Graham A Master At Player Buy-In

Following every practice, Todd Graham addresses his players at midfield with a backdrop impossible to ignore and easy to excite. 
 
The Arizona State coach has student managers bring large emblems of his team’s goals onto the field: glossy signage affixed with the national championship trophy. 
 
This year, Graham’s added more photographic inspiration into the equation. 
 
Every player has a picture of a family member in their locker.
 
“I want these players to give me everything they’ve got, and just a little bit more,” Graham said. “And that little bit more comes from two things: your faith and your family. Everybody has somebody that has sacrificed so you could be successful.”
 
Graham is a master at motivation. He understands how to connect with each player and get them to buy into his vision. It’s something legendary ASU coach Frank Kush once said is essential to being a successful coach. 
 
Kush said he learned from one of his mentors, former ASU coach Dan Devine, that it was important to be able to personally connect with each player and know what buttons needed to be pushed to maximizing their effort. 
 
In a lot of ways, that may be more difficult than ever with Generation Y kids, something Graham is keenly aware of. There is a need for immediate gratification and it’s easy to be distracted. 
 
“The hardest thing with today’s athlete is to captivate them, to just get them to look where they’re supposed to look,” Graham said. “It’s something I’ve done. When I was in college, when I was in training camp I always had my mother’s picture. I thought about it and said, ‘If we can just spend 30 seconds a day reflecting on the people that have sacrificed for us to be here and then go honor them with how we practice every day, that would just maybe help our focus a little more.’”
 
The man who crafted the wildly popular phrase Speaking Victory has now coined another term that has propagated throughout his team and into the fan base: Sun Devil Brotherhood. 
 
Not a day goes by that a player doesn’t mention the term in a post-practice interview. It’s entirely predictable. The closeness of the players is a direct reflection of the coach’s dogged determination to foster such a culture. 
 
Wednesday Graham took yet another step toward developing such an atmosphere. He awarded scholarships to five players (video above), three of whom aren’t ever going to see the field other than perhaps on special teams. 
 
“I don’t think there are a lot of schools around that are putting that much investment into their walk-ons and I know our guys walking on here are motivated,” Graham said. “If you work hard and do things the right way, maybe you’re not the best guy, but there’s a place for you.
 
“I like guys that have been here. I like to hire guys from within, I like to promote guys from within and I like guys that have invested and deserve it and earn it and I think it did a lot for our team today. I think it did a lot for our team and our spirit.”
 
It’s something Graham thinks about incessantly, and the benefits of that are readily apparent to anyone who has spent any amount of time around the program. 

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