Jim Tressel spoke to area high school athletic directors and football coaches during the first annual Northeast Ohio Athletic Directors and Coaches Conference held at the WKYC-TV Channel 3 studios in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday.
The University of Akron's vice president of strategic engagement discussed what he learned during his time as athletic director at Youngstown State University, where he simultaneously served as the school's head football coach.
Tressel continued his conversation with the conference attendees by focusing on the areas that he believes allowed him to lead successful gridiron programs at YSU and Ohio State University.
"Somehow, some way, your department has got to convince the student-athlete that you care about them," Tressel said," I don't care how great of a teacher you think you are, if they do not think you care about them, then they are probably not listening."
Tressel emphasized how important it is as coach to earn the respect of each member of the team by showing that you care about their well being on and off the field.
To illustrate his point, Tressel discussed the few college teams that compiled a subpar record with him at the helm.
Those teams, according to their coach, probably should have lost even more games than they did, but instead, came together as a team and overachieved.
Tressel also emphasized that the time he and his coaching staff spent gaining trust from his players over the years is still paying dividends today - long after most of them hung up their football pads for good.
"As I look back, we spent a lot of time, probably more than most programs, to develop kids knowing that it might not click today," Tressel said. "It's my job as a parent, a teacher, a coach to plant a seed that someday will sprout."
"We won a lot of games and I really believe we won more games because the (players) knew we cared about them, so when it came time to teach them the X's and O's, they were listening," Tressel continued.
Tressel ended his talk by encouraging the athletic directors and coaches in attendance to inspire and empower the student-athletes under their leadership to achieve their full potential in the classroom and on the field.
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