IU Football Head Coach Tom Allen is a guest on the show and talks about bridging the GAP thru the LEO Philosophy.
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Indiana Football Head Coach, Tom Allen
Bridging the GAP thru the LEO Philosophy
We are so privileged to have one of what I believe is the best motivators in the Big Ten, if not the nation, a man that I’ve followed as a high school coach. I’m so honored to have this gentleman, the great Tom Allen, Head Coach of Indiana Football. Coach Allen, thank you for being here on the show. Welcome.
I’m excited to be on your show. I appreciate you having me.
Who gave you the idea for LEO, Love Each Other?
It’s been something over time that I’ve latched onto. I’ve been such a big believer in relationship building and the coaching profession. My dad was my high school coach. I saw the impact that he had as I was growing up. The players would come back years later. It was always about the relationship he has formed with those guys and they had formed with each other, making the team and experience very special.
I started coaching high school football for the first fifteen years of my career. I’d say it was during that time that I started realizing and recognizing. If you wanted to build something special, you better make a group of guys love and care about each other. Make it about the guys around you, not about yourself. What LEO is all about to me is a selfless mindset. “I don’t care who gets credit because it’s not about me.”
I’ve learned over time that if you want to build an organization that has value, that can do something special, something so much bigger than you, you got to get your focus off yourself and those around you. That’s not what we do naturally. We naturally make it about ourselves, for sure. That’s a conscious choice that you make. It’s a life-changing choice that you make when you choose to love the people around you.
We talked about the ten basic attitude boosters that we promote on this show and you’ve already hit four of them, which is fantastic. We are focusing on booster number seven, grow or die. When we talk about building, certainly growing is part of that. You’ve been working with young men all your life. Talk to me about your perspective of growth. What does it mean to grow? What’s the value of growth? What’s your main focus when we talk about this thing called growing?
It’s a key component. When we talked about bringing a young man to Indiana or go to any school, it’s about player development, which is growth. You want to be able to take them from where they are. You want to find young men that have a base level of talent and core value things. You want to build off of that. You want to grow them as a person, as a student-athlete and as a man. Eventually, on the football field, you wanted to see that growth as well.
To me, we are so much focused on the habits that you form on a daily basis. That, to me, determines growth and development. We’ve even been challenged in this difficult time of all the isolation that our guys have been placed into and getting on a regular routine. Something we did from the very beginning of the pandemic was, “What does your daily schedule look like? What are the daily habits that you’re forming? You’re maybe in a different environment than you’re used to be in regards to this time of year. What does that look like?” That’s going to determine how you grow it.
If you want to create change in your life and truly grow in whatever area you want to focus on, you’ve got to change what you do every day. That, to me, is the focus of what we try to do in our program. It’s about accountability, toughness and love. Those are the three things that are branded within our core values and by the phrase, LEO, Love Each Other.
By those three things, that’s how you grow as an individual. To me, that’s what we’re gauged off of. As a coach, how can you bring out the greatness that’s within a person? Can you allow them to become all that they were created to be? Our number one responsibility as coaches is to develop these young men first as individuals with character and leadership development and then do a tremendous job academically. It shows up with how you perform on the field. We’ll take you if you stay healthy with your talent level but to me, you better come to Indiana and expect to be challenged to grow on a consistent basis.
The advice you gave is great for people in business and in relationships. A lot of people come to our show because they’re standing at that bridge. It might be a personal or a financial relationship. It may be something like, “I got fired from my job and I got to start something new.” I have two questions. Number one, what does attitude mean to you and how would you define it? Number two, when we think of those people that are walking on the beach, driving in their cars, disheartened and discouraged because something changed in their life, what’s your advice to them?
First of all, how we define it is how you talk to yourself. It’s the mindset that you bring every single day. I intentionally ask our players, “What are you thinking today?” Not how are you feeling but what are you thinking? Our minds can be so powerful in either direction, positive or negative. I’ve gone to several places. Outside of maybe two programs that I’ve been a part of in my years of coaching, most places have not been winning when I arrived.
