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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Meeting Them At 35

For a little over a decade, Dabo Swinney has transformed Clemson's* football program from ACC average to perennial national contender. Any time a change in leadership results in the kind of sustained success that Swinney has had, it's natural to look for the ingredients that created it.

But when I listened to Jon Gordon's podcast with Coach Swinney from a few years ago, it wasn't anything about X's and O's that stood out. Instead, it was Dabo's approach to relationships with his Student-Athletes.

"We always have to care more about meeting them when they're 35 than we do their feelings right now," He said.

At the collegiate level, coaches have a unique opportunity to make the biggest impact on the Student-Athletes they serve during their four years on campus. While professors and classmates change every semester, a coach can be a consistent mentor, not just in sport, but in life.

That's an opportunity we as coaches cannot take for granted. It means telling the truth, even when it may not be what they want to hear. It means giving them your full attention, even when there's seemingly endless things to do. It means holding them accountable, even when it would be easier to let it slide.

The more I get into the profession, the more I have come to believe that success is not determined by the number of trophies or medals your athletes win. It's about what kind of people your athletes become, and as Coach Swinney says, how they greet you when they're 35.

*P.S. Save Clemson Men's XC/Track & Field.

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