As the head football coach at Rutgers University for 11 seasons, Greg Schiano spent plenty of time reassuring worried parents and grandparents that he would look after their sons while they played for him. “These are big guys, but they’re still only 18 years old, so the families really trust you with their upbringing,” the coach says.
Schiano earned that trust by instilling in his young players the importance of preparation, teamwork and honesty. Now as head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 2012, he’s trying to encourage those same values in his pro players, coaches, trainers and staff. And though he goes about it in a very methodical and practical way, the coach says he realizes the message has to resonate from within.
“As a head coach you have to know who you are as a person and what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Schiano, who also spent time coaching at Penn State, the University of Miami and the Chicago Bears. “The values you believe in have to be part of the organization you’re trying to lead.”
Preparation is at the core of Schiano’s playbook. Gathering all the information he needs to make smart, sound decisions—whether for the Buccaneers or his own finances—is an essential part of attaining success, he says. And with a wife and four children, he has been especially diligent with managing his money. “The one thing I know is that financial planning and investments are not my specialty,” Schiano says. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye on my money.”
That same focus on preparation was evident from his earliest days with the Buccaneers. Upon arriving at Tampa Bay, Schiano laid out his three building blocks for the team: trust, belief and accountability. Furthermore, he tells his players that all three apply to life on the field as well as off.
To begin with, Schiano expects 100% honesty from his players: “If I know someone is going to tell me the truth, and not leave out part of the story that perhaps doesn’t put him in a great light, then we can work through any situation.”
The other aspect of trust, Schiano tells his players, is this: Do what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it. Training camp for the current football season began July 24. He expected his players to be in shape and ready to go on that date. Same goes for team meetings. “They start at 8 a.m.,” Schiano says. “A player can’t roll in at 8:15. There are time constraints with any business, and football is no different.”
Both at Rutgers and now with the Bucs, Schiano has a saying: “If you don’t believe in yourself, how is anyone else going to?” The glue that holds this all together, he adds, is accountability. “I want my players to be accountable to each other, to not be afraid to call someone out if they see a teammate going in the wrong direction.”
In the same way that Schiano views preparation as the cornerstone of his success, it’s a value he tries to instill in his players as well. “Trust your training,” he likes to say. “That means you’ve practiced a play enough times and are prepared, so that when you’re in the clutch you don’t have to second-guess yourself. You just do what you’ve been trained to do.”
That’s a good way to handle life on the field—and off.