We had to create change and be able to do things that create a different outcome. They were already winning when I got there, like a place called Wabash, but the other two high schools that I was at were not, so we had to create the change. It’s been so much about mindset. That is geared in. The mindset that you have drives your expectations and your beliefs. If somebody doesn’t believe in what they can become or what they’re going to do, which all of these are choices, then you got no chance.
When I came to Indiana, I had a vision for what I felt like we could do here. Not everybody agreed and believed me. I gave a great challenge to our team. When I was a defensive coordinator, there was a way I challenged that side of football. It carried over to the whole team and I was like, “If you don’t believe in what we’re doing here, then you need to leave. It’s not personal. I don’t dislike it. I’ll help you find a new home, a new job and a new coach, but I want a football team and a coaching staff that believes. It’s something you control. Before there’s a reality, there’s a mentality. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anybody else?” That’s mindset and attitude are what drives everything.
Since you can control it, it’s something I’m going to spend a ton of time investing in. If it’s something you can’t control, that creates frustration because I can’t do anything about it, but I have complete control over my attitude and my effort. I have complete control of that, so there are no excuses. That’s why we talk about accountability. You set those standards and expectations that you have in your program and then hold people to those standards daily. Defining it is what I talked about. What becomes such a huge part of who you become as a program, organization, and even family is what you truly believe about yourself and what you can develop into.
We’re fortunate enough to have a father who was a football coach. I’m guessing that your parents were probably your very first attitude coaches or teachers. With some of the philosophies, what has stuck with you from your first attitude coaches? If it wasn’t your parents, we’d love to know who it was. What’s been inside of you that have come through from those great people?
It was my parents. Both my mom and dad played such a huge part of my life and our development. I’m blessed to still have them with us. They’re not getting any younger but it was a driving force for me to want to come home at this stage of my career, to be able to be closer to them and my family be close to them. The bottom line from the very beginning of knowing my dad, he’s so much into staying with whatever you do. We weren’t allowed to quit anything. Whatever we said we were going to do, that was it. There were no excuses. He’s pretty no nonsense.
My dad was a tough guy on us, held us to high standards of our work ethic, taught us how you treat people and all those things that you can control, like how you get up in an early morning rise. He never wanted us to be sleeping in. I was like, “Dad, I’m twelve.” You want to be able to sleep in some time, but it was not the way he was wired. It was like, “You’re wasting time when you’re in there doing that.” It’s an “I can rest when I’m older” kind of mindset.Conviction-driven leadership is based on a vision of the profession. Click To Tweet
That work ethic and the ability to stay with whatever you do is a powerful thing. We use the word perseverance so much in our program and grit. It was our one word for 2019, which is perseverance and passion towards a long-term goal. I stayed with it. To me, that’s something that is learned. That’s the whole, “I’m not going to let you quit something. If you’re going to start something, you’re going to finish it. You’re going to leave a place better than you found it.”
My dad was not only a teacher and a coach but also a licensed carpenter. My whole life growing up, even into college, we did carpenter work in the summertime. He wanted to teach us how to work to be able to give you not only a skill but also the physical labor and the physical toughness that it takes. We’d have to do that all day long and then we’d go do our workouts or whatever sport we were playing or training for through college. That’s how we paid for college.
Those were valuable lessons that we had to learn: getting up early, sometimes working daylight until dark when we needed to, and finding a way to get our workout in with no excuses. I had mean workouts when I was in college where I was doing my running and lifting at 9:00, 10:00 at night after a full day working whether I was painting, building a garage or any kind of carpenter work that we were doing for those summers and projects.
