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SGG #62: Coach Alvarez on staff challenges and vulnerability


Author Bryan Stevenson observed that, “You can't understand most of the important things from a distance...You have to get close.” SGG's "Football in Wisconsin" special series gets close to football through conversations with coaches, competitors, and others connected with the game in the Badger state. We aim to deepen our understandings of coaching -- and of football's impact on and off the field.

How can coaches and leaders make their ways through internal team challenges? In the third interview with Coach Alvarez for the football in Wisconsin series, he discusses challenges associated with keeping a staff hungry. Coach also comments on being the leader through difficult periods and indicators of which assistant coaches are ready for head coach positions. 

1.  Assembling his first staff and quickly recognizing that some of his coaches were not going to be able to keep up.

2.  Advice he received from Lou Holtz: “”You work for the university. And if they’re (the assistant coaches) holding you back, they’re holding your program back. They (the university) put you in charge of that program and it’s your responsibility. If they can’t keep up, you’ve got to let them go.”

3.  Having a staff that stayed with them for a long time: they got too comfortable, too complacent.

4.  What are the signs of staff complacency? Recruiting corners being cut.

5.  “It’s easy when you’re winning to get too comfortable.”

6.  Nick Saban’s skill in keeping his staff hungry.

7.  “If you have one guy who starts getting lazy, then everybody else sees it and they start cutting corners.”

8.  Changing as a coach over the course of one’s career.

9.  “I think my interactions with the players were always the same.”

10.  Giving everyone in the program a questionnaire at the end of each season to get feedback on the program.

11.  Navigating close relationships on coaching staffs. Drawing clear boundaries.

12.  Showing strength in tough times.

13.  “Don’t take yourself too seriously. I don’t have a problem laughing at myself.”

14.  The importance of bringing in new coaches. “Don’t be afraid to lose coaches.”

15.  How did he identify promising head coach candidates? “I think there are some guys who just present themselves as head coaches.”

16.  Little signs that Coach Bielema was ready for the head job.

17.  Getting losses out of the system. “Go in Sunday and put the game to rest. Find the good and the bad.”

18.  Tommy Lasorda visiting with the team at Rose Bowls about believing you can win. And that, “you’re better prepared than the guy across the ball from you.”

19.  On his wife, Cindy: “We’ve been a team.”

20.  “There were times I was moping around the house and she’d say, ‘Where in the hell is this ‘deal with adversity’ speech that you give? How in the hell are you dealing with it?’...She’ll snap you right out of it!”