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  • Writer's picturePeter Miller

Our focus on football continues. The SGG special series uses an embedded approach with particular emphasis on leadership. The series aims to advance the "growing good" that leaders can promote in and through sports.

Coach Don Julian led Sheridan High School in Wyoming to five state championships and, before that, coached Riverton High School to four state titles. He was also formerly a member of the University of Wyoming’s football coaching staff. Even more than wins on the field, he is widely known as an exemplary developer of leaders. Coach Julian, currently the athletic director at Sheridan, continues to inspire leaders of all levels. As Wisconsin coaches examine how they can impact lives and communities through sports, much can be learned from Coach Julian. In this SGG episode, we discussed:

1. Growing up on a sheep ranch in Kemmerer, WY (the ranch is now on its fifth generation in the family).

2. Learning loyalty, independence, and ownership on the family ranch.

3. Ownership: “Unless you own it, you can’t really give it away…Nothing that’s really important to us is given for free.”

4. The huge span of territory covered by a range sheep operation in Wyoming.

5. Learning from his grandmother: “Most of her knowledge came from working with animals.”

6. The importance of leadership – but lack of true understanding/teaching about what it actually is. “We’ll teach them everything about a handoff… But we’ll yell at a kid and tell him to be a leader when, quite frankly, we don’t teach him how to lead.”

7. “I think we need to plan for leadership.”

8. “As the seniors go, the season goes.” The importance of the leadership process leading up to senior year.

9. Taking seniors to the mountains right before fall camp.

10. Running a “transformational” leadership program built on purpose statements.

11. Defining the “why?”

12. Our purpose here is to help kids become great men.

13. The importance of writing in leadership development, including the value of journaling.

14. Using break-out sessions to engage kids on various leadership topics.

15. Creating such a relationship that “we don’t want to let each other down.”

16. Prior to taking the field, the team is reminded: “Believe in yourself. Believe in the guy next to you. Believe in the plan.”

17. The “Nissi Flag:” “When the kids are in the battle of the game, and they grow tired and weary, they can look to the sideline and see their team and the Nissi Flag.”

18. “Bronc football is life-changing.”

19. The annual “person of influence” night.

20. One of the most special moments of his coaching career: one of his player’s baptisms, when most of the team showed up.

21. Success stories.

22. The necessity of adversity: “I don’t think we can get anything done in life without handling adversity.”

23. Coming together at the end of every practice and game to identify something specific that they saw a teammate do well that day.


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