Those were valuable lessons that have never left me. It was a strong faith-based upbringing about living a life of principle, being a man of your word, and being a person that can be depended upon and counted upon as a teammate, a coach, and a part of a special group. That trust piece is such a huge part of building something special. All those things are what I feel my dad taught me from the earliest and I’m still learning from him.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Adversity is the mother of perseverance. If you want to be a person of perseverance, you’re going to have to fight through adversity.” Booster number eight is to love and embrace all the adversity that happens. GAPers, you knew it here first from Coach Allen that perseverance and grit are something that can help you bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be. Behind every good man is a good woman. Talk to me about what your mother did and what you learn from her.
We were fortunate. My dad was a teacher and a coach so she stayed at home with us. Dad was with us quite a bit but she was with us all the time. She supported us in every possible thing that we did. She’s taking us to practice, picking us up from practice and always being with us. She holds us accountable for how we treat people and how we treat them.
There were four of us. I had an older brother, an older sister and a younger sister. Four children were raised in our home. Being able to learn how to be a person who cared about others, prayed for people, prayed for us, and held us accountable for the choices we make and the people we hang out with. What kinds of books we read, the music we listen to and who we hang out with. I was taught that at a young age.
What you fill your mind with and who you associate with, that’s who you become. I believe that. We challenge our coaches and our players about that. I learned that from being raised in the home that I was raised in. We’re very careful who we were friends with. Even at a young age, we played outside back when we didn’t have all these other video games and social media things. If I was at a one friend’s house and that’s where I told my mom I was going to be, then I had to come home and say we’re going to go somewhere else. It’s not pain, but it was accountability. I was told to do that. I’ll never forget that. There were times when I did, and trust me, it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t going to get away with it.
You don’t forget that kind of stuff. It goes back to being, “You tell me you’re going to do this. This is what you’re going to do. If you don’t, then you’re going to be held accountable.” The bottom line is those are the kinds of things that I know have made me who I am. You don’t lose the work ethic that you developed as a young person. You don’t lose the value of being a man of your word and how you treat people.
My dad had a tremendous heart for people. He’s so empathetic for those around him, the players that he coached and the homes they came from, all different challenges they may have had. Those were the kinds of things that have never left me. That’s what an LEO is all a part of all these things. You could choose how you view other people and how you treat them.
It causes you to be a person that has a sensitive heart for those around you. That allows you to be real and be genuine to these players who come to Indiana to fulfill these big dreams, but at the end of the day, they’re young people looking for someone that believes in them, care about them, love them and give them some tremendous direction and accountability.
DNA means a lot to me and I believe that you can go back. I’m wondering. If you knew Grandpa Allen, what did he do? What did he teach you?
My grandpa was a carpenter. He’s tougher than nails. He’s family first, very consistent, simple in a lot of ways and didn’t stray far from home. He was always in that area. He believed in hard work, toughness and your word is your bond. It’s who you are. It should be the thing that you value the most. When you agree to something, that’s what it is. Those things stick out to me. The work ethic, the emphasis on family and the fact that at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, you got two things, your faith and your family.
You better make those things a priority. I tell our team this all the time, “I want you guys to understand that when they get to the end of all this, they’re not worried about their 401(k)s, the house they live in and the cars they drive. It’s their faith in their family.” Why wait until the end to make it a priority and a focus? Those are the things that my grandpa taught me. He’s passed on but he would be so unbelievably thrilled to know that I was the head coach at Indiana.
That’s what makes this so special to me. It’s deep. Both sides of my family are from Indiana, born and raised. My dad’s the oldest of ten and my mom’s the second youngest of eight. I got 32 aunts and uncles. I got a massive family, tons of cousins, second cousins and just a huge family that I got a lot of pride in being from Indiana and being a part of this. I wanted to build something special here because this is my home.
Was your grandpa’s name Tom as well?
His name was Nolan. Interestingly, here’s how it works. My dad’s name is Nolan Thomas Allen. My name is Thomas Edward Allen. My son is named after my dad, so my son is named Nolan Thomas Allen. Everybody calls my dad Tom. They call me Tommy. We call our son Thomas. That’s how we keep them all straight.
Did your son play at IU?
He’s playing there.
