‘They’re my guys forever’: Saban discusses caring for his players
While the national media loves to portray University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban as a bit of a grouch, the truth is that Saban’s historic on-the-field success has come in part due to how he treats his players off-the-field.
The coaching legend recently spoke about his leadership philosophy at the American Football Coaches Association’s 2019 convention in San Antonio, Texas, stressing that good coaches have real, meaningful relationships with the members of their team.
As seen in a video of Saban’s keynote address that has received significant acclaim on Twitter, he first shared that a former coach of his had a significant impact on shaping his own success in life. Fast forward, and that is exactly what Saban has tried to do for young men for decades. He motivated coaches across the nation to do the same, saying that if you treat players right, good things will follow.
“[T]he impact that you have on every young man that you affect – and we all worry about winning and losing games, but those guys are depending on us,” Saban emphasized. “They care about us.”
“There are three guys that played for me at Michigan State way back when, standing back here waiting to see me. And I’m happy to see them, and I’m concerned about them,” he told the convention attendees. “Because they weren’t my guys for three years, four years or five years. They’re my guys forever. And that’s the way we should all feel about what we do.”
Saban added that he believes coaches have “a responsibility and an obligation to help” their players.
He said, “They need us. I mean, how many guys do you coach that have two parents at home? How many guys do you coach that don’t have any parents at home? That’s us. That’s who we are. That’s what we need to take responsibility for and be there.”
“And there’s really only one way you can do it: develop relationships with these people. You gotta develop relationships,” Saban continued. “How much time do you spend developing relationships with your players?”
In what might be an especially noteworthy statement for Crimson Tide fans given the coaching turnover set to take place in between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Saban revealed a potential shortcoming with some of his most recent assistant coaches.
“You know, if there’s one thing different about our team this year, [it] is I don’t think our coaches spent enough time developing relationships with the people on the team,” he shared. “It was the biggest difference in our team.”
Saban then said that while he can and does give inspiring speeches to his team as a group in order to motivate them, it is individual conversations and relationship-building that has the most positive impact on-the-field and off of it.
“If I’m going to talk to a group of guys, they may or may not listen. I may make all the right points, but if you make it about them and you sit down and have that relationship with them, they’re going to respond to you. Because these players don’t do what you tell them just because you tell them to do it. They don’t do that anymore. I would do that when I played, alright. But they don’t do that anymore. You gotta have a relationship with them. They gotta trust you, they gotta respect you, and you gotta build that,” Saban explained.
“They weren’t my guys for 3 years, 4 years or 5 years. They’re my guys forever. And that’s the way we should all feel about what we do.” Nick Saban. pic.twitter.com/jaFwWxPwHy
— James Light (@JamesALight) January 25, 2019
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn