Six-time Kansas state champion coach: Culture ‘starts with buy-in from players’

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Few coaches in the country can match resumes with John Holmes, who led the Bishop Miege football team to six consecutive Kansas state championships from 2014 to 2019. Holmes, who started as the Bishop Miege head coach in 2012 after eight years as an assistant, shared with FNF Coaches his philosophy behind building a championship culture.

Holmes will be a guest on the FNF Coaches Podcast next week.

What was the first thing you did at Bishop Miege to build a championship culture?

“I made it a priority on the day I was hired. We won a state championship in 2009 when I was an assistant. That was our first since 1977. We wanted to continue that. I wanted to make sure everyone — from the players and parents to the community — knew we wanted to compete for a state championship every year. If you’re not up front with the expectations, it’s hard to get them to buy in to the way you want to do it.”

What expectations did you share with the players?

“There’s a certain way you have to do things if you want to be a state championship contender. For the last nine years, we’ve had to maintain a culture. It starts with buy-in from a preseason meeting every spring. Every member of the program attends that meeting. It’s important for the parents to be involved as well. We explain our goals and what we want to do. We want to be a state championship team. Here’s what we have to do. We need to be invested in the summer; we need to be invested in the offseason. Once they see the investment of the coaching staff, it’s easier to get buy-in from the kids. They understand that the coaches attend clinics and talk to coaches of championship programs in the offseason. They see that. This year, I met with championship coaches and got program development stuff.”

What did you gain from that experience?

“Starting this year, I had meetings with each player after the season. I met with every player — 108 kids. We talked about their goals and expectations. I think, as a coach, you get a chance to hear what your kids want to see and who’s invested. That makes it easier to say, ‘Here’s what you need to do to get there.'”

How do you monitor your players to ensure that they’re invested in the offseason program?

“I’m actually working on it now. We have 650 kids in a coed school, so there’s 330 boys. We have 108 on the football team. We need our guys to do other sports like basketball, track, wrestling and baseball. Here’s the activities they do in the winter. Here’s what it looks like in the spring. If they’re in another sport, they’re all in a weights class during the school day. If not, they work out two mornings a week for a total of four days a week. They know if they’re not involved in a sport, they’re lifting before school so they can get position-specific training or speed classes after school. We do our team building stuff in the morning when we’re around each other. Now we want to see what type of leaders we have in our juniors. Will we be a vocal team? Will we have guys who lead by example? As coaches, we can tell who’s invested and who’s not. If a kid shows up to every workout, he gets priority to play in the fall. That’s the reward in our system. We give the first shot to play to those who are invested 12 months a year.”

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