“A placard taped to Paul Jackson’s office window points to his penchant for accountability:
‘ATTENTION NFL SCOUTS: I will not discuss the following players. They are selfish, lazy and have no concept of team, they cannot help you win football games.’
There are no names listed — yet.
‘To get on that list, you have to show you’re going to quit on the team in a hard situation or be disrespectful to the coach,’ Southern Mississippi Strength Coach Jackson said. ‘It doesn’t take just an everyday, ordinary mistake.’
Prior to taking the job, Jackson said he was told by members of his profession that USM had a bad reputation with ‘problem kids,’ but he said that he hasn’t seen that.
‘When I got here, I had a certain standard of things I wanted and I tried to raise expectations. They ate it up and jumped in head first. There’s been no pushback. They’ve been eager to get better. The thing I’m most proud of is the attitude.”
I like what Coach Jackson says about high expectations, but I also think people get confused by what that means. They think it means that the coach expects to contend for a title or championship. What it really means is high expectations of a player in terms of his character and his mental toughness. He expects his players to attack their training with enthusiasm and a superior work ethic. He expects them to work together and push one another. He expects them to endure pain, and fight through adversity. He knows that if they can do these things, they will win. If they can do them consistently, they will have a shot to contend for a title.
I also like what Coach Jackson says about “no pushback.” What he means by this is that his players are doing what they are coached to do. In the years we have had great success @ WHS there has been “no pushback.” Players did what we asked, when asked, and to the best of their ability. In the years we have struggled there has been plenty of “pushback.” “Pushback” shows up in the form of quitting, complaining, whining, pouting, hanging ones head etc. “Pushback” players thought they were already good, or didn’t need to work hard, or resented getting called out for their mistakes and told they could be doing better on and/or off the field. In short, the players on the most successful teams accepted being pushed, the players on the least successful teams ignored or resented being pushed. The good teams were desperate to get better, the poor teams were not interested, and the average teams were interested but couldn’t do what it takes on a consistent basis.
Expectations will be high. Will you rise to meet them or try to avoid them?
You are going to get pushed. Will you give it all you have or will you pushback?
Pushing creates friction, but in the end that’s how things come to shine. So when the time to get better on the field, or in the weight room, or in class comes, will you shine or will you whine?
Sidenote: As I share and write these things, it often occurs to me that players at other schools regularly read this page. I have given the web address to hundreds. So do coaches at other schools. So do people across the country as many of the things on here have been forwarded to others known and unknown. Google “character mental toughness” and I think you will see that others looking to improve their game, on and off the field, have found their way to this page. These people recognize the value in learning about the huge advantages of strong character and mental toughness. I have no problem in sharing what I learn with others, and if that helps players and coaches at other schools so be it. To selfishly hold on to knowledge, or fail to share a perspective, would not be right.
Unfortunately, it also frequently occurs to me how many in our own program and our own community can’t be bothered. If people aspire to be nothing better than they are, there is little I can do. But I do know that a lot of our WHS family (students, players, parents, teachers, staff, alumni, future students etc.) does check in and I ask them to help continue to encourage others to do so as well. We can do better, we just need more people to join us.
I just want you to know what is possible. I also want to thank those near and far for allowing me to try to help in that regard.