Here is the gist of piece:
In the summer of 2012, Sul Ross State football coach Wayne Schroeder wanted to shake things up for a sluggish offense that averaged 207.5 yards per game the previous season. So he handed over the keys to a 22-year-old graduate assistant. The results were immediate and dramatic. The reenergized Lobos offense would go on to lead the NCAA with 581.9 yards per game and 48.8 points per game. Scotty Walden, now 24, has since moved on and is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Texas Baptist University, a small Division III program in the East Texas town of Marshall. (bleacher report)
Ok. Great story. So why am I writing about this? Here is the part that really piqued my interest:
Upon getting the offensive coordinator job at Sul Ross, Walden did two things: He went to the university library and listed off 100 plays that he could remember from his playing days. He applied everything he’d learned from high school and college to his first play sheet. He wouldn’t use it all, or even most of it, but he needed something on paper to get started. (bleacher report)
I love this idea of a football coach going to the library to figure things out. I decided to reach out to Scotty and learn more. Here is what he shared:
SW: I always viewed the library as a peaceful place where I could clear my head. As an undergrad I utilized the library at least 3-4 nights a week. I am one of those students/people that is better when I can get away from other people and noise to work. I found that I could concentrate and be much more productive in the library rather than my dorm room, student center, etc.
So, when I got the offensive coordinator job I reverted back to my study habits, which was to go to the library so I could have clear thoughts and clearly organize the offense. I think everyone learns different and libraries provide many different learning paths. Some people like me work well alone in a quiet place, while others work great in small or large groups which libraries also provide.
This story fascinates me. I like that his first instinct was to go to his library in order to be productive. He recognized that he needed to be in a certain type of environment—a hold over from his student days.
We’ve been corresponding about football, leadership, and libraries and Scotty agreed to let me post some of his thoughts.
What is your mood like in a library? How do you think differently there compared to other places?
SW: I would best describe my mood as focused. I was able to avoid distractions and focus on whatever task I was working on. At home or the office I always felt there were more distractions. Whether it was the TV at home or the whiteboard at the office. I would get on the white board and spend an hour drawing up plays rather than doing what I needed to get done.
Tell me about designing plays. What’s your process?
SW: The first thing I will say that it has all been done before. What is unique from coach to coach is how they implement and teach their plays. For me, I knew I loved the spread option (Rich Rodriguez stuff) and the Air Raid. So I knew I wanted to combine the two. I took the base terminology I learned from my mentor Phil Young who was my high school head coach and started designing schemes that I liked. I always search for schemes and ways to evolve every spring but I believe the more genuine or the more stuff that comes from your own head the better you will teach it and believe in it. A lot of times those thoughts are originated from another coach giving you an idea. You take that and mold and shape it to fit into your offense.
What inspires you to run a fast tempo offense?
SW: First, that is my personality to a T. The more you can be yourself or do what that relates to who you are the better. I truly believe in Tempo and what is does to the defense. Number one it wears down defenses allowing you to spring big plays. Next, it forces you to be simple. One thing I was told early on when I became an offensive coordinator is to Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.) You cannot be complicated and run tempo and honestly I am not smart enough to go slow and be complex and find the perfect call for every scenario. You can call a play in tempo and be wrong but still be right. Tempo offense is all about one on one matchups and forcing the defense to tackle your best playmaker in space. It is simply fast and fun football. I briefly got to play in a tempo offense in college my senior year and I was able to see what it did to defenses. It put so much stress on them while we were just running our offense.
I know you draw a lot of inspiration from your faith. What other role models influence you?
SW: No doubt, without God and my faith I would not be where I am today. I know it sounds cliché but I have just always had a desire and passion to be the best at what I do. And trust me I have failed more times that not. But, I have seen a lot of people go through life just trying to get by. I always told myself I would never do that. No matter what I ended up doing in life I would give it everything I had and work as hard as I could to be the best at it.
Of course I do have role models in this profession like Kliff Kingsbury, Art Briles, Phillip Montgomery, and Sonny Cumbie. I think those guys do a great job at being them and each is unique in their philosophy and how they coach the game.
By far my mom is my biggest and most influential role model. She raised me by herself and many times had to play both the mom and dad role. Her work ethic inspired me to be great at whatever I did. She made many sacrifices for me to be involved in sports, etc. and never complained always pushed me and taught me about life. Those lessons were invaluable.
