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Posted on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football leadership seminars help seniors understand true definition of the word

By Nick Baumgardner

Midway through his tenure at Ball State, Brady Hoke found out how difficult it is to find true leadership on a college football roster.

Some coaches insist true leaders are instinctual, and don't need to be taught how to lead a group. But what happens when those instincts don't actually exist? What happens when a player simply asks, "How?"

Several years ago in Muncie, Ind., Hoke found out.

"I had a guy who played for us at Ball State, (current Detroit Lion center) Dan Gerberry, who was voted captain for us by his teammates," the Michigan football coach explains. "Directly after that vote, he called me into his office and says 'Coach, I don't know what being a leader is?'

"We all want our players to be leaders. But it's not that simple."


Roy Roundtree and Denard Robinson, right, were two of the Michigan football team seniors that attended a leadership seminar with the Navy SEALs. (Photo courtesy Michigan athletic department)

It was around that time when Hoke, together with former Ball State and current Michigan strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman, developed a series of leadership seminars aimed at teaching the veterans on his club what being a leader is all about.

Michigan put together nine voluntary seminars during the winter semester. Each seminar took place on a Sunday and featured various presentations on leadership.

"We have a manual that we use that we've made up," Hoke said. "No. 1, they get to know themselves. They get to know each other in that class, and they get to know our teammates."

Part of Hoke's leadership seminar program this offseason involved a trip to California, where 22 members of his senior class got to go through various leadership and team-building exercises with Navy SEALs.

While in California, the Wolverine seniors were able to get a better understanding of teamwork and togetherness, but also a sense of goodwill.

Hoke's players put together a youth football skills camp, which they personally designed and executed for children in Pasadena, Calif.

"To watch our kids do what they did with the youth camp they had to put together and they had to run was something that was a great learning experience for them," he said.

Hoke says his initial relationship with the military and his leadership seminars began with the marine corps while he was at Ball State.

When he arrived at San Diego State, he came in contact with Navy SEAL David Goggins -- a sailor who lost several friends during a stint in Afghanistan.

In order to pay tribute and raise money for families of veterans, Goggins became an "ultramarathoner," eventually running in a 24-hour race that covered more than 100 miles. Hoke had Goggins speak to his San Diego State squad on multiple occasions, and a relationship was born.

And now, seven years and two schools away from when it began, Hoke continues to take great pride in developing true leaders inside his own locker room.

Because without them, he says, things fall apart.

"If I have to lead the University of Michigan, we won't have a big year," Hoke said recently at a football camp. "The locker room runs the team.

"Your team will only be as good as those seniors who lead."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Everything is great with this team except the bland , afraid to lose offense Borges is set on implimenting.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Missed the entire 2011 season eh? Man that must be tough for a dedicated Michigan fan. Maybe you'll have time to watch a couple this season. I hear the opener is expected to be quite a game.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

Let it go Ted.Michigan is in good hands with Coach Hoke and company.Try and smile sometime it really works.

Terry Star21

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

Coach leadership is very important, however - team leadership is a necessity ! You could see some development of this midway through last season. This will ensure their workouts and preparations are complete, this will fire up the team before games and keep them going strong throughout - for a strong finish. Looking for a great season, of course ! MgoBlueForTiM.....Hoke, Team....Leaders and Best.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Brady Hoke really knows how to do things with young people. He doesn't assume good character. He doesn't assume that age or years on the team equates with leadership. He plans and works at developing these things. What a great gift to the team members, both in terms of their play and in terms of their lives. We are so lucky to have him. Go Blue!


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Is this the kind of thing that came up in an interview? Is this how David Brandon was so impressed with Hoke back in January 2011? I would be curious to see how many other NCAA coaches have such a program in place, but it speaks of Hoke's character that he has such a course. The more I learn about him, the more impressed I am. He may not win all the games--of course. But he fits into the mission of the university and understands how we all want the sports program to be vis-a-vis the mission. Though I think he is the right guy for the job, I do not think he would have been ready in 2007-08 when the last coach was hired. His last 3 years at Ball State and SDSU really helped him develop the skills necessary to be our coach for a few decades.

Terry Star21

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

heartbreak - I believe this kind of attitude, and the way Hoke presents himself (very believable) were the two biggest reasons, after his successful coaching background that impressed DB and MSC. He is not only reliable and believable, he is sincere and successful. Plus of course, he was on that coaching staff for the 1997/98 national Championship - he knew the Michigan system !


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Normal team issues, affects people in every day life right down to mom and dad. You also have to want to lead and many that have good leadership skills simply don't want to lead. Like puppies, sometimes the runt of the liter turns out to be the diamond. You'll find this issue in every walk of life, some got it, some don't.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

The UofM football team is in Great hands now.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 10:59 a.m.

I love wins...but I love the way Coach develops character even more! He makes me proud to be a UofM fan.