JACKSON, Tenn. – May 7, 2013– Champions are made of people who focus on having traits that others would want to emulate, according to University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.
“I have not coached one player who really cared anything about what I knew as a coach, until the player knew I cared about him,” Saban said. “You have to show that you care for other people and you have to be willing to serve other people. I always ask people to ask themselves, ‘Do you pray to be blessed or do you pray to be a blessing?’”
Saban was the keynote speaker for Union University’s fifth annual Roy L. White Legacy Golf and Gala May 6 at the Carl Perkins Civic Center. The event supports the Union University intercollegiate athletic program, which is in its second year of a three-year transition to membership in the NCAA at the Division II level.
Saban has been named National Coach of the Year five times and, in January, became the fourth coach in the modern era to win four national titles. Before his seven years as Alabama’s head coach, Saban served as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006. He also coached at LSU, where he led the Tigers to a national title in 2003 and two Southeastern Conference championships. Prior to his tenure at LSU, Saban was head coach at Michigan State and the University of Toledo.
As a teenager, Saban said he worked at his father’s filling station in West Virginia, where he learned the importance of treating everyone with respect.
“Doing things the right way, the right time, the right thing all the time is really important to be successful,” Saban said.
Saban and his wife Terry in 1998 established Nick’s Kids Fund, a non-profit that supports children, family, teacher and student causes. A luncheon held each August raises half a million dollars to help young children in need.
“That’s my best day of the year,” Saban said.
His team regularly hears about developing character. Saban said making each player the best he can be at his position is an important aspect of his job, but not the most important. Personal development for each player is his top priority.
“We want every player to develop a career outside athletics,” Saban said.
Saban said the lessons he teaches his players can be applied to a team within an office.
He said strong individuals who can support each other make a team strong, and reminding people of their individual motivations can be the best way to motivate them. Personal confidence is important for each member to have, as well, Saban said.
“When I was a kid fishing in West Virginia, I couldn’t catch a fish,” Saban said. “And the guy catching fish next to me was throwing the big fish back and keeping the little fish. I got so mad I said, ‘Man, why are you throwing the big fish back and keeping the little fish?’ He said, ‘I’ve only got a 9-inch frying pan.’”
Saban said he frequently asks his players, “How big is your frying pan? What is your capacity for being successful? How much confidence do you have and belief in yourself at what you can do?”
Regardless of the conditions a person finds himself in, Saban said he should keep his eye on what he really wants to accomplish and maintain his character and confidence.
“You have to be a champion before you can ever win a championship,” Saban said.
The Golf and Gala event also featured a golf tournament April 22, with the team of Jimmy Kostaroff, Cy Young, Jeff Reuter and Brad Tursky taking first place.
By Samantha Adams ('13)