If the 2020 edition of Culver Eagles are looking to have the best football season of their high school careers, they will have to do to three things, former National Football League coach Dave Wannstedt told them Thursday afternoon
Wannstedt, who is now an analyst for Fox Sports, was the head coach of the Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, and his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. He also won the Super Bowl while serving as the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys and a national championship as the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami while working with Jimmy Johnson. Accompanying Wannstedt was offensive line coach Tony Wise, who served on the same staffs with him.
The three things players must commit to are: do something they have never done before, be “coachable,” and “trust your training.”
By “doing something you have never done before,” Wannstedt said each individual must commit to pushing himself past his perceived limits. Every individual and team begins the season wanting to be the best, Wannstedt said, but they will often fall back on doing “what is comfortable.” But staying comfortable will not make you better.
You must commit to getting better every practice. “You can’t wait until Friday night to decide to get better,” Wannstedt said. “You get better in practice. You win on Friday night.”
And, as each individual gets better, the team will also improve. “You will be surprised how good you are by the fifth game of the season,” he added.
Making that commitment requires that each player remains “coachable.” That means listening to the coaches and implementing their suggestions or corrections. Again, it may involve doing something you have never done before and push you out of your comfort zone. While he was an offensive tackle at Pitt, the coaches wanted him to cross the field and block the far cornerback. Wannstedt said he initially didn’t think he could do it. But he practiced it.
The coaches called that play for the first offensive possession of the season. He got past the defensive end and just as he got in front of the cornerback, “I heard this whoosh go by me.” The freshman tailback – Tony Dorsett – rushed behind his block and went for a touchdown.
He finished with “trust your training” when the pressure is on. Again, when players find themselves in stressful situations, they will fall back on what is comfortable. Wannstedt told the players he has a bad habit of paying for golf lessons, but then ignores what the pro has told him when he needs to make that pressure shot. And the predicted results have cost him more than “50 cents” on several occasions.
“Trust your training” almost means shutting out outside distractions. There are so many ways to be distracted today, he said, it is easy to lose focus. But Wannstedt remembers Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who planned and led Operation Desert Storm in 1990, saying the quickest way to be defeated is to be distracted.
So, he emphasized, don’t lose focus of your three main individual keys: do something you have never done before, be coachable, and trust your training.