I am a big quote guy too. I look up quotes everyday on an app for my phone and am always looking for inspiring positive quotes.
How do you inspire your players?
SW: I think just by being me everyday. One of the biggest things I told myself when I got into coaching was that I was going to bring it everyday. I had been around coaches who were hyped one day then down the next. It is so crucial not to ride that roller coaster. You have to be consistent in everything you do. Consistency lets the kids know exactly what to expect everyday. They don’t have to guess how you are going to act; they know we are going to go to work everyday so they better bring it to.
In addition, coaching is such a huge platform. You can reach kids in ways you couldn’t elsewhere. I always want to be a positive role model and teach them not only about football but also about the realities of life. Like how important their faith is, how important their academics are and how vital it is to assert yourself everyday and not take a day for granted. When kids see you working hard, sacrificing, being positive to others regardless of their status they will follow suit. Players will always follow and exemplify their coach.
Can you talk at all about the transition from player to coach? How have you developed as a leader?
SW: I will be honest even when I played I felt like a coach. I was always trying to prepare and study just as hard as the coaches did so I had a great grasp on an opponent. I was a square and probably didn’t have as much fun or enjoyed the game as I should have. But I would not change a thing because that’s just my personality I took competition very seriously whether it was junior high football game or college football game.
When I became Offensive Coordinator at Sul Ross I let those guys know day that I was not a player anymore and I drew the line in the sand between coach and player. I told them that if this was going to work that they had to understand that. I thought it was imperative that I address this early on so everyone understood where I was coming from.
I develop as a leader everyday and year. I have learned so much about accountability and realizing that I am accountable for not only for their play but their success as men. For example, I play a part on their success in the classroom. Especially being at a smaller University, we are also academic advisors. But understanding just how much of an impact I can have on these guys has fueled me to continue to develop my leadership skills.
Tell me about watching film. What’s your process? What are you looking for?
SW: I like to make things interesting in the film room, walk around and ask a lot of questions to keep the guys engaged. I am not big into long film sessions, but I do like putting guys on the spot at times so it creates a sense of urgency. That makes them pay attention.
As an offense unit I am HUGE believer in keeping the focus on us. So we do not watch very much of the opponent’s film. We tell our guys what they are going to do and then we focus on our fundamentals. With the QBs I will watch a little bit more film than other positions on our opponent but not much.
For me as a coach I will watch the film ten times more than the players will. I want to know every detail I can about the opponent. But during the week with the guys we will watch practice tape to fix any fundamental errors and techniques. Again the focus is on us and not the opponent. Success in football is more about your execution than what the opponent does.
Coaching sounds a lot like project management. You’re overseeing a lot of different processes happening simultaneously.
SW: The only thing I will say on that is the process is more important than the end result. Again it goes back to keeping the focus on your team. There’s nothing wrong with talking about winning championships but if that is all your fixated on the players will lose sight of the little details that lead to winning.
Simple things matter most, such as having your toe behind the line during a gasser or the wide receivers watching the ball before it is snapped. The teams that pay the most attention to details instead of expectations or the opponent’s schemes or even winning are usually the teams that end up ahead. Every player on the team should already know you want to win. And as a coach you show the players that you want to win by your work ethic everyday.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get into coaching? Any thoughts on developing leadership?
SW: Don’t be afraid to step out of the box. Many questioned why I transferred to play at Sul Ross. They were not a winning program and are literally in the middle of nowhere. I understood all of this but saw opportunity. I knew when I coached that I would not be a grad assistant that only sets up drills like at most other schools. I would be coaching a position and getting tons of hands on experience. So find somewhere that will give you good opportunities even if they are not the most popular of locations.
You have to truly love coaching to do it. You cannot be concerned with the hours you work or the salary. You do it because you love doing it. I honestly cannot see myself doing anything else. If you feel the same way then you’re in the right profession. Find your niche and be yourself. There are a lot of imitators out there and we need innovators.
As far as leadership goes, the biggest asset a leader can have is integrity. So many leaders talk about doing things but the best ones roll up their sleeves and get things done. I admire Abraham Lincoln. I wrote a paper on his leadership and studied his techniques in grad school and one of the best things I took from that was that he worked with everyone. When he said he wanted something done he did not just leave it up to someone else, he went out and worked with his people to get various projects done. Leaders must follow through with whatever they say no matter how small it may sound and also be willing to have an unrelenting work ethic.