SALT LAKE CITY — Legendary NFL coach Dick Vermeil stood before more than 200 high school coaches and told them that if they want to develop winning football programs, they need to teach more than strategy and technique.
The former head coach of the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs offered the prep coaches from around the intermountain west what he called “Common sense principles of coaching.”
And then he added, “The flowers of common sense do not grow in everybody’s garden” — a statement that set the tone for what was a passionate, humorous and heartfelt address.
“The greatest quality of your best leaders is humility,” he said. “No doubt about it.”
Vermeil offered several keys to coaching success in his hour-long address at the Utah’s annual coaching clinic at Eccles Football Center Friday night.
“The number one concept is to make sure people know you care,” he said. “If you want to win over a person, first you have to win over their heart.”
He said players don’t always remember the words a coach offers, but they will feel his passion.
He also admonished the coaches to be the people they asked their players to be.
“You yourself have to be a good example,” he said. “When your actions speak for themselves as a head coach, everybody listens. Those who look to look to you for leadership and guidance, measure your words against your example.”
He said how the coaches turned their own passion into action “paints a very vivid picture of what you are all about.”
“You’re authority as a leader, as a coach, comes from your people’s trust in you,” he said. “Don’t ever think you’re not being evaluated. You cannot expect your team to bee what you are not.”
Vermeil asserted that when coaches provide those examples to their players, they become more effective.
“You’re not just passing on knowledge, but you’re also passing on what you believe,” he said.
He advised the coaches to hire great people and then “work to create the atmosphere in which people enjoy working.”
If people enjoy the work atmosphere, they tend to spend more time in it.
He contrasted the difference between an intimidator and a leader, saying that no one will follow an intimidator long-term. Vermeil gave examples from his own coaching experience, and he sprinkled his remarks with humorous stories and sage advice.
“Three things we all need to succeed are recognition, appreciation and praise,” he said. “Self-esteem is very delicate, and it must be earned and confirmed.”
He rattled off a number of players he’d seen exceed expectations because of the belief caring coaches had in them.
In his 35 years as a coach, he said he learned that great leaders develop a process. He also joked that he “never wanted to try to outsmart anybody but I thought I could outwork anybody.”
“You have to define what you’re trying to do,” he said. “Hard work is not a form of punishment, nor is fatigue your enemy.”
When Vermeil ended his remarks after 9 p.m., the coaches offered him a standing ovation and then lined up to shake his hand, snap a picture or get an autograph. The clinic continues through Saturday afternoon.