In Gable’s room, a speech before practice was essentially a daily event. The reason this was almost always necessary is that even a very successful team needs a sense of urgency about all of its members cultivating success in all areas of their lives. Gable gives his insights into developing a team, having “lots of ears”, and the importance of constant communication between a coach and team.
Daryl Weber: I know I always looked forward going to practice when I was in college and during the pre-practice speech. If I don’t talk to the guys, if I just come in and kind of say “ah, let’s just get going” they’re like “no speech today coach? No speech?” What would you put into those speeches?
Dan Gable: You’re right on. There are a few days that I would open my mouth up and say “guys let’s go.” That would shock them. Those were very few days.
Daryl Weber: Right.
Dan Gable: If everything was going really good and we needed a short, hard practice that’s probably what I did. For some reason, even if you win 15 national titles and 21 straight big 10 titles things aren’t always going good because you’ve got 25 members there, or 35.
You’ve got guys on the starting squad that, just like the University of Iowa last weekend against Wisconsin, they’ve got a national champion and he loses to a freshman. Your work is really never done for those 25 guys or 45 guys. You’ve got to come into practice and maybe you’re not even pointing him out but your message for the day might be something about that he can pick up. That’s the key area. You hope you don’t have to do it every day, but usually you do. Usually you do.
Because like I said, there’s always something. It might not just be about performance on the mat, it might be about what’s going on off the mat as well. That’s why a good coach will have a lot of ears out there about all his members, what’s going on in the community, how they’re doing academically. You have a lot of people feeding you information.