Boise State football coach Chris Petersen is a co-author of the book, "Wise Beyond Your Field: How Creative Leaders Out Innovate to Out Perform."
The listed author is Nancy K. Napier & The Gang. Napier, a business professor at Boise State, has been working with a group of local leaders since 2006. Her co-authors also include Jamie Cooper, CEO of Drake Cooper; Mark Hofflund, managing director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival; Don Kemper, CEO of Healthwise; Bob Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics; Gary Raney, Ada County sheriff; and John Michael Schert, executive director of the Trey McIntyre Project.
The book is available for $15 through the Boise State Bookstore, Bronco Shops or Amazon. A portion of proceeds goes toward Boise State student scholarships.
The following is an excerpt from the book, a section titled "Be Urgent in Practice, Calm in Games."
When Boise State's Head Football Coach, Chris Petersen, watches his players practice, he is part of the action on the field.
"Let's go, let's go. Good job, D. Good job. Come on, guys, let's pick it up." Energy, tempo, urgency.
Petersen is adamant about the importance of energy-showing in his players when they practice, in his coaches when they lead team meetings, and in himself in each encounter he has with another person. It has a ripple effect. If coaches have poor or average energy levels, then the players will have low energy. So how does the program find out what goes on in team meetings, when coaches meet with the players within a certain position? They ask the players, every year, what could be better, including the team meetings.
When Petersen and his coaches learned that some players felt the meetings were boring, they got creative. How could they change the meetings to engage the players more, step up the energy levels, and generate more excitement? The result is partly in the way the meetings are run. Starting in the fall of 2012, the coaches and players meet twice a day for 30 minutes, rather than for one 50-minute meeting, which has been standard for several years. In the meetings, they change activities, shifting quickly from one to another. That means less time watching film, more time having players "get physical," by switching seats within the room, asking older players to help teach younger ones, and using questions more, both to engage and to see if the players are indeed learning what they need to. The pace is quick and energetic. The meetings are also videotaped, so the coaches can review their own performance to find ways to improve.
On the field, the coaches have increased the pace of practices as well. During practice, Petersen and his coaches are anything but calm.
In addition to pace, the coaches also prepare players for what will go wrong. And every time they play a game, something does. As Petersen says about so much of his job and the sport, "There's always something." It could be just a small hiccup, like meals that aren't good or hotel rooms that aren't ready on time. It could be something big, like a critical player becoming injured or a teammate who gets into trouble and will miss a game. So preparing the players for something unexpected to go wrong, and teaching them not to panic when it does, is a key aspect of building the calmness that coaches want during the game. They call it having a SWAT mentality-staying calm, no matter what.
For the first game of the 2010 football season, the Boise State team, coaches and staff members were on their way to play Virginia Tech in a stadium of nearly 90,000 (mostly Virginia Tech) fans. En route, in the midst of Washington, D.C., traffic, the first of the team's three buses broke down. The driver tried to turn over the engine. No luck. He turned to Chris Petersen.
"We'll have to call for another bus. It could take a while." Petersen looked at the driver and then turned in his seat and faced the team.
"No way. Let's just pile into the other buses. Come on, guys, let's go." On his way out of the door, a senior player (who went on to play in the NFL) said to the coaches, "Is this the worst adversity you can give us?" Petersen heard later from another Boise State coach that at his former university, if a bus had broken down, it would have been a real crisis-angry coaches, upset players, and a rattled team that might have played poorly because something had gone wrong.
After what the coaches had drilled during practice, this "crisis" was nothing. The team went on to win a nail-biter game, 33-30, but did it in a state of calmness.
The intensity and sense of urgency is critical in the team meetings and in practice in large part because of what Petersen wants to happen during the game. Once the game starts, calmness prevails. Players have a sense that the pace "slows down." Because they've moved so fast and been so intense during the practices, the "real life" of the game feels slower, more easily managed and played.
Petersen models that sense of calmness and slows down himself. He doesn't yell and hardly talks or shows emotion on the sidelines. He paces the full length of the field, with a walk that the players tease him about: the short gait, quickstep, leading with his head.
Partly because of his composure, the feeling among coaches and players is cool and calm, perhaps not serene, but certainly not agitated. No screaming, no flailing arms, and no stomping back from the field when something goes wrong. The most emotion he shows may be when he leans his head back and says, "Oh, no." Then, immediately, he's back and focused, clapping, encouraging, sounding like he's in practice: "Let's go, let's go. Come on, guys, let's pick it up."