Counting character can key success

Jim Place has been an educator for 46 years and is a member of the Ohio High Football Coaches Hall of Fame. Currently he teaches nine different character education classes at the University of Dayton. You can visit him at

In this piece he discusses the importance of character on a football team. Placer originally shared this coaching tip in this article published in a recent issue of American Football Monthly. For subscription information for the magazine visit its website,

Each year you have 10 scheduled games and most every team will set their goal at going 10-0.

The reality is that very few teams have the physical talent to reach this goal.

The reality is that each team has a four-game swing based upon their talent.

For a given team based upon their talent the best record may be 7-3 and their worst 4-6, other teams 2-8 to 5-5 or 9-1 to 6-4.

JimPlace200This is the range of records that is realistic for your team to win based upon a realistic appraisal of your talent. This is a huge swing. How do you maximize this opportunity? There are a number of factors but one factor far outweighs all others together and that is “character”. Teams who have great character will year in and year out reach the top level of wins. Teams with low character will continually reach the lower level of this four game swing.

If you did a post season evaluation of your team each year, how many of your major problems are character related; that is, player suspensions, players missing practice, selfishness, lack of leadership and so many more.

Why not do something about it?

How do you increase character in your program? Here are some suggestions:

1. Have a plan. Character is talked about by everyone, but being truly committed is another story. For most, this is not a conscious thing but there is just not enough time for everything and when a push comes to a shove, the character plan is often left out. To help prevent this, your plan has to be written and given to everyone in the program. You have to publicize it and get everyone on board. For my teams, we used character cards. They are the basis for everything we do in our program.

The players carry the character cards in their wallets 7/24. During the season, the players fill out a new character card listing their weekly goals. The core of the character cards are the 10 keys to a good attitude and the 10 keys why you are a ‘Tiger’.

2. The only mistake you can make in this area is to do nothing. It does not have to be a large grand plan but what you implement, commit too.

3. Poor character is a society problem. Just try to look for small victories. The small things that you do to effect young people may not pay immediate dividends but you never know what effect it may have on this young person later in their life.

4. Character starts with the head coach and staff – you have to mirror good character. This can be reflected in something as small as the coaches being on time for everything to how you deal with a major character crisis. How can we demand it of our players if we do not do it ourselves? If we want to be treated as professionals, we have to dress, speak and act with character.

5. Every character system relies on one-on-one relationships. Do we get so caught up in all our other duties that we neglect to set aside time to find out what is the most important thing in our program – the personal relationship with our players. In using the character card system, it guarantees that I will have one-on-one contact with every one of my players at least once a week

6. Examine the culture of your program. What needs changing? How do you change it? What are the attitudes that you may have inherited but are not good for the program? Habits are hard to change but this will never happen unless you make a plan for change.

7. You have to incorporate character it into your daily routine. If you do not talk about character every day, then it often is left out when a time crunch hits. It has to be part of your daily schedule just like offense or defense. I always had a character comment at the end of every practice or workout.

8. Look at the program through the eyes of your players. Do they see a caring environment where they can perform their best because they are accepted and respected by their coaches and teammates?

9. If you could project yourself 15 years into the future and look back at your program, what changes would you make? My guess is that most of them would be in the area of focusing more on using football to develop the players as young men.

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