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High school football: Bingham leadership program asks players to police themselves

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21 2013 2:27 p.m. MST

as Bingham High School and Lone Peak High School play in the 5A State football semi-final Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SOUTH JORDAN — Ruben Gomez didn’t see himself as a starter for the Bingham Miners until his teammates let him know they saw him as their leader.

The senior defensive lineman was content to be just another face in the crowd until his fellow linemen elected him to represent them on the team’s leadership council.

“I was very surprised because at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t the starter,” Gomez said. “I was just there. I was in the rotation, but I wasn’t a starter.”

Knowing his teammates respected him enough to elect him as their leader changed how he felt about his role on the team.

“I was thinking I was going to help the team, but just in the rotation,” he said. “It definitely made me try harder to step up and be that starter.”

Gomez is part of a specially designated squad of position group captains referred to as P.I.E. leaders. It’s a program Bingham head coach Dave Peck developed because he knows the best teams work hard when no one is watching.

“You’re never going to be a great team if you’re doing something just because your coaches are telling you to do it,” he said.

Two years ago, the Miners had talent but mediocre leadership. So the three-time state champion coach decided that in addition to teaching his players how to be better football players, he needed to teach them to be better leaders. First, he sat down and came up with what he thought the main ingredients were for a successful leader. First, a player had to develop passion. And, he said, once a person found what he was passionate about, he needed to pursue it with integrity.

“If you lie, cheat and steal to get what you want, then it means nothing,” he said. “And then, once you have found your passion and you’re pursuing it with integrity, don’t ever let anybody outwork you. That’s where the effort comes in.”

When Peck was finished, he came up with the acronym P.I.E. — which stands for passion, integrity and effort.

He explained the program to his players and asked each position group to elect a P.I.E. leader to represent them. Those young men, along with the team’s captains (a combination of boys selected by coaches and elected by players) would make up the Miners’ leadership council. The council is responsible for discipline when players violate team rules.

But maybe more importantly, they discuss ways to help, mentor and teach the other players in the program.

“I think all of us P.I.E. leaders, we honor (the role),” said senior Kade Jensen, who was elected to represent the team’s quarterbacks. “We respect that we have the privilege to be a vocal leader for our teammates.”

The job consists of anything and everything that the players need — homework help, a nudge to work harder in conditioning drills or a reminder that bad decisions off the field can have massive consequences for the entire team.

The players haven’t had to deal with a lot of disciplinary issues this season, but when they do, they said players better understand the situations, most of the time, than coaches. And they also feel that because they’re all working for the same goals, they have special standing to ask their friends not to let them down.

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