Coach Russell’s Ruminations – December

I hope everyone is enjoying a safe and happy holiday season! It’s the best time of the year (Bowl Season!) as we get to take some time to be around our friends and family, and reflect on how lucky we are to be involved in this profession. In our neck of the woods, it’s also a time to work on your snow removal techniques. Being outdoors, in the cold, usually alone, flinging snow lends itself nicely to thought and reflection. Thanks, in part, to our most recent snow storm, I present my monthly ruminations for December.

My first thought for this month will fly in the face of what is commonly accepted among coaches. You hear it time and again, from coaches at all levels of our game – don’t read what’s written about your team. Frankly, I disagree. I’m the type of guy, and coach, who wants to prove people wrong. I view every slight as a challenge. Maybe this is an extra motivation for me; I’m not quite sure. What I am sure of is that I read each and every negative comment written about our team, program, or school. For me, personally, it just adds fuel to my personal fire. So, if you’re like me, go ahead and read it all! Disclaimer though – it will make you angry. However, when channeled into something positive, anger can be a great motivator!

My next point, based on the next sentence, will upset some folks. Stay with me, please. If you have a player who never talks about his family, never has anyone in the stands cheering him on, and generally seems to have no real family connection, DO NOT TRUST THAT KID. Period. I don’t care what he says, or how we acts around you, you cannot trust him. What I mean by that is, don’t trust him if he acts like everything is fine, and don’t trust him if he says all is well. As a coach/mentor, you need to make SURE that he is fine, and all is well. We’re all tough “football guys”, and it’s difficult for us to admit that we’re not doing well, and we need someone. I’m not advocating pushing a kid who isn’t ready to open up, but I think it’s very important to keep a finger on the pulse of your players’ well-being beyond the field and classroom. Kids are different today than even when I played, and they have different needs and ways of seeking positive attention. Keep your eyes peeled, and don’t take their word for it.

Finally, I realize (hope!) that many high school coaches read our material. I’d like to address them directly with my final thought. At the Division III level, we don’t have the luxury of getting national television exposure every Saturday. We’re lucky at Norwich, in that we have a bit of “name brand” recognition. Still, not everyone has heard of us. Worse, many people who have heard of us are misinformed about what we are, as a university. One of my pet peeves has become, during  recruiting, when high school coaches tell me not to bother visiting their school because “none of their players have expressed any interest” in us at that time. More often than not, those players are not aware of what we are, and what opportunities are available to them here. Our school, like every other school in America, is not for everyone. However, I think it’s important for coaches to encourage kids to keep their options open. The good high school coaches, the guys who really get it, have their kids talk to every coach who will come in to visit. Strangely, these same guys tend to win a heck of a lot of games. Odd, right? Don’t limit your players’ options; the more schools they talk to, the more opportunities they have to be successful.

As always, I welcome any questions, concerns, comments, or general feedback. I can be reached at