Michigan State Strength Coach Ken Mannie

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In May of 2011, I was introduced to the coaching staff at Michigan State. This past week I was blessed to have a great conversation with the Spartans' Strength Coach Ken Mannie.

Ken has been coaching for about 40 years: 10 in HS, 30 in College and 19 of those at MSU.

The main points of our talk were about building a culture of leadership.

Virtue = Strength, Lou Judd 
Saving Lives Through Sports


Remember the magic play, the new offense, the best trend … won’t help you unless your players are inspired enough to execute it.

Many coaches bemoan the lack of natural leadership in their players.

But our coaching society is partly to blame … we have become so specialized, QB camp or what have you … the guru is always giving the instruction … more skilled on the field but many times our young people do not know how to work together on the team, how to interact, talk, communicate because everyone is concerned with their personal prowess.


One thing that can be done is building a leadership council where we get our young people to DO things, not just talk about it, but DO it.

Have them write out the mission statement for the team, for the offense, for the defense .. be very careful what you write down because you will be held accountable to what you write down.

But most importantly - establish the standards.


Standards are how you behave every single day, your actions every single day - to achieve your goal

High standards - you can achieve goals

Standards always come first before goals


Is the mission being completed?

The leaders, the young people need to DO things away from our constant view. Having our athletes behave well in front of us does not display leadership.

The must lead without being monitored, without being coddled, without being pushed.


This is so important because on the field, we as coaches can’t help them, we can’t do it for them. In practice, in film, etc many times we as coaches are “doing it for them”. But that does not build leadership.

If your coaching is limited to you doing everything, then you really are not coaching very well. You are not building leaders.

One thing that in general we really need improvement in as a society is the ability to communicate.

Communication = capture, set afire …


We have to put them in situations where they must communicate and improve.

Watching film until you turn purple … that only gets them to the level of just knowing what to do. Knowing does not mean you DO it well.

You have to be inspired to do it well because YOU want to do it well

Quit waiting for someone to light a fire under you, you light it up in your own heart … so you can go and light a fire in someone else.


At the end of every workout … I have gather everyone and give the winning thought. I’ll say a few words that hopefully inspire and then I’ll ask who of you wants to give a winning thought? And they can relay anything they want to share.

I have a drawer full of pass it on message cards. I am constantly looking for opportunities to hand one to a kid who needs it.

Pass it On Message Cards