Head Football Coach Lou Holtz
Philosophies on Coaching
- Outward Appearance:
"I do enjoy Notre Dame. I do enjoy coaching. I just don't show it very much during the season."
- A Way of Doing Things:
"I probably should delegate more, but I stay very involved. It's difficult to do. You get less sleep that way. But I've just been very active. I can't just stand in the background and observe. I want to be in the middle of it."
- His Role:
"I'm not the owner of the company here. I'm just the caretaker. I'm kind of like a department head of a public-owned company. At most places, the football coach feels like a czar. It's his team, his training table, his athletic dorm. Not at Notre Dame. I'm just here to keep an eye on things for a while."
- His Offensive Philosophy:
"To be a solid offensive team, you've got to be able to do five things. You've got to have a power running attack. You've got to be able to run some option. You've got to have a play-action passing game. You've got to be able to throw downfield out of the pocket. And you've got to be able to execute screens, draws and delays. Our philosophy is to put as much pressure as possible on a defense by forcing it to defend against all those different things in a football game."
- His Job:
"My job is not to win the national championship. My mandate is to run the football program within the rules and parameters set forth by Notre Dame and the NCAA and to be as good a football team as we can be under those parameters. I don't feel any pressure to win the national championship. I simply do what Notre Dame wants."
- His Rules:
"I ask our players to follow three basic rules. Do what is right. Do your very best. Treat others like you'd like to be treated. Those rules answer the three basic questions we ask of every player, and every player asks of us. The questions are: Can I trust you? Are you committed? Do you care about me? People might think this is corny, but I don't care. This is what I believe."
- The Schedule:
"My responsibility is not who we play or where we play or when we play. I'm only concerned with how we play. I'm not interested in predicting how many games we can win. My goal always has been to play up to our capabilities. We don't want to undersell ourselves, but we prefer points to promises. We don't want to let our mouths write a check our abilities can't cash."
- Commitment to Excellence:
"I always tell our athletes, ‘The qualities you develop now, the things we're going to insist on, will be with you for life and they'll always be as sound and as good as they are now.' All we're really talking about is a commitment to excellence. If there's a regret it's that you don't have the time to sit down with each young man and explain why things are happening. And not everyone can play. You've got to make difficult decisions based on what you think is best."
- Getting It Done:
"My philosophy of football is that I don't believe in doing it with Xs and Os. There comes a time-maybe once or twice a season against the great teams-when you have to pull rabbits out of the hat. In other words, you have to gamble because your opponent either is better than you or is doing certain things. But I don't believe you can outsmart people. I believe you win with execution and fundamentals."
- His Athletic Experiences:
"I have great compassion for the poor, slow athlete who is unappreciated by a coaching staff that's always looking for a bigger, stronger and better athlete. I have great compassion for the young man on the football team who works exceptionally hard and does not get to play. I have great compassion for the young man who's part of a great win but comes out of the locker room without having made a great contribution during the course of the game. I have tremendous compassion for a young man who has a burning desire to be competitive and yet sits on the sideline watching people who have superior ability just going through the motions. I think all those things have been reflected in the overall attitude I've had in coaching. We do play a lot of people in a football game. We do believe that if a young man works hard and continues to improve and is patient, we should be able to find a way that he can make a contribution to Notre Dame football. All these things have come about because of the fact that I was not a good athlete and experienced many of those things."
- His Use of Praise:
"People accuse me of trying to downplay our team and build up our opponent each week. I tell our team before the season begins that it serves no purpose for me to go out and say how great they are. If they're any good, no one will have to tell them. I try to be realistic. I'd rather address the problems we have and talk about the things we have to do to become a better football team. I look at the things we do wrong that can keep us from being a good team. But by no stretch of the imagination do I mean to diminish the accomplishments of our players. I'm looking at my team's weaknesses and the other team's strengths. Others are looking at my team's strengths and the other team's weaknesses."
- The Routine:
"Sometimes I wonder if people really understand what a head coach does all day. I think some people think we look at film a little bit, run around for a couple of hours at practice, give a pep talk and then play on Saturday. We won our first three games one year and the writers start asking me about the mood on campus, about how everyone was reacting to our success. I was the last person to know. I come into the office at 6:30 a.m. when it's dark and I don't leave until it's dark. We meet and look at film all morning, I deal with the media at noon and then we meet again in the afternoon before practice. I seldom eat lunch and I often never leave the building all day. I'm the last one to have any idea what's going on outside the team. Yet I get the impression people think the guy in my chair leads a real glamorous life. In some ways, maybe the answer is yes, but it's not like a lot of people think it is."
- Role of the Student-Athlete:
"I don't believe preparing people for professional sports should be the role of universities. That's not what college athletics is all about. We're here to educate people, and any student-athlete who comes into your program should understand the priorities. I tell anyone considering Notre Dame that he will be here first and foremost to receive an education. If he ends up making it into professional football after four years, that's a by-product of his stay here. If we have people who don't want to go to school, let the professional leagues set up academies for people whose main goal is to play pro sports. The professionals can run them, and they can have teams in football, basketball, baseball, hockey and anything else. If you want to be a professional athlete, you go to that academy. You learn how to write a check, how to do television interviews, how to pick an agent. You lift weights and you play football. When the pros say, ‘We don't think you have a chance to become a professional athlete,' then you are dismissed from the academy and you get on with your life. The average pro career is 3.9 years. Even if you are lucky enough to make the pros, your career is over at age 26. The average lifespan is 75 years, so what are you going to do with the last two-thirds of your life?"