Rich Holzer, Head football Coach of the Mount St. Joseph’s Gaels, is a man who is respected not only for his prowess with X’s and O’s, but also as a leader of men. His attention and influence stretch far beyond the white lines of the football field. It was an honor to go 4 Downs, with Rich Holzer.
Me: Coach, a lot of hard work and dedication goes into developing a top notch student athlete. In your opinion, What traits and characteristics are synonymous with a highly successful football player?
Coach Holzer: In my opinion The most important traits for high school football players are: TRUSTWORTHINESS – without that nothing else matters. The foundation of any team is the bonds of trust built between the coaches and the players. HUMILITY – players need to be humble. Even great players. They must keep in mind that there is still a lot of game left to learn. RESPECTFULNESS – the players are going to be ambassadors for our school, program and their family. we look for young men that will represent us well on the field and in the community. TOUGHNESS- we want players that are physically and mentally tough because those are the guys that when the chips are down will step up. Those are the players who persevere and push through and never back down from a challenge. DRIVE – are they going to go the extra mile to be great or are they content to be average? We want the guy that is grinding when no one else is watching.
Me: That’s what’s up. I’d have loved to have played on one of your teams. Switching gears, what are your thoughts on online recruiting networks? Do you and your staff put stock in their rankings? Do you encourage your student athletes to seek evaluations from them? Why or why not?
Coach Holzer: I had not traditionally been a person who follows the online recruiting game. However, it seems more and more colleges are basing a portion of their recruiting on these ratings. Therefore as a coach I have adapted and actively push my players to go to these events to get evaluated. For our team personally we do not use the ratings in determining who sees playing time. For us this is purely a recruiting tool to get our players noticed for scholarship opportunities.
Me: That’s definitely a fair approach. Allow your kids to put stock in where they stand, without over-valuing the evals. In terms of that “natural talent and ability”, I’m one who believes talent is important, but is too frequently squandered and/or wasted away. Where do you see student athletes most frequently mis-step?
Coach Holzer: This is an interesting question. I would say one of the biggest missteps is grades. A lot of players take that portion for granted and believe talent is all you need. Some of my greatest players were also extremely self motivated in the classroom. I believe classroom performance is indicative of character in that it takes a lot of discipline, time management and self-sacrifice to be a good student and a good athlete. I see a lot of players put all their eggs in one basket and neglect the student side. I also see players misstep when they believe they become bigger than the team or irreplaceable. A hard lesson that needs to be learned by athletes as they are becoming high achievers is no one is irreplaceable and that at some point in your athletic journey you’re going to reach a level of football where everyone is good. The talent can only take you so far without work ethic, drive and self-sacrifice you can never truly achieve your full potential. My college coach used to tell every incoming freshmen to buckle up and be ready because you may have been the only all-state player on your high school team but in Division I football everybody on the team was all state. I think that’s where some players slip off is they believe that because they were recruited the same “lovefest” will continue once they take the field. Or they begin thinking their high school team needs them and they can do as they please. That is something that we as high school coaches have to deal with not only for the success of our team but also to help make that athlete successful at the next level.
Me: Brother…that’s amazing insight. An article may not be enough. We may need to hold a SYMPOSIUM to take in your football knowledge. Get you into the end zone on this—What are the final words of wisdom you give to your guys as they prepare to leave you and your staff for their next step in life?
Rich Holzer: One thing I tried to do for those seniors graduating is let them know we are proud of them and will be there for them no matter what in the future. At The same time I tried to make them aware they are becoming young men and this is where they pay back all the people in their lives who have put so much effort and time into them. I try to make them aware that the best reward they can give to their loved ones is to become a successful, honest, hard-working young men. To become a great role model and father. Also to pay it forward. No matter what career they go into take time to give back to the youth coming up behind them because so many people have invested their time in them.
Me: Coach Holzer, thank you very much brother. Should I send you an address for that purple shirt? Hahahahahaha!