Turner Gill - Demanding, Raise Expectations, Build Relationships

It is always inspiring to read about college coaches striving to do things the right way. Turner Gill, the new head football coach at Kansas ...

Do you have a mission statement for your team? 
Better question - do your players have the mission statement memorized? 
Even better - are they living it?

"We're here to challenge you, we're here to be demanding, we're here to raise your expectation of yourself," Gill said. "But we can do it in a way where you can still feel good about yourself." 

With first-year head coach Turner Gill at the helm, senior corner back Chris Harris knows this season is going to be different. â€œHe’s a loving coach that wants the best for us,” Harris said. “Other college coaches are just like a robot.”

Gill's new players say he has treated all the Jayhawks like sons since being hired in January. From initially distributing a personal survey to providing an upbeat mission statement to ending each day with a positive feeling, they say they know he cares.

"He's there to guide us as a father figure and mentor," senior offensive lineman Brad Thorson said. "That's not typical for Division I coaches."

Gill’s positive idealism was evident during the recruiting process. Instead of focusing solely on the X’s and O’s of football, he communicated faith and good human qualities.

Senior defensive end Jake Laptad had nothing bad to say about his new coach. It struck him how caring his coach is to the students athletes.
“He’s more concentrated on your personal life,” Laptad said, “not only just getting you a better football player but a better person.”

With that mentality, Gill has instilled some unusual, but positive, customs.

Well, I'm a firm believer, which I think probably most coaches are, in building relationships.  That was the first thing I wanted our football program, our football team to do.  Building relationships from players to coaches, coaches to players, coaches to coaches, and players to players.  

So we put out a little bit of a survey that I gave to every single player, every single coach, and it had about eight to ten questions that were really detailed about who they are, where they came from, and how they came to where they are at today.  I had the players stand up in front of our football team and talk about certain questions.  

For example, one question I had everybody to answer was who was the most influential person in your life and why.  Had all of our players and all of our coaches stand in front of our team and talk about that.  I wanted to make sure that we got a chance to know that there's a lot more in common that we have with each other than we have differences.  

When we look from the outside, that's the initial thing is we try to figure out who the people that maybe doesn't look like us or maybe doesn't think that they were going to fit together, all those kinds of things.  So I was really big in building relationships.  We spent a lot of time on that.  Every team meeting that we had in the spring practice had a player stand up and had a coach stand up and talk about those things.  

So that's the biggest thing that I believe in when building a program, in building a really -- we start talking about team, we all talk about team.  We all talk about teamwork.  We all talk about hard work and all those things.  But the biggest thing is we have to get to know each other. And I really believe that, as men particularly, and particularly young men, we have to know how to communicate.  We've got to know how to talk.  

I believe in getting our players and our coaches to talk to each other in deeper details more than just the Xs and Os of football.  Obviously, we get into the football stuff, but we've really gotten into building relationships.

As one of his policies, Gill will not tolerate any swearing. Anywhere. "It's a little bit weird when you're out on the field," said senior tackle Brad Thorson. "But when you find out no one else is cursing, you find it becomes your lexicon."


While coaching at the University of Buffalo he created a mission statement for the team. Gill was so inspired by the word "Believe" that he built his program's mission around it. Here are the behaviors he values and prioritizes:

Believe in each other and the things not yet seen.

Empower people by encouragement.

Learn and push toward the goal.

Influence by being a positive role model.

Expect great effort all the time.

Visualize success.

Enjoy the college football experience.

"That's our mission statement for the University of Buffalo football program," Gill said. "I could go more into the details and explain the hows and the whys, but if you came here and asked anybody about our mission statement, they should be able to tell you what it is because we talk about it every day."

Gill points out there are seven letters in "BELIEVE" because he wanted the word to be relevant for all seven days in the week.

"B - Believe in each other - is for Sundays and the last E - Enjoy the college football experience - is for Saturdays," he said.

It works because in Tom Osborne teaching him that football is about more than winning, Turner Gill became the man that he always knew he could be.