What’s that like coaching him? I’m sure that’s got to be so fulfilling.You grow as an individual by having accountability, toughness, and love. Click To Tweet
It’s a huge blessing. He’s graduated years ago. He’s getting his Master’s degree here. He’s number 44 and a linebacker. I played for my dad. He’s playing for his dad. That’s pretty special. It’s not easy. It’s harder than people think. It’s probably harder on the player than it is the dad. It’s tough in both directions but at the same time, he’s been given a tremendous opportunity. He works his tail off. I’m proud of him. For my dad to be able to come here and see both of us, watch him play and watch me coach is pretty special. It’s a neat family affair for us in our household.
I coached all three of my kids at Bishop Chatard High School. I know the dynamic there that’s going on. Was Coach Peckinpaugh there back when you were there?
He was my wrestling coach.
I wanted to touch on this because one of my boys wrestled up at Central Michigan. I love football. Football is the greatest team sport ever. What did that sport wrestling teach you?
I wrestled for thirteen years. I wrested all through high school and college. I played both sports in college, football and wrestling. What an unbelievable sport. There’s so much discipline and the toughness that you have to have both physical and mental. You get to the point where you have to cut weight. Even in college, I wrestled at 190 and I played about 215. I had to lose 25 pounds every off season. The seasons go back-to-back to each other. That was always challenging. When I started wrestling in 6th grade and then get into 7th grade and 8th grade, your body starts changing. It’s such an unbelievably physically demanding sport.
Here’s what I always tell people. Wrestling is not a whole lot of fun unless you have some success at it. You are getting your tail whooped on a daily basis and then all the practices. Going out and shooting baskets, playing catch, shagging fly balls, taking band practice, that’s fun. Wrestling for two hours and climbing is not. We’d used to climb rope back in the day and all the stuff that we did. Coach Peckinpaugh was my high school coach. It’s so demanding.
At New Castle, we got that big old gym. We would have to run laps around the track. Our restroom was right outside the ramp to the side of the track. You got all those steps that you could either bear crawl up and down or run up and down. It was physically hard and tough. I was blessed to have a lot of success with wrestling. I enjoyed it. As I said, it’s not “fun”. Fun is going swimming. It’s tough but it’s so rewarding.
I’ll never forget when I was in high school. I had a chance to get into a phenomenal shape and play at my highest level. Before I went to college, I was competing, getting ready for the state finals and all that. It was a tremendously rewarding experience to know. If you can do that, you can do anything. That’s why it’s a great sport to develop the qualities and that grit piece.
If you want to be a guy that’s got grit, you go wrestle. You get into college and it’s a whole other level. It’s hard. You’re wrestling against a lot of very mature individuals. They’re very well-coached. I wrestled for Ben Peterson in college. He’s an Olympic gold and silver medalist. I had a great experience at college wrestling for him and then playing football for Terry Price. Those two are both high-quality men.
The sport wrestling teaches you so many valuable life lessons. That’s why I encourage many guys to wrestle. It’s a great career over football. When I found out that our recruit was a wrestler, his thought went up in my mind. I feel like there are so many great qualities that I know I’m going to get when I get a wrestler, from a physical perspective, a mental perspective and how he has to train and prepare. It takes so much discipline to be a wrestler. I don’t care who you are, where you are or whatever you do. It’s an awesome sport.
Coming from the stable of Coach Peckinpaugh and New Castle wrestling, that’s a for real program and competitive. Were you a state finalist or a state chair?
In my senior year, I finished fourth, 189. I made it to the final four. It was right there in the hot. It was an awesome experience. Coach Peckinpaugh was a tremendous mentor of mine. When I was younger, he was an assistant football coach when my dad’s staff and they coach together. I know Coach Peckinpaugh since I was a little boy. Eventually, I wrestled for him. He’s one of my heroes and one of the guys that I look up to. He’s been such a great mentor for me.
