create paid off as Louisville finished 13-1 in his final season. Expect to see the ‘Longhorn Family’ with improved results in the upcoming season.

* photo courtesy of North Texas Athletics


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