Nick Saban: Social Worker

What is the purpose of a football coach? To win games?

Nick Saban believes his chief task is to help players.

“You know, philosophically, we are there to help players,” Saban said. “You know, we’re gonna take every player and try to get him to reach his full potential. And everybody has a responsibility and an obligation for their own self-determination, but we’re there to support and help those players to do that. That’s our philosophy.”

The philosophy yields good and bad results. It really depends on the player’s personal choices. All the coaching staff can do is try to equip the players to make the right decisions. When they don’t make the right decisions, it makes the papers. And when those bad decisions are made, Saban said there must be consequences. But, that doesn’t mean you preemptively kick players off the team.

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“I’m not gonna clean house and get rid of everybody just because they might be a problem. Now, when players don’t do the right things and make poor judgments, then they cannot be a part of the program,” Saban said. “But it’s our philosophy to support players, to help them be successful. One of the reasons that I enjoy college coaching and want to be in college coaching and am here is to help players do that.”

That rewarding part, where players do the right thing, was trumpted by Saban. He said 25 or 30 guys are doing the right thing academically, personally and athletically. He once again said these players don’t receive the attention of the poorly behaved players.

And that lack of positive attention is the media’s fault, according to Saban.

There are no plans to change the Alabama discipline system or program. In fact, Saban said he is confident he and his staff are doing the right things.

“I feel very good about who we are, what we’ve done, what we’re gonna continue to try to do, so that we don’t fail players and they make bad decisions and bad choices about what they do and how those consequences impact their ability to be successful in the future,” Saban said.

And what are the things being done? Many things, but one in particular Saban likes to talk about. The Tide coach has brought in the Pacific Institute to help players with character development. The Pacific Institute taught 12 classes on mental conditioning, self-actualization, self-confidence and self-esteem.

Saban spends time thinking about these issues because he spent time in graduate school studying sports psychology. Shaping Saban’s sports management philosophy are books by Michael Johnson (Slaying the Dragon), Rick Pitino and Pat Riley.

This reading list helps Saban with motivation. Something he considers an important element, especially in today’s world where athletes are different than previous generations.

“I think through the years players have changed dramatically and there’s a lot of different personalities that play now,” Saban said. “I think your ability to motivate, reach, affect, however you want to say it, these different personalities, but not let their personalities be divisive to the team chemistry, is a key to being successful…

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“I think through the year players have changed dramatically and there’s a lot of different personalities that play now. I think your ability to motivate, reach, affect, however you want to say it, these different personalities, but not let their personalities be divisive to the team chemistry, is a key to being successful.”

So how have things changed? Society is radically different.

“My kids just flatout tell me. I mean I didn’t have the guts to tell my dad,” Saban said. “You know, when I sit and look at my kids and I say, When I was your age, I worked for everything I had. And they just look at me and say, Well, I don’t know anybody that does that anymore, Dad. Like you came from outer space.

“It’s an instant coffee, instant tea, instant self-gratification (world). Everything is on the Internet. Everything is a picture. Everything is fast. Everything is quick. There’s not the same long term commitment to something and sticking with it and learning from your mistakes. Very few of the things that our young people do now, do they get consequences for? You know, we played checkers when we were growing up. And when you moved the wrong guy, you lost your guy, you got immediate positive or negative self-gratification for it and you learn from that.

“You know, my kids push the restart button. They don’t even know if they got blowed up. I mean so it’s different. It’s all different.”

Because things are different doesn’t mean things are hopeless. Kids still want to succeed.

“I think that at the end of the day they all want to be good,” Saban said. “They all want to reach their full potential. And they all have a willingness that if you can help ’em do that, they have a respect for you, and they’ll give you everything they got to do it. That’s been my experience.”

You can’t escape the new-ageness of this whole Saban philosophy. But one thing you must admit, Saban is complex and interesting.


Add Yours
  1. 1

    you and i have spoke about this before, cap.

    this is about recruiting and where he’s having to go to get recruits. (and it’s not just saban)

    i remember a quote from coach bryant. he was talking about character and kids. he said (paraphrasing) “a mother came to me and said, ‘take my son. i can’t do anything with him.’ and i told her if after 18 years you can’t do anything with him there’s nothing i can do to help him.”

    that message is long gone.

    now coaches like saban are going into the ‘hood and telling parents they can get their child out. a lot of these kids are from single parent homes and have had legal issues. but they can play. and the parent sees that as their ticket out. and the coach/recruiter that demostrates the best plan is going to win the parent/parents.

    i’m not trying to pass judgment here. (although i do believe this is part of the problem of the increase in violent/illegal behavior on campus’ now by athletes)

  2. 2

    Very well said, fb, and I concur with you fully.