He gave me the book called The Edge. It was a wrestling book. It was from a coach in St. Edward, Ohio. He wrote in the front of that. It’s sitting here in my office. He’s one of those guys that believed in me and helped shape me. I wouldn’t be here without men like him that come along and helped mold me as a young person and into the man that God allowed me to be. I appreciate Coach Peckinpaugh for all he’s done for me.
We are fortunate. We had Coach Jim Humphrey and Coach Tom Borelli. I don’t know if you know either of those or both of them. They’re unbelievable men. Let’s talk about the recruit first. Recruits are standing at the bridge. They want to bridge the gap from who they are to who they want to become, from where they are to where they want to be. When you look into the eyes, the soul and the heart of a recruit, do you measure attitude? Do you look for attitude? How does attitude show up in a young man that wants to come or that you want to come? How do you know when this is not going to be the right fit? I’d love to hear some examples of that.
It’s huge. Part of the challenge of recruiting is figuring out the attitude and character of a young man. That, to me, is going to be the difference. There’s a base level of talent that I believe you have to have to play in the Big Ten and we got to figure that out. There is a lot of measurables that you can use for that and you watch filming. It’s what’s on the inside. It’s what makes them who they are. We talk about grit a lot. How do you figure out if a young man has grit? That’s the one quality that we feel like we’re looking for. That’s going to allow them to be successful because adversity is going to come. It’s not if. It’s when.
You look in their past. How were they raised? What kind of home are they raised in? Have they had to overcome injuries? Do they play multiple sports? Are they put in positions where they have to compete in different environments rather than be training for one sport year-round? I want to see multisport guys. That means a lot. I believe that that the bottom line is you better do your homework. Those are things that don’t just show up when you watch a film for the first few times.
It’s about relationships. When you know these high school coaches and the people that are connected to these recruits so well, you start piecing it together. Is this the kind of a young man that’s going to fit? I tell this all the time. It’s about finding the fits. We got to find great fits for Indiana because it’s always about projecting. We’re developmental programs. We got to take a young man that’s a junior high school, maybe a sophomore high school and project.
What he’s going to look like in 2 to 3 years? What he’s going to look like physically and mentally? What kind of a young man is he going to be once he gets on our campus? To me, it’s not the guy that always has the most natural talent that’s going to end up being your best players in 3 to 4 years. It’s the kid that has character and grit.
The young men that have character and grit keep getting better every single year. They buy into the culture of your program. They buy into LEO. They care for the people around them. They do the little things right. They go to class. They go to the study tables that we have them go to. That’s not an option here. We don’t say, “You can go to class when you feel like it.” You’re going to class every time that class is in session, period. Whether the rest of the classes feel that way or not, that does not matter.
Here’s what we’re looking for, guys that are tough, smart and dependable, those three qualities. When I say smart, it’s not that you get straight As and you care about school. School is important to you. The toughness piece, you better find a kid that’s physically, mentally tough and dependable. That goes to the character and grit. Is he going to be able to fight through?Find people who want to be great and want to be pushed, not pulled. Click To Tweet
Here’s what I tell guys. “It’s going to get hard. There are going to be times when you’re going to feel like going home. There are going to be times when things don’t go your way. What are you going to do?” If I get a kid here that knows in his heart that this is where he’s supposed to be, that he prayed about this, we align with him, his family aligns with us and he knows this is where I’m supposed to be. When things get hard and they’re going to get hard, things are going to go against you and you’re going to stay and fight.
I feel like too many kids pick places for the wrong reason. When things go against them, they choose to go somewhere else or go in a different direction. That’s not what I want. I want guys that are here for the long haul. They’re going to roll their sleeves up, fight for the guys around them and in front of them and do everything they can to help us do something special here in Indiana.
That doesn’t just happen. You have to create the environment that pulls it out of them, but you have to identify the right guy who wants it. Here’s what I tell people all the time. I want to find guys that want to be great and pushed because if I have to pull you, that means you want to go that direction and I want to go that direction that’s opposite.
