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Coach Alvarez visited with us to describe the many details he addressed when taking over a struggling Wisconsin football program in the early 1990s:
1. Before taking a new job as a coach, you better have a real clear idea of what is expected of you by the leaders who hired you. “Where is the program today, and how are you going to support me?” You have to know the lay of the land before you take a job.
2. The importance of identifying and securing the players you need and winning over their coaches. “The best players in the state weren’t staying here.” “I knew I had to win over the state high school coaches… I told them, ‘your program is important…You can visit anytime.’”
3. How off-the-field problems affect on-field performance.
4. Develop a thorough plan on how you are going to run your program.
5. Figure out the best recruits you can get at your school – those that are athletic, academic, and geographic fits.
6. Before you take the job, establish a detailed list of coaches you will try to bring with you. Know what kind of staff you want and get the staff you need.
7. You have to sell your plan to recruits and high school coaches – but also to your own new staff.
8. You must communicate your plan to “every person who touches the program.” You must be clear and precise about what you expect of everyone. You have to implement the day-to-day expectations. “If you do things properly during the day, during the week, things will go well on Saturdays.”
9. Develop a “staff policy book” that addresses every detail about what you want/expect regarding people’s behaviors and expectations, all the way down to the way you dress and the way you conduct meetings.
10. Among your staff, develop a specific recruiting plan. “What are we selling? What does this place have to offer.” Deliver a coherent, cohesive message.
11. Be very specific about the roles/expectations for each of the assistants – including their key roles in supporting the academic side of their players’ lives.
12. Be clear and consistent as a staff about the way feedback is offered to players.
13. The three questions every coach needs to know of his players: “Can I trust you?” “Are you committed?” “Do you care?”
14. Develop a player policy book: What do you expect from your players? The importance of the “weekly truth statements.”
15. The importance of maintaining success by staying hungry and not making compromises.
16. Being honest with parents and players, including questions about playing time.
17. Putting players in uncomfortable positions in practice in order to prepare them to perform in difficult situations.
18. What Coach Alvarez learned from Bob Devaney, Hayden Fry, and Lou Holtz.