Monday, May 17, 2010

Ferentz frenzy: Iowa coach gets WBMS kids pumped

By Gregory R. Norfleet

May 13, 2010

Despite his calm, even tone, Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz had the West Branch Middle School pupils worked up into a frenzy last week with a motivational speech on setting goals to achieve success.

The sixth-through-eighth-grade pupils swarmed the Big Ten coach after his May 6 appearance at the Hoover Library-Museum, asking him to pose for pictures and sign papers, magazines, T-shirts, jerseys, forearms, foreheads and even cell phones.

Ferentz patiently obliged each one except the foreheads, offering to sign arms instead. His talk and the following Q-and-A lasted 30 minutes. The autograph-and-photo session added 20 more minutes to his stop.

“I’m not sure if ‘uncommon’ belongs to too many people,” he said in his talk, referring to Hoover’s famous Uncommon Man speech, which was referenced at the beginning of the program in the auditorium. “There are a limited percentage of people in a different class.”

Ferentz used examples of former star players and even a walk-on practice opponent whose devotion to the game of football caught his attention.

The coach said he asks three things of all his players:

• Be good citizens

• Be serious about getting degrees. He said this is a “permanent, lasting accomplishment” that will sustain a person even if an injury ends his football career.

• Be good players.

“It’s about as simple as that,” he said.

Ferentz said each pupil, like his players, needs to set goals, and that reaching those goals has three phases:

• Where do you want to go?

• How do you want to get there? Ferentz said his staff and players are “constantly re-evaluating” goals to see if they need to be changed or updated.

• How will you choose to go about it? This part, he said, separates the successful from the “uncommon,” especially for those who do it well.

“Good things typically don’t happen without (goals),” he said. “You have to stick with it.”

Of all the players who have passed through the University of Iowa football program, the ones who stood out among the best had a single “common denominator — their attitude,” he said.

“You have to persevere and stay with the plan,” he said. “And keep a good, positive attitude.”

For those who want to be leaders in what they do, he said they have to make a choice to have a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and a “team-first attitude.”

“This is critical,” he said, and it applies to sports, school, work and family. “Be sensitive to other people’s feelings. If you really, truly care about your group (it will show).”

He encouraged each pupil to “commit to being team players.”

“Good turns come around,” Ferentz said. “You will be paid back tenfold. Be very aware of what you are doing.”

In the question-and-answer session, the coach was at times serious, and other times joked around.

“You seem so even keel ...” one person asked.

“That’s only because I have no idea what’s going on,” Ferentz quipped.

He went on to say that he is usually most “emotional” or “demonstrative” during practice.

“If you’ve done all the hard work of preparation, it makes the test so much easier,” he said.

Asked what the best part of coaching has been, Ferentz said “the people,” especially when everyone is working toward the same thing.

A later question asked if he had a motto or slogan that motivated the players. Ferentz called it a mantra: On the wall at the practice field are the words
“Preparing to be the best.”

“What kind of gum do you chew?” asked one boy.

“Bubble Yum, sugarless,” Ferentz answered. “It holds its taste better.”

“Coke or Pepsi?” another boy asked.

“None of the above,” he said. “It’s bad for me. I stopped drinking it years ago.”

“Do you dislike the Cyclones?” another boy asked.

“No,” Ferentz said. “I focus on liking our team.”

“How old are you?” came another question.

“Fifty-four,” he said.

“What is your favorite play?”

“The ones that work,” the coach said, smiling.

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