I will push, drive and motivate you every single day, but I can’t pull you. Part of our job is finding guys that want to be pushed, great, special and want to do things that had happened here in the last years. I want guys that come here with that edge about them and that mindset because that’s the only way it’s going to happen.
I feel it when you guys take the stage and when I watched you coach. I watch you guys and I love what you’re doing there. This has been a crazy world. Things have changed, coach. I’m going to go out on a limb here. There’s no wrong answer but I know you’re going to come up with it because you’re good. Let’s say there’s no high school football and no film to watch. Let’s say you don’t know who’s who.
You walk into a room. The only opportunity you have is to judge who you want to recruit because there is no film. You have the ability to ask a kid 2 or 3 questions. What I want to know is what would be the 2 or 3 questions you’d ask a kid you don’t know to figure out, “Is this a guy that I could put on my team?”
I would say, “Tell me the three most important things in your life.” I will find out right away what he values. That’s part of the fit. When we find a young man that fits and aligns with us, what he values matches up with what we value as a program, then there’s a great fit. The second thing I’ll say is, “Why do you love football?” I want to know why he loves this game because if you don’t love it, then it’s not going to matter when it gets hard. I don’t care how much talent you got. I don’t care what your 40 time is. I don’t care about all that other stuff. They don’t mean anything.
My guess is you’ve asked those two questions before. Let’s go to number one, three most important things. What is that? What are the buzz words? What are the keywords?
I want to hear something about family, their education and if they care about the kind of man that they become. All these answers can be in different pieces. A faith piece can be mixed into that. I talked to our players about this. Faith is believing in something bigger than yourself. I know what it is for me. I challenge our players all the time. “I want you to know what you believe and why you believe it.” I can’t tell them what to believe. I don’t want to tell them what to believe. I want to live my life based on principles that I believe are going to allow me to live the kind of life that, at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, I can look back on and feel good about how I live my life.
I’m not going to be perfect. I make mistakes. We all do, but I want to live my life by principles and values. I use the principles of God’s word to guide my life. I use the principles of his word to be a foundation for how we have built and run this program. I don’t tell guys they have to believe those same things but I will tell them, “You better have an anchor and a foundation. It better be on something that you’re able to stand upon because those storms are going to come. When they come, they’re going to sweep you right off of your feet. You’ll be able to get back up if you have a great base, great foundation and great belief system that you have for your life.”
That’s why what we teach them as a man is way more than what we teach them as a football player. That’s way more important. The football window is about this. The life window is where we live and where we’re going to be able to make impact that is lasting and has value. The thing that’s so awesome about what I do and that’s why I feel so blessed to coach is I can do something that I truly love and enjoy doing. At the same time, I can make an impact way beyond the game, way beyond the short window of time that I have with them. That’s a very rewarding and fulfilling thing. It gives me great purpose in my life.
I’m a very faithful person. Our number one assignment from God is to evangelize. I want to give you credit and I want to honor you because people know who you are. You are not afraid to talk about faith and that takes courage. It’s beautiful that you’re comfortable doing that. You do it in the right way. Whenever anybody mentions you, they always mention your faith, whether you know it or not and that’s pretty damn cool. I want to honor you for that. Let’s go to that second question. Why do you love football? What are some of the best answers you’ve had heard?
The best answer is I want to hear things like, “I love to compete. I love to play the game.” You want to hear that they love to hit people and they’re physical. If you don’t like the contact part of this game, you’re going to struggle to play here because that’s a huge part of what I believe. I don’t want to hear about themselves. It’s about the things that matter bigger than you. That’s what I want to hear about. That’s why I love the game so much because you can’t hide.
It’s the principle of the sower. You’re going to reap what you sow. That’s a biblical and life principle. It’s a principle of harvest. If you sow a bean seed, that’s what you’re going to reap. If you put corn, you’re going to reap corn. If you’re going to sow good habits, you’re going to reap those rewards for that. We tell our team that. If your daily habits don’t align with your future goals, then you better do something different. You better change what you’re doing on daily basis. You better adjust your goals because they’re not going to get you what you want. That whole reaping and sowing concept to me is what this is all about.
