Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coach as confidant

Wonderful story in my local paper yesterday about 43-year-old Cal assistant Ron Gould, whose mother died before he was in high school and who had his own apartment by the time he was a sophomore in high school.

He played football at a local community college, then at Wichita State, and finally at Oregon, where he earned a starting spot as a senior.

"That was a difficult time, but I wouldn't let it bother me," Gould said. "I didn't want to walk through life, saying 'Woe is me.' I knew that God wouldn't give me more than I could handle, so I knew I could find my way through it."

At Cal, he's survived multiple head coaching changes and is rated as one of the top recruiters in the nation.

As a coach, he "demands perfection." In the words of one of his players, "He wants things done perfectly."

"All through high school, kids are being told how great they are, so when they get here and I tell them that something is not good enough, it's a shocker," Gould said. "I don't belittle kids, but I teach, critique and demand."

Yet, because his players know that he has their best interests at heart, they love him, saying things like, "I'd do anything for him" and "He is one of the best men I know."

Each week, Cal players take a quiz over the game plan for Saturday's game. At the bottom of the quiz, Coach Gould "asks the players to write something he doesn't know about them. The answers start with trite things, like favorite colors, and grow into intimate details of their lives."

Their answers help him learn about the young men he's coaching and provides him with insight into their lives outside of football. As he puts it, "I want to know what's in their hearts."

"I'm into building a whole person, not just a football player or a student. I want to see them develop personally, be part of the community and grow in every aspect of their lives. If they just look at me as a coach - not a confidant, not someone who is going to help them mature both on and off the field - then I've failed as a coach."