    If after 18 years, you can’t do anything with your children, then it’s highly, very highly at that, unlikely a football coach will, unless however that coach is Thomas Hawley Tuberville aka a troublesome player’s worst nightmare.

  3. 4

    it’s not like they are his children. he doesn’t have authority over them 24/7. when saban gets our program firing on every cylinder irrelevant problems like these won’t be an issue any more.

    Count this as my signature:

  4. 5
    Bama Fan in NYC

    Maybe Saban should have Ballplay/Pluto/Redneck/APIman invent him a time machine so that he can travel back to Tuberedneck’s first few years at The Alabama PolyTECHnic Institute to seek advice from Tuberredneck on how to properly handle discipline the way he done in his first few years.

    Maybe then the he can put his foot down on the many problems his players of today are having.

  5. 6
    Bama Fan in NYC

    By the way, I also hear Tony Franklin is our modern day Jack of all trades. If APIMan/Pluto/Redneck/Ballplay’s time machine doesn’t work, there’s always plan B, which is Tony Franklin.

  6. 7

    Bama fan,

    The APIMan/Pluto/Redneck/Ballplay etc….cant invent a time machine, but he can reinvent history… (at least in his own mind.)
    And the great thing about that is that its 100% real (to him, that is.)
    Maybe the APIMan/Pluto/Redneck/Ballplay can reinvent Tony franklin’s history….Somebody needs to.

  7. 8
    Ballplay Indian

    For the love NYC and tmc1….Im only posting under my one name. I know for certain that tmc1 and probama were one and the same. Stones / glass houses. I hear that The Saban is learning how to be a parole officer in his spare time. That way he can keep a better tab on his players. That added to his new “self awareness” and “Self esteem” classes should do the trick.

  8. 10
    Ballplay Indian

    And heres a newsflash guys….Dont recruit thugs….That goes for Auburn as well. If Blackmon gets out of hand again I say its goodbye time. I cant stand a bunch of thugs on any team. Lets face it , if you let a thug stay on the team it affects the other players. Its almost like a cancer. If you ever seem to rid your team of it , youd better not let any body come in and get it going again. Right now Auburn is doing O.K., but that is subject to change, At Bama my only concern would be if these arrests didnt fade away. It may take a while , but they should start getting fewer and fewer. If not , then there is a problem. Next year will tell a lot about the future of Alabama football. And Im not just talking about wins and losses. Im talking about the program as a whole.

  9. 11

    I can’t stand thugs in general. I attended A-Day last year and got to personally see and record the players stepping off of the bus before the scrimmage (search my videos on youtube). I noticed Jimmy Johns stood out among all the other players because he walked hard like a typical thug does with his nose raised high and didn’t acknowledge the fans one bit. I don’t know what exactly is going on in T-Town with idiots like Johns and the rest of the gang, but something does need to happen soon because I can assure you if it doesn’t, guys and girls will eventually lose trust and faith in their players when it comes to off the field issues. These are guys that children look up to and idolize. They should realize that even before stepping foot on the field. I remember seeing Jamie Christensen purchasing alcohol and that devastated me. I realize people have a personal life and such, but even something as small as that gets to me. I grew up during the 90s idolizing Jay Barker, Freddie Kitchens (don’t ask why), Sherman Williams, etc. etc. These guys hold a higher ranking in my heart than John Smoltz for crying out loud. The fans literally worship these kids and that’s something they must understand. Not only do they hurt their team and players, they also hurt the children who hopes to be them someday.

  10. 12

    You are not even close about me and Probama. He lives in North Alabama,
    I live in South Australia, and you my freind live in a perpetual state of fantasy. Respect the difference and know your role, Ballplay/julio aka the Shanehater/ etc… etc…

  11. 13

    Holy bejeezes Batman!

    You criticize Saban’s every mishap in his first year when in reality your coach had just as many, slightly more in his first season at API. How much more hypocritical can you get?

  12. 14
    Ballplay Indian

    Tmc1,probama…..By your own admission , you said you had “another” home in North Alabama…So make up your mind probama, tmc1… Where do you live? I also remember you bragging about your “other ” car. I still say its a Yugo. But I guess Ill take your word for it. You saying Im under different names, that is no different than me saying the same about you.

    ryno….Good to see a sane Bama fan…I am not ignorant enough to think that we coulndt end up with a discipline problem. We probably will. What Im saying is , in the last 7 years T.T. has lowered the boom on thugs. I hope it continues. While Tmc1 seems to convince himself all is well on the discipline front. Its not. And a lot of the Auburn people pretend all is well on the recruiting front. Its not. Not as bad as yall bammers would like to think, but still not good. We need to be realistic on both teams, the Crimson and Orange blinders just make us look like idiots. (that was for you probama tmc1)…

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