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  • Peter Miller

SGG episode #53: Waunakee HS (WI) head football coach Pat Rice always puts the kids first


Coaches are important educational leaders in our schools, communities, and universities. The Sport and the Growing Good (SGG) podcast provides embedded, front-line insights on winning and positive development. The SGG podcast can be heard here and on all major podcast platforms.

Pat Rice is a Hall of Fame coach at Waunakee High School. Coach Rice’s teams have won six state titles and his overall winning percentage is among the highest in state history. More importantly, Coach Rice has positively impacted countless lives over the course of almost 30 years as head coach. He’s recognized as one of the best coaches in state history and as a leader from whom young coaches can learn. On this SGG episode, we discussed:

1. How coaching is different from when his dad coached at McFarland HS: it’s a year-round process.

2. “My dad always put kids first…It starts and ends with the kids.” How Pat’s tried to model this lesson in his own coaching life.

3. Being a “coach of coaches” – using the curriculum for player development and coaching development.

4. How technology has changed coaching – and how Coach Rice views “techy young guys” as important members of his staff.

5. The development of pillars and identities on the team.

6. Getting buy-in on the offensive line by developing the “Hogs” and making the offensive line a high-profile position.

7. Staying on the trending, forward-thinking side of the game and not lagging behind in innovation. “You have to stay in front of the curve.” Continually learning and not being satisfied -- including making the change to the spread offense even though the team was in the midst of a long streak of great success.

8. Not going half-way in making changes – being fully committed to changes that are made. (including the example of Nick Saban making the change at Alabama)

9. “My staff knows that their thoughts and opinions are respected and we’re in it together.”

10. The nuts and bolts of end of season meetings on “where can we get better.”

11. Working with a neighboring school to evaluate each other’s programs.

12. “If you’re going to make changes, you’ve got to be willing to listen to other people.”

13. Having a staff that is passionate, committed, loyal, and knowledgeable.

14. The positive, meaningful role created for parents via the booster club. “Make the parents part of the equation…We’re all trying to move this forward together.”

15. Keeping interactions with parents positive and fun.

16. “We don’t want football to be the pinnacle of their life…We want football to be a part of their life. Something they can build from.”

17. End-of-practice conversations with the team that center on bigger life issues and developing into better young men.

18. Focusing on the journey and appreciating it. “Once Friday night comes, the hay is in the barn and we’re going to give it our best shot…If you aim completely at wins and losses, then you’re missing the mark.”

19. Always staying together, getting up, and bouncing back together. The opportunities provided by setbacks – “that’s when they need you the most.”