Articulate the Vision: Swinney knows what it takes to build a successful program


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson is successful on and off the field.
Clemson is successful on and off the field.

The success that the Clemson football program has had on and off the field speaks for itself, and that success stems from the vision of head coach Dabo Swinney. According to Swinney, it’s all about having a vision and being able to articulate that vision to your players and coaches.

Clemson enters the third decade of the 21st century after Swinney helped author one of the most prolific 10-year periods in the history of the sport. Clemson posted a 117-22 record under Swinney’s leadership in the 2010s, and the program’s 117 wins trailed only Penn (124 in the 1890s) and Alabama (124 in the 2010s) to tie for the third-most in a decade in major college football since 1890.

Even more impressive is the fact that Swinney makes sure his players are successful both on the field and in the classroom. In APR scores announced recently, Clemson's 4-year average score for the period ending with 2018-19 was 993, 4th-best in the nation. On the field for that period, the Tigers had a 55-4 record, two National Championships, four CFP appearances and four ACC championships.

That success is all in the mindset.

“The first thing is just trying to get everybody to think the right way. That is the number one thing is to win in the mind first,” Swinney said during a recent episode of Chum Chat with Tanner Tessmann. “You have to win there before you are going to win anywhere else. Creating an attitude of belief. And then a culture of empowerment and not an entitlement. A culture where you have to earn it through your effort and your accountability and doing what's right and embracing the concept of team and family. And as I always say, discipline. Articulate the vision. What is the vision you have for your program and your players and your team. You have to be able to articulate that and you have to be able to say why it is that way.”

Compromise is not acceptable in Swinney’s world.

“And then you have to walk it. You can't compromise,” Swinney said. “That is what so many people do, they compromise so they can have a good team as opposed to a great program. I've always stayed focused on having a great program, even if it meant I had to sacrifice - hey, maybe we are going to lose right here - but I need to do that because you can't get the toothpaste back in the tube. Right out of the gate, a no-compromise mindset and staying focused on the long-term vision of our program. Developing leadership and discipline.”

That means bringing in the type of people who will help build and maintain a successful program.

“And then getting the right people on the bus and getting the wrong people off,” Swinney said. “You have to create that buy-in and get people who align with the philosophy that you have. First off, we try to bring the right people in and we try to be very transparent during the recruiting process so they come here knowing what they are going to be a part of. They don't get here and then they're shocked. I try to talk guys out of coming because I want them to know what they are getting into and what we are about. So nobody can come here and say, 'Oh crap, he is serious about his class stuff.' They know.

“That is one way I protect our program, by who comes in. Sometimes guys get here and we have to help them. We push them around in their wheelchair and that's ok, or help them with their crutch, and that's ok, but eventually, they have to be on their own two feet. Otherwise, they get squeezed out. We do a lot of things to create that buy-in, but at the end of the day, they have to buy in. And if they don't, they just don't play or they move on somewhere else.”

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