Trust is earned. That’s something that new Penn State head coach James Franklin knows all too well.
He understands the situation he’s walking into. The third head coach some of the current Nittany Lions have had over the course of their career. A number that likely rivals even some of the most unstable programs in the nation where change is simply a way of doing business. Players committed to one coach and his staff only to see the landscape change twice while in a short span of time.
And even if it’s unspoken, that kind of change erodes at the overall relationship a team can have with its coaches. The relationships become more necessary than emotionally based and trust is earned differently than it was on the recruiting trail.
At the end of the day, players want to be with a staff that will give them the best chance to win. That’s something that is ultimately at the core of the recruitment process for most players. Can you coach me to victory?
But beyond a track record and expectations, coaches and players have to be able to trust each other, they have to be able to work together in a way that goes beyond Xs and Os. A great collection of talent and coaching means nothing if the chemistry isn’t there.
Franklin has the coaches, and he’s growing the talent, but the chemistry is still a work in progress.
“I think the team, they have great chemistry,” Franklin said on Sunday afternoon. “But I’ve found, and we’ve talked openly about it, that when you come in and a lot of them came here to play for Joe. And then Joe leaves and there are hurt feelings associated with that. And then Billy (O’Brien) comes in and then Billy leaves and there are hurt feelings associated with that too.”
“So we’ve talked about that, that the players had a little bit of a wall when we first got here which is natural. For us to get where we want to go they have to let us in, they can’t do it by themselves and we can’t do it by ourselves, we have to do it together. So I think our players have tremendous chemistry and we’re working every single day to build that trust and to build that chemistry as an entire organization.”
There is little doubt that Franklin and his staff will succeed at this task. Franklin’s understanding of the issue in the first place an important observation in the relationship building process. The biggest thing both coach and player will need is simply time and consistency. Franklin has plenty of time, but it will be up to he and his staff to show the consistency needed to build that trust.
“I think it’s time, I think it’s consistency, you know I think in anything your behaviors and showing them how consistent you are and how much you care about them on a daily basis. I explain it a lot like family. The reason your family is so tight is that when you battle through adversity and adversity and adversity and you make it out, you become stronger. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
That trust will come with time off the field as well, but as Franklin noted, his living quarters currently aren’t the most fitting for dinners and team building.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to bring 35 guys over to the Residence Inn,” Franklin said smiling. “It doesn’t have the same type of feel.”