By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor
St. Xavier High (Ohio) coach Steve Specht has three state championships to his name, along with a Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award. How does he stay motivated? Forget the past.
Steve Specht had plenty of professional successes to reflect upon when he recently spoke at the USA Football National Conference in Orlando, Fla., but the former Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award recipient chose to look forward.
“You come off a year when you win a state championship, and you don’t want to defend anything,” Specht said. “Pursue something new.”
No one would have blamed him if he took a few minutes to share stories of his most recent championship – St. X’s third since 2005 but first since 2007. St. Xavier (Cincinnati) constructed four consecutive come-from-behind victories en route to the Division I state title, a double-overtime victory over St. Ignatius in the state championship game, to become the first five-loss team in Ohio High School Athletic Association history to win a state title.
“We have a motto that goes along with the Jesuit philosophy – Strive for Magis,” Specht said. “It’s a philosophy of always striving for more.”
What does that entail at St. X? Specht gives his players the month of December off, and then starts his offseason strength and conditioning program in January. He expects his players to lift as a team at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That schedule continues all the way up to the preseason in August.
“When you’re talking about sustaining success, it’s about having a blueprint,” Specht said. “We have the St. Xavier way. Every coach has it. We believe in our blueprint. Whether it’s the offseason or in-season, how you establish that blueprint will dictate whether your team is successful or unsuccessful.”
Specht’s cumulative record in 13 seasons at St. Xavier is 123-46 with three state championships. Specht sits on the board of USA Football and has coached in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Providing a Path to the NFL
Specht received the Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award in 2013. He was nominated by a former player, Greg Scruggs, who has since had a four-year career in the NFL.
As a student at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Scruggs lived in the Boys Hope House on campus. After playing the quad drums in the school marching band for three years and varsity basketball for two, he reluctantly joined the football team his senior year, at the behest of head coach Steve Specht.
“He instilled, not just in me, but in all of us, the discipline and the confidence to succeed,” Scruggs said. “And not just in football, but the qualities to be a good man, a good husband, a good father.
“He treated all of us like we were his kids. He was a parent to us. He would have 132 kids every year and he treated us that way.’’
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