Culture

Scooter Hobbs column: Kelly’s plan for new culture club – American Press

Maybe by mid-August, LSU fans will be sick of hearing the word.

But probably not.

Anyway, the new Brian Kelly regime has gotten one key element out of the way as spring practice begins.

The Tigers have their new rally cry, or the catch phrase, if you prefer, for the coaching transition.

It is already dominating spring practice chatter more than the quarterback battle royale.

So, without further ado and only a muffled drum roll, get ready for …

“Accountability.” With a capital “A.”

So that’s the ticket? Kelly is all about it.

For now, at least, fans will lap it up.

Make no mistake, this is as important for the fans as it is for the team, although the players certainly have to play along to make this routine work.

And they are.

LSU has sort of missed out on this coaching-change ritual of late.

Ed Orgeron came in at midseason as an interim, didn’t need an introduction to team or fandom, so he wasn’t an unknown full of new ideas during the offseason scuttlebutt.

Les Miles replaced Nick Saban, and no self-respecting fan saw anything at the time that really needed fixing.

But this time it has started already.

The early reports out of spring are predictably dominated by the “night-and-day” difference in the workouts. Players marvel at the new crispness, the improved efficiency, all of it credited to the newfound … accountability.

Night and day, they say, compared to the old regime.

Fans love it, excited that Kelly seemingly has cracked the code to invent a better mousetrap.

The centerpiece is Kelly’s newly organized SWAT group, which stands for Spring/Summer Workout Accountability Team. SSWAT would look like a typo and sound like a lisp, but you can’t leave the “summer” part off since those semi-idle months seem to have the most potential for off-field snafus.

Most every team has something similar. In plain English it’s usually referred to as a leadership council or some such, often a small group of trusted players who act as a sounding board and close confidant — communication, basically — between coaches and the 18-to -22-year-old players.

The general idea is to keep those 18- to 22-year-olds from being young knuckleheads.

Kelly’s version, however, does seem to be a little more organized than most. He brought the SSWAT model with him from Notre Dame.

The number can vary, but in this case the staff picked 10 players to serve as leaders.

The 10 of them had a draft in which every player was eventually picked by one of them and the drafter was responsible for his “team.” On and off the field.

Those teams within the team kind of compete for atta boys and gold stars, as much or more off the field as on it.

There’s a scoreboard reckoning at the end of each week, theoretically with a proud winning team and no team wanting to pull up the rear.

There are, of course, also lots of way to get points deducted.

So if a guy on your team is taking a knee or going hands-on-hips during practice (other new Kelly no-nos) a teammate is likely to jump his case before a coach has to get involved.

It might offset the good marks for showing up on time for crack-of-dawn conditioning.

And don’t even think about missing class or study hall. Checking in at the nutrition center gets you brownie points, while skipping it assumes you’re at a fast-food Burger Doodle, another no-no.

Can’t let your team down. Peer pressure at its best.

Again, a lot of coaches have something similar, including Orgeron, although perhaps it wasn’t as clearly defined.

Basically whatever form it takes, it’s all about creating a healthy team “culture,” or “chemistry.”

Next to talent, chemistry probably runs neck-and-neck with “coaching” as the second most important key to winning big in college.

There’s no one way to skin a cat. LSU has famously won three national championships with its last three coaches — and I defy you to find three more different personalities and philosophies than Nick Saban, Uncle Les and Coach O.

But give Kelly credit, at least he has a plan.

And it really is up to coaches to create this team culture — at least in years when you don’t have Joe Burrow.

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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com

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