Interview with Coach Mark Richt, Head Coach Univ of Georgia / Univ of Miami (retired)
1. Why did you choose coaching as a profession?
After I had exhausted every possibility of being a player, when I had gotten cut from the Miami Dolphins. The day that I got cut… there was a trainer there named Tim Watson who suggested that I go into coaching. I think that he knew that I was going to get cut in this morning’s staff meeting. I think I still loved the game and still loved the strategy of the game and all of that kind of thing…of the competitive nature of it. I realized that I was not going to be able to play anymore and that a few other things that I had tried in life didn't work out so well. I was going to give coaching a shot.
2. What is your primary goal as a coach? What do you seek to accomplish?
You have to win enough games to stick around we know that we have to have success on the field in order to get paid in order to stay around, but we just have to make sure that we do not make winning the only goal. To win at all cost so to speak. I think that my philosophy is if we build good men, then we have built a good team. If we build a good team we will have success on the field. What we are more concerned about is the process, of helping these guys grow up and basically live there live with what we do. That will probable insure success more than anything else. And if that's not good enough we will do something else for a living. If we are trying to teach these guys to do something right and we cross the line when it comes to recruiting or anything else, the 24 hour rule, whatever it might be we accomplish our goals by bending the rules or breaking the rules blatantly we then learn that we are not doing what we set out to do. So your primary objective is to build young men with the natural outcome that you end up producing a pretty accomplished team. Well you know the guy’s football almost takes care of itself. The guys that you have are motivated to try to do and be the best player that they can be. I am not going to sit here and say that we do not care about winning because we do. But I have the coaches I have and must be confident they understand the game. When you recruit the players, they have to be talented enough to play the positions that we are going ask them to play and to compete and hit the competition that we are going to go against week in and week out and once we get those people in place then the process by which we operate is based on enriching the lives of the player physically, mentally, and spiritually. The physical and mental part those types of things are all mandatory events and of course anything spiritual is a voluntary event.
3. How do you (as a coach) define success?
As a coach, we can only do so much. Basically though, we try to offer these young men opportunities: opportunities to enhance their knowledge, grow spiritually, to become better players, and lastly, to grow as men of great character. Ultimately, it is up to them whether or not to take advantage of these chances. I view success/greatness as seeing lofty goals and accomplishing them. And, other than winning a National Championship, I’d say we’ve greatly surpassed our goals, on and off the field.
4. What is most important to you as a coach?
Well I think what is most important is to do what is right to do and act in such a way that it would be pleasing to the Lord. Really that is kind of the main thing. It is not just do what is right because those are good things to do but what is driving me is ultimately to please Christ in what I do not just to say be honest because someone told me to be honest. I want to live a life that is pleasing to God. You know some people can separate what they call their personal lives and their business life, or their church lives and their business lives or whatever it is but to me you cannot separate those things.
5. What is the desired outcome you have for your players and your staff?
It’s pretty much along the line of what we have been talking about. Just – just we have a mission statement for our coaching staff. Basically it says that we want to do excellent work. Any assignment that I might want to give any coach. Take care of this responsibility with excellence. We want to be and do our best for our players, we want to battle for them. We do not want them to act or do anything that will destroy what we are trying to do and the last line is to honor God in what we do and that can only good.
6. Who has influenced you most as a coach? Why were they such an influence?
Coach Bobby Bowden. I worked for him for my first 15 years of coaching and so his philosophies and his way of doing things was all that I knew and I really have kind of taken it all in hook line and sinker and really believed in it. And if I didn’t believe in it or feel comfortable with it I could have left for another job. I had no desire to go though. But when the University of Georgia job opened… it was a place I could go where I could raise my family as a Christian man.
7. Philosophically would you say that you are coaching from a Christian perspective?
Yes, there really isn't much doubt about that.
8. How has your personal relationship with Christ shaped you as a coach?
Well, you believe Christ is who he said he is and you are saved as a Christian then you know basically how it goes, to please God is to please Christ. Live a life that is worthy of the name. You know so that in doing so it just runs through every thought process that I have. Whether it is being a coach or a parent, being a husband, you can't really separate those things.
9. How does your personal relationship with Christ effect how you coach practically? (With the way that you interact with players on the field, your staff?
Treat them with respect and be honest with them, work them hard, hopefully unto the Lord, those types of things.
10. Would you say that there are particular traits or Christian behaviors that are marks of Coach Richt?
I hope that when they think of me that they think I have been very fair to them. That I have integrity and that I have been fair in decisions that I have made with them and have always based it on what is right. That I’ve been patient and prayerful about decisions even prayerful about what and how I tell them. Hopefully they say something good about Coach Richt. But I do not think being calm during a game doesn't mean that someone is more Christ-like than someone else. It is more of my personality. And I know a lot of guys that get very excited during a ball game, but I also know that they are Christian men. I know that some say that because I remain calm at a game or at least appear to be calm on the sideline that I’m more Christ-like. I do not know if I buy into that.