You can’t say, “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right.” Judgment day is coming. We’re going to know if you’ve been doing all of the physical things you’ve been telling you’ve been doing during the off season. During this time, we have some time away. We had to give them workouts to do. I would always say, “We’re going to find out. We’re going to know who has and who hasn’t real soon.” The same way on the field. The game-day shows who has and who hasn’t. The whole off-season gets revealed real fast. You can’t hide from that. That’s why I love the game because I feel like that that’s life.
Many people, unfortunately, can hide behind a little image on social media. You got to play the game. You can talk a big talk but eventually, you got to step up and let your production match what you’ve been saying. That’s why I think it’s a special game. It’s the greatest team game out there. I can’t imagine another sport.
We’re at 125 players on our team here. What sport has anywhere close to that number of guys? I don’t care how much you do as an individual. If your other guys don’t pull their weight and don’t do their job, if you don’t learn to trust in them, rely on them, work with them and develop great chemistry, it won’t matter. There are certain sports where one guy can take the whole thing over. That doesn’t happen in football, especially not the high levels. To me, the team nature of the sport teaches you so many great things. They’re going to help you become the man I believe you were created to be. I’m biased to it, for sure, but it’s a great teacher in life.
The greatest story on trust was from the great Bud Grant. I don’t know if you’ve heard this story where he’d set up cones every five yards and do a square. He’d tell his players before they’d condition, “Do not walk through my cones.” He’d immediately go up to the press box. They’ve conditioned the guys and put it all the way to the locker room. He’d sit there and watch the guys that walked through the cones. He said, “It’s the guys. I can tell who I can trust.” Coach wasn’t around. He purposely would leave and he’d find the guys that did it. I always thought that was cool. It’s what you do when people think you’re not watching, which is what you got.
Coach, we’re going to finish up this interview with Knowledge through The Decades. We’re going to walk you through your life. We’re going to take you back and ask you to remember a certain time of your life and what the attitude lesson is. We were all given life. We were all born the same, naked and not afraid. Coach, when you look at a newborn baby, when you think of your birth or the birth of your children, what is the attitude lesson? We talked about attitude. Our definition is it’s the way you dedicate yourself to the way you think, which is so much what you hit that nail on the head. What do you think the attitude lesson is of a newborn baby?
It’s the dependence they have on the parents to take care of them, show them, raise them, and train them as a young person and as you get older. You’re relying on others around you to help you get your life started the right way and get you moving in the direction that’s going to give you a chance to have success later in life.Faith is the belief in something bigger than yourself. Know what you believe and why you believe it. Click To Tweet
When we think of teamwork, so often, we think of success in bridging the gap. Many of us don’t focus. First of all, you’re the first person that’s ever said dependence. I wonder how much of a better team, a better company, better relationships would be if maybe we all became more vulnerable and said, “I need to start depending on the people around me.” Every day is a fight for survival, success, and independence, but when you said that, there may be real strength in dependence. Are there any thoughts on that?
There is. I believe so strongly that it’s always about the people that you’re with. We talk about it in recruiting. We can have all these facilities, but it’s about the people. That’s what makes a place special. A staff that you’re on. You’re only as good as the people around you. I depend on our coaches to do a tremendous job of building relationships and being the best at what they do. Studying, preparing, being great husbands and fathers and creating an environment that allows us to all grow together. We isolate things so much sometimes. We’re the best when we’re a unit, unified, trusting in and depending upon the people around us. To me, that’s trust. You learn to delegate and trust the people around you to do their job.
I want you to think about yourself as a ten-year-old. You’re in probably 3rd or 4th grade. I want you to think about either something that happened in your life or something you overcame. What was the attitude lesson of Coach Allen when he was a ten-year-old? What did you learn?
