Fresh off winning his second straight FCS national championship at North Dakota State, Craig Bohl addressed an early crowd Tuesday morning on what he emphasizes within his program that has turned the Bison into a true powerhouse.
Bohl said he fights every day to fight complacency. "It's the most challenging issue we have," he explained. "If you think it's not broken, you probably haven't looked hard enough. You're either green and growing or ripe and dying."
Bohl told the story of how he first battled the monster of complacency during his tenure in Fargo. North Dakota State went 43-12 in his first five seasons, but fell to 6-5 in 2008 and 3-8 in 2009. "We had kids asking, 'What are we going to wear? What type of gloves are we going to have?' And all I would do is complain to the staff about how we didn't have any leadership."
So after a challenge from an assistant coach, Bohl realized, "Who's in charge of leadership? Me." So, Bohl decided to develop leadership by putting his players into positions where leaders would emerge, and splitting the squad into groups of eight, led by a staff member. "That's when you get some dirt under your fingernails," said Bohl.
Since then, North Dakota State is 37-7 with three FCS playoff appearances and two national championships.
Bohl explained his Pocket Change Theory, in that each leader starts with a certain amount of change in his pocket. Successful decisions add change, while poor ones subtract change. In the end, an empty-pocketed leader can not lead at all.
The most important ways for a coach to build trust with his team are to have a clear vision, a specific plan, be passionate, draw on experience, clearly articulate the plan to staff and players and to gather the necessary resources required to be successful. "Do what you say you're going to do," he said. "Young people will cling on every word you say."
In the end, relating to 18-to-22 year olds is the same as it was when Bohl started coaching nearly 30 years ago. "Times change, people don't. The culture around them has changed," he said. "They want to be loved, encouraged, held accountable and have consistency."