We recently wrote about Mike Tomlin’s continued ManUp Pittsburgh project, helping to guide sons and dads to be the best they can be. An issue clearly important in Tomlin’s life. In a recent interview with L3 Leadership located in Pittsburgh, he expanded on the relationship with his son and the lessons he tries to impart along the way. Since yesterday was Father’s Day, it’s timely to pass along.
He spoke to the importance of keeping your word. When you say something, people know you’re going to do it.
“One of the challenges in sports these days is your word means less,” Tomlin said. “I think those of us that are in the sporting world, those of us who wear the moniker of coach at any level. We have the opportunity to combat that with the young people we work with.”
Tomlin gave the example of going through the recruiting process with his son. Choosing a college has become a spectacle all its own, by the school and by the player, a stark contrast when Tomlin selected William & Mary in the early 90s.
“To be apart of [the recruiting process], to watch kids commit, decommit from schools, open their recruiting back up. That’s one of those things that struck me like a lightning bolt. I told my son early in this process that if you make a commitment to a university, then your recruiting process is over. That’s where we’re going. It doesn’t matter how attractive the next pursuer is or however they dress it up. Your word means something, son. When you make a commitment to a university, that’s what it is.”
His son ultimately chose the University of Maryland.
While the players receive the attention and most of the scrutiny, Tomlin didn’t absolve schools from failing to keep their word either. He said the process must change on both sides. Players sticking to their word and schools doing the same, not pulling scholarships at the last moment, a trend that’s become all too common.
In December, Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield pulled the scholarship of two players despite their verbal commitments and decision to shut down their recruiting process, turning away other schools with offers. That’s one of a dozen examples I could offer. Lane Kiffin and FAU reportedly did the same in 2017 while greyshirts have become common place for teams who offer too many scholarships toathletes.
Tomlin said accountability starts with each person and their actions must reflect their words.
“We combat that by living out the things we say and making sure we’re true to our word. And then we challenge them to be accountable and true to their word.”
That’s one of the elements that’s made Tomlin a successful and long-tenured coach. It’s why he’s a “player’s coach” though not in the sense that it’s typically used. He’s known for his honesty, bluntness, letting each player know where they stand, good or bad. That’s earned the respect of the men who coaches, a contrast to some who will tell players what they want to hear or whatever avoids confrontation.
It’s an element of his coaching style that’s earned praise from players on each end of the spectrum, from established, veteran starters and young players trying to make the team.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for. You can only ask for honesty. He keeps it real with you. He lets you know exactly where you stand. He lets you know exactly how he feels about you, if you’re productive, if you’re not.”
And wide receiver Trey Griffey a little more than a year ago.
“Not a lot of head coaches talk to you or yells out what you should be doing. He tells you what you should be doing. It makes you better.”
You can check out the full interview at the link here. It begins at about the 3:30 mark. There was also a clip tweeted out that you can watch below, too.