The first thing that comes to mind is I think of the word obedience. My dad was so big into we were going to obey. It’s what we were told to do. If we didn’t, there was accountability. I got my tail whopped a fair amount of times when I didn’t heed to that. I didn’t follow through and do what I was supposed to do. I love and respect him forward to this day.
Learn to obey. Do what you’re told to do. There are gaps in that sometimes in the young person’s development. It hurts them later in life. We all know those are sometimes painful lessons that we have to learn how to obey what we’re told to do. That’s a valuable and a very great quality to be known as a guy. If he’s told to do something, this guy does it. He can be counted upon. He can be trusted. That work keeps coming up. It comes and grows in different forms as you get older. When I was a young person, I had to learn to obey and do what I was told to do.
For our GAPers out there, those people that are reading, Coach says how much he loves and admires his father for the tough love. My question to those of you reading is, “Do you love your kids enough to be tough on them? Do you believe in yourself enough that they should obey what you’re saying?” These are the questions that the show hopefully brings to our audience.
It’s a self-reflection time because if you want to bridge the gap from who you are to who you want to become, you’re going to have to deliver tough love to your kids. Hopefully, you’ve been a product of tough love. It’s a great barometer of the next generation and the prior generation. You’re twenty. You’re a two-sport athlete in college. You’re starting to grow up, if you’re not grown up. Talk to me about what was it like being twenty. Do you remember your 20th or 21st birthday? What was the attitude lesson there?
It’s choices. You’re getting to the point where the decisions that you make in that window of time were going to define the rest of your life. I made decisions and choices at that point about my career, the path I was going to go professionally, who I was going to marry. I met my wife in college. We were both college athletes and students there at the same school. We started dating in our freshman year, got engaged before our senior year, and married right after graduating.
We left college, got married that summer and went to Florida to teach and coach. She was teaching math. I was teaching computers, coaching at football and wrestling. She was coaching volleyball and softball. Those choices that you have to make at that stage of your life are pretty defining. I’ve always talked to our team a lot about our choices and how those define who we become.
We’re a product of those consequences. Good or bad, we got to deal with those. What that time period to me was all about making quality decisions. We talk about mental toughness in our program. It’s the ability to make quality decisions over and over again. To me, those choices that you make at that stage of your life are very powerful in the rest of your life.
What’s your wife’s name?
We got to honor Tracy because she’s the best choice you made in your life.
Amen to that.
You guys started your life and you’re ten years into it. I’d love to know where you were coaching at 30. Do you remember being 30? What’s the attitude lesson when you got to that 30-year mark?
I was at Ben Davis High School. I was coaching there. Our kids were all young. They were just getting into school at that stage. We had three in diapers at one time. My wife is a trooper. She was a teacher. When the kids were young and they weren’t in school yet, she stayed at home with them. Once they all got into school, she went back and started teaching. We taught together at Ben David. I was getting my Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at that time. I was a defense coordinator at Ben Davis and went on to be the head coach there a few years after that.
When you think about that time period for us, it was a crazy time because the kids were so young. At that age, there are always lots going on. They’re into everything, but it’s such a fun time. It’s such a neat experience. We went on a run there at BD where we had a chance to win 3 out of 4 state championships in that window of time when I turned 30. I was able to learn from a guy like Coach Dullaghan, who was an amazing leader. He said something that never left me. “Conviction-driven leadership is based on a vision of perfection.”
I’ve used that as a driving force for everything that I do, football-wise, in terms of that vision of what you want to create in a program, in a scheme and in a family. When you see that, you know what it’s supposed to look like. You relentlessly pursue that until you get it the way it’s supposed to be. It’s being able to learn from a guy like him and the tremendous job that he did, building a football program and young men and trying to do things the right way in that regard. It’s a special time for us. I’ve always said this too. Every coach that I worked for, every college coach that hired me, I met when I was coaching at Ben Davis.
It’s a very critical professional opportunity for me with the decision