It’s 1:15, the sun is beaming and an alarm just sounded signaling the official start of practice. Coach Rhule calls the guys, who were stretching by position group, over to one large huddle at the center of the field. It gets eerily quiet for about a minute as they make their way over. Then Rhule yells for Coach Brady and Coach Snow to come to the center of the huddle. Loud and spontaneous “Whoa’s!” gets the attention of media onlookers. I run down to the opposite side of the field to try and get a glimpse of what’s going on, but Snow and Brady are engulfed in a sea of blue and white jerseys. I can’t see what’s going on, but I can hear.
Did Rhule just say he’s having defensive coordinator Phil Snow (age 65) participate in a push up competition against offensive coordinator Joe Brady (age 31)? That’s exactly what I heard.
Although I couldn’t see the action, the cheering from guys who line up on either side of the ball let me know the matchup was closer than I’d expected.
“It just kinda started the other day as joke,” Rhule said when I asked him about the pre-practice bouts. “A couple of guys were saying ‘I’m faster than you.’ Big Frank, our defensive line coach, and Terrance Knighton kept running to the ball in practice – trying to get guys to run to the ball. There was a lot of debate on the staff about who’s faster, so I called them out before practice and said ‘Let’s settle it.’ I warned everybody to warm up and bring a pair of cleats, because I’m going to start calling guys out.”
That’s exactly what he did. Tuesday, several coaches competed in sprints before the Panthers’ last padded practice of the week and Wednesday the leaders of the defense and offense got in push-up position.
This is all a part of a top-to-bottom competitive culture that Matt Rhule and his staff have wanted to foster since taking the reigns in 2020.
“To me, we want to be a competitive team, let’s have everyone compete.”
I asked Rhule who came out on top. Out of respect he wouldn’t say for certain, but added at the end that the elder statesman won.
Competitive energy is something that flows through a team. It’s something that’s infectious. And when you have that energy; That strong desire to win, you’re never out of any ball game. While these coaching competitions are a good way to lighten the mood and add a little fun to the workday, it’s also a great way to foster the competitive energy needed to have productive practices that carry over to games. Rhule knows that this isn’t something that just has to come from his players, it’s an energy that needs to permeate through everyone on his staff.
Besides, who doesn’t like good trash talk and a competition to go along with it?