A native of the small upstate New York town of Elmira, Monmouth football Coach Kevin Callahan has created a lasting legacy of success both on and off the field. His 114 wins speak for themselves and he has had players move onto all levels of professional football. We had a chance to ask Coach Callahan a few questions about how he has developed a culture of leadership and accountability for his locker room, as well as the kinds of characteristics he looks for in his student-athletes.
PE: When you’re developing talent, what are some of the intangibles that you look for and why?
Coach Callahan: When working with our players, it is critical that the player is highly motivated to compete in everything that he does (weight room, conditioning drills, practice, academics). He must understand that developing his skills requires more than performing on the field, and that he must understand that he must “earn his position” every day.
PE: What are the characteristics of successful Monmouth University football student-athletes on and off-the-field?
Coach Callahan: The three characteristics that are most important are:
- Strong moral character (makes good decisions no matter where he is: field, dorm, dining hall, social setting). A person who does the right thing.
- Academically motivated. Understands the value of a college education and has a strong desire to get his degree
- Talented football player. Possess the skills, abilities, and competitive attitude to contribute to the success of our team.
PE How do you and your staff begin developing leadership skills in your student-athletes?
Coach Callahan: We have a leadership council that is comprised of a representative cross-section of our team. The council is made up of players from different classes, positions, ethnic backgrounds, etc. The council is charged with providing an open line of communication between the head coach and the team, and they are encouraged to take the initiative to problem solve on their own. Also, our Captain Selection Process is a 3-4 month process that involves:
- A preliminary meeting with the head coach,
- Providing to the head coach a written statement of their qualifications and values they possess that would make them a suitable captain,
- Standing before the team and announcing that they wish to be a candidate for captain and explaining why they would be effective
- Sitting for an interview with the entire coaching staff and providing solutions to hypothetical scenarios
PE: What advice would you give to a parent/guardian who is assisting his/her child with the college search process?
Coach Callahan: Start early, understand the recruiting timetable, and most importantly take a close look at the people that your son/daughter will be associated with and mentored by. It is also very important to select the institution that provides the best academic fit.
PE: What is something every incoming freshman should know as they transition into high school athletics?
Coach Callahan: In transitioning from high school to college it is important to know that the work is just beginning. Just because they have received a scholarship or have been provided with an admissions opportunity, it does not mean that they have arrived. There can be no sense of entitlement, and they will have to earn their position every day.
PE: How do you create a healthy culture within your locker room?
Coach Callahan: Everyone is treated equally. There is no hazing, looking down on younger players, or older players forming cliques. The veteran players are encouraged to welcome each new class, and bring them into the family.
PE: How have you seen the student-athlete experience evolve over the years?
Coach Callahan: The student-athlete experience is more widely publicized and more closely scrutinized than ever before. Social media has the potential to put everything that an athlete does, good or bad, in the national limelight. The student-athlete must be extremely careful in everything that he/she does.