Arkansas state champion coach: Develop culture spiritually, academically, socially, athletically

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Jeff Conaway led the Shiloh Christian football team to a state championship this fall for the first time in his seven years as head coach. Since his hire in 2014, he has worked to establish a culture that helps players grow spiritually, academically, socially and athletically.

Conaway, who will be a guest on the FNF Coaches Podcast next week, shared an overview of his philosophy on culture building.

What were some of the first things you did to establish a culture after you were hired as the head coach in 2014?

“The first thing I did was create a vision. I want to be clear with how I articulate that vision and drive it home daily. Leaders are repeaters. I wanted everyone to know my vision even if it wasn’t perfect yet. A lot of people get paralyzed trying to create the perfect vision. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.”

What is your vision?

“I came up with a vision and a mission for how to accomplish that. We stay true to it. It continues to get better and better. Over time, we’ve established a great culture. We develop champions spiritually, academically, socially and athletically. We’ve built resources for doing that, and every year we evaluate those resources. How can we be better in those four areas? That’s what we’re constantly evaluating. That’s been the foundation of our culture. The mission is getting better.”

What resources do you have in place to support that mission?

“We have a discipleship program. We take our guys through a nine-month program. First, we start with the coaches. Last year, the coaches took the players through it. That’s one of the best things we do. We teach players to be self-feeders and have an intimate relationship with Jesus. Academically, we teach them how to be a student-athlete. They sit in front of the class and listen with their eyes. They build positive relationships with the teachers. We hold them accountable every two weeks in-season with a grade check. If there are ‘D’s’ or ‘F’s’, they push sleds 300 yards at practice. Those who don’t get rewards. We have rewards and consequences for the academic system.

“Socially, we teach how to be a man, how to look someone in the eye when you shake hands, how to communicate, what to put on social media and what NOT to put on social media. Athletically, we teach them how to train, how to lift and run, how to eat and how to rest. We teach them how to be the best champion athletically that they can become.”

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk