Players are the biggest factor in the success of a football program, but motivating those players and putting them in the best position to win is important, and some coaches are better at it than others
The best coaches tend to be the ones who can communicate their message – without compromising their personality – to players in a relatable, motivating way. With changes in culture, a “my way or the highway” approach doesn't work like it once did, so coaches have to be more savvy in their approaches.
Here are ten college football coaches who do it right:
Dabo Swinney, Clemson: A down-to-earth Southerner, Swinney tries to relate to his players with humor – locker room dances, for one thing – before he hits them with the tough love and catchphrases like “bring your own guts.” It's working – Clemson has gone from a middling ACC program to a national power in a half-decade.
David Shaw, Stanford: The former Cardinal player is the perfect fit for a school. Never too high or low on the sidelines, Shaw takes a cerebral, even-handed approach and embraces technology to help his players become better in practice. He's also a good recruiter, which is never easy at a school with such a sterling academic pedigree.
Nick Saban, Alabama: College football's consummate winner. He knows the game inside and out, his players know he knows it, and, what's more, Saban is a master communicator with his assistant coaches. Rarely is the Crimson Tide poorly prepared for a game, and that's because Saban hires well and demands a lot from his assistants.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: There's a method to Harbaugh's style, and it's not only made waves in recruiting, but it endears players to him.
Urban Meyer, Ohio State: A natural, powerful public speaker, Meyer is by turns dramatic, tough and inspirational. Few coaches reach into a player's competitive soul quite like Meyer does.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: One of the most successful coaches in recent college football history, Stoops is one of the godfathers of the sport now, as he's been at OU the past 17 seasons. He carries a lot of weight and his team is poised to be one of the nation's best in 2016.
Tom Herman, Houston: In his first year at Houston, this rising-star former offensive coordinator led the Cougars to a 13-win season. Herman is smart, competitive and a perfectionist, and his players tend to like his confidence in them. It shows on the field.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: Among the media, Dantonio almost comes off like a politician, but his players know another side of the guy, the one that effectively plays up the “little brother with a chip on his shoulder” factor that's helped the Spartans to their most successful five years in a half-century.
Gary Patterson, TCU: Rumpled and dogged, Patterson doesn't strike the typical “celebrity coach” posture, but his players – especially on defense – line up behind him. Patterson preaches a blue collar style that has served the Horned Frogs well in their transition to the Big Ten.
Hugh Freeze, Mississippi: The Rebels have a smooth talker at the helm. Freeze's easy smile and inspirational faith-based style resonates with players, which has helped Ole Miss become a stronger football program in the cutthroat SEC.
The best coaching communication style is one that encourages players to thrive. A coach that can listen and observe his team, and then respond to their unique personalities is one that will be able to adopt that winning tone. The tone that lets your players know, as a team, you are #hear2win.