The Culture of Change

March 11, 2018

The Culture of Change

Written by Contributor John Kesselring

Photo Courtesy of Greg Abel Photography

*Culture is such a “Buzzword” right now that I hate to even use it and talk about it, but it is exactly what I am going to do. I will preface this by saying: I don’t claim to be an expert on it, I think it means something different to everyone and every program, and until I changed, my “culture” sucked.*


Let’s face it, as football coaches, few people are more stuck in their ways than we are. If you disagree with that, change jobs and you’ll realize that you were living in a comfort zone, surrounded by a bubble, and with tunnel vision on whatever your mission is. Coming to Fairmont and leaving my comfort zone was one of the biggest transitions that I have ever had to make. I was changing from an area in the state of Iowa that I grew up in and moving to an entirely different state where we now live within an hour of my in-laws (please read into that what you will).  I was going from a head coaching role, to a position coach. My wife and daughter were ecstatic!! I was home more. I became a better husband and father, and we spent more time doing things together as a family. BUT, there was one problem. Guess who was the uncomfortable one: ME. The terminology was different, the practice plans were different, the weight room structure was different, the coaching styles were different, the wind blew harder, and I think I saw snow flakes in August. I was lost, cold, and not having a lot of fun. If you have ever been through a job/coaching change, you know exactly what I am talking about. Whether or not you were happy to leave your previous job, no matter what you venture into next, there is undoubtedly some uneasy feelings and uncertainty.


Two things happened to me that changed my teaching/coaching career forever. The first was that I quickly realized that I was about to begin to work for one of the best head coaches, at any level, in the state of Minnesota. He lets us coaches coach, doesn’t meddle (too much), and truly sets a standard for our staff through accountability and ownership. The second thing that changed my “culture” was my wife. Because this blog is “PG” rated, I will sum up her entire rant in 2 words: GROW UP. You guys that read this, who are married, can probably fill in the rest of the conversation. I doubt she’ll read this, so I feel safe to admit that “she was right”.  I was being a baby. I had to get over the “poor me” attitude to finally see that I was, not only becoming a better coach because of the people around me, but Brian (OC) and Mat (HC) are two of the best young minds from a football standpoint at any level. I had two resources for football knowledge that I would put up against anyone, anywhere, anytime. My culture was about to change and I needed to buckle up and prepare.


Change is hard. I think it is especially harder for football coaches. I want my story to let you know that whatever change your going through or thinking about making, it won’t be easy. In fact, it will be a roller coaster at times. But I can assure you this, it will be worth it.


Here are five notes that helped me with the transition from a pure “football” standpoint. I hope you can find some value in them!


  • When learning a new offensive system, what helped me was playing QB against the 1st team D. As a former HS/College QB, this helped me learn the language and I was also able to see what our offense was looking like through the eyes of our quarterbacks. I would especially encourage this in any type of “Inside Run” period. Even you OL guys can hand a ball off (On a related note: There isn’t an assistant coach who doesn’t think he’s the next Brett Favre)


  • I would constantly listen to the offensive huddle to learn how the verbage would sound coming from the QB’s themselves. Stick your head in there!


  • ASK QUESTIONS! I constantly was asking Brian about his offense, it was his first year as OC, so it was good to listen to his thought process, and it was good for him to be able to verbalize how he wanted it to look. If he is a good coach, he will welcome the conversation. (As Brian did)


  • Save the practice plans! I always bring a pen with me to practice and make notes during transition periods. They serve as a great reflection piece regarding what went well and what didn’t go well during the week. It also serves as a great reference to some drill work that you need to continue to do or refine.


  • Whether you’re a defensive guy or not, spending time on that side of the ball and drawing up ways you would defend your offense (and vice versa for that matter) has always been a benefit for me. Look at whatever position or area you coach, and be honest about it’s weak points. Then work tirelessly to fix them. Doing this gives you an “ownership” of your group and they will feel like they are “Your Guys”.

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