11. Is there a connection between your relationship with Christ and the way that you perform? Do you think that it contributes to your to be a better coach because you are a Christian?
Yes. The job is pretty overwhelming. If all I had to rely on was my own knowledge, my own wisdom, my own strength and my own stamina I would have been sunk a long time ago.
12. How do you incorporate the spiritual aspect of your life into your football program?
Again, just being prayerful about everything; staff decisions, and player decisions, praying for the health of our players, praying for the wisdom to guide our team, the coaching staff, really just about every aspect of coaching.
13. Is the total transformation/development of your players a goal? And how is that accomplished in your program at the University of Georgia?
It is and you know physically and emotionally we are on, we have lived it and we train and we teach fundamentals, physically in-season and out to train them physically and mentally have them study hard we do it in class an in tutoring sessions. Actually we have a tutoring education program that we have implemented. It has a lot to do with the mental part of it. As far as spiritually there are many ways where they can . . .there is a Chaplin that is there for them all of the time, I believe that the coaches are spiritual men. . . we’ve got a prayful team on campus.. . .there are guys that do Bible studies so they can grow in the things they choose to.
14. You mentioned a character development program, is that something that the players involve themselves in to reach others or is it just something to develop “self”?
We have a minute to grow to help them grow. We are in pursuit of integrity. We define it…I was meeting with the seniors a few days ago and we were defining the word integrity and that is to be whole to be complete and in reality Christ is the only person who ever had true integrity. So we are pursuing integrity and we, we take the freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors we all meet in different places in the building once a week for an hour. Different coaches take each group a coach . . . takes the freshmen. Our offensive coordinator takes our sophomores. Defensive coordinator takes the juniors and I take the seniors. The curriculum changes as they go from kind of core value stuff to practical leadership stuff. I handle it, it’s good for us.
Do they use that to go out into the community to serve?
It’s kind of a connection, I think so. We do that type of community stuff I make it mandatory for those guys to do at least one community service during the summer they have different projects to choose from. I have two to three groups come in to explain their projects. The guys choose between those kinds of things that strike them as something that they would kind of like to do. So they will know what it feels like to serve the community. And usually every ball game that you go to there is something held up to that. But the character education program is something that is another way of saying that we care about you we want you to succeed in life. We want you to understand the value of being a man of integrity. And for the goal of leadership is exciting these guys that believe in the truth it’s a good thing, being loyal is a good thing.. . . and if we can get others to buy into those kind of things we will have a better team.
15. What does your philosophy of coaching look like?
Our philosophy here at Georgia can be best summed up in our Staff Mission Statement: “To handle all responsibilities with excellence. To be dedicated in assisting our players to reach their full potential in the classroom, on the football field, and in society. Help them develop their body, mind, and spirit to the fullest. Be a great example of what we are trying to teach our players. Do not do anything that would destroy what we are trying to build. Honor God with all of our actions.” Most importantly, though, we try to lead by example. We, as coaches, can talk all we want, but if we’re not living what we preach, then it’s doing no good. Also, we like to stress family values. That’s why every Monday night throughout the season, we have Family Night. After practice, all of the coaches’ families come to our facilities and they eat long with the coaching staff and players. It really is a nice time to get together and just relax. The players get to see another side of us. We just try to honor God in what we do. It makes things relatively simple.
16. In your opinion, does the New Testament offer a viable model for coaching?
I think that it is a viable model for everything that you do in your life.
17. Is it possible that there is a connection to methods that Jesus applied to train the disciple and how the Christian coach trains his players for life?
I guess that I should be more specific. To answer the first question I will say yes. You know Christ, Christ first of all modeled everything that he wanted his disciples to be. You know that if you are the leader, the head coach and you want people to behave a certain way the best shot of that happening is for you to model that very thing and that and to do a good job in explaining to everyone what you want done. Of course Christ did speak in parables I will not say that the head coach has to speak in parables. But the head coach needs to be revealing everything that he is saying to his disciples. So they can understand and the things that they could not understand that when he died the Holy Spirit would come and explain to them so he definitely modeled what he thought was right and he taught them what was right. Basically delegated spreading the gospel throughout the world. To them and I imagine that is what a good leader will do. I imagine that a good coach will give them a job to do and give them the opportunity to carry it out and then let them go. Of course you will keep an eye on them and keep them accountable. There is a lot of crossover that way.
* This interview was conducted in-person in February of 2007 at the FCA President's Weekend in Florida.