Leadership Lessons: Coaching great Mark Richt shares insights
By Greg Bach
Longtime University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt won a lot of games during his illustrious career.
And he impacted even more young lives along the way.
One of the sport’s most respected leaders, and author of the newly released book MAKE THE CALL, Richt encourages today’s youth coaches to teach young athletes the values of competing and striving to win, while making sure to fully emphasize helping them learn those all-important life skills every step of the way, too.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to win and we need to do that, it’s important to compete and learn how to compete,” he says. “I don’t want to dismiss how important that is. But in the process, what are we teaching our guys about life?”
For Richt, who fell in love with football early, it’s the perfect sport for helping kids learn about persevering and overcoming difficulties.
“The beauty of football, to me, is it’s a tough game, it’s tough to practice, it’s tough to train for, it’s not easy,” he says. “You’re going to get knocked down, physically knocked down, and you’ve got to get back up. You’ve got to learn to persevere when things aren’t always going well.”
And that’s a mighty powerful life lesson to imbed in young athletes.
“It’s our job as coaches to help these kids understand that it’s not always going to go our way, that it’s ok that things are tough, it’s ok that you made a mistake,” he says. “What’s important now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to lay on the ground and mope and cry about it or are you going to get up and go get better?”
During his days coaching the Bulldogs, Richt first thought about doing a book. But all the demands that accompany leading a major power left zero time for squeezing that project into his days.
After retiring in 2018 following a three-year stint as the head coach at the University of Miami, where he also played college football, his literary agent approached him about doing the book. After recovering from a heart attacked he suffered in the fall of 2019, he dove into the project.
“Coaches make decisions all the time,” Richt says. “We all make decisions.”
And readers get a peek at what went into some of those calls.
“I want this book to be entertaining when it comes to football stories,” Richt says. “There’s a behind-the-scenes look for the fans about games, plays and decisions that I made. It’s not only decisions about football, but family and faith. So it’s kind of a backstage view of everything that went on and what went into these decisions and I’m hoping the readers themselves will end up making a big call by the time they get to the end of the book.”
Richt was twice named the Southeastern Conference’s Coach of the Year, and he ranks 10th all-time in SEC wins.
But what resonates are the relationships that were forged, and being a positive influence on the lives of so many players under his care.
It’s a message he wants youth coaches to recognize and embrace as they guide their young players, too.
“You have to love the guys you are in charge of,” he says. “It really matters if you care more about them then what your record is. The bottom line is God has put us in charge of these guys and he’s not going to ask us how many championships we’ve won, he’s going to ask us what did we do with those players who were under our authority? So, I think when you truly care for the people you are in charge of, and you’re thinking of their best interests, good things are going to happen.”
Follow Mark Richt on Twitter: @MarkRicht and Instagram: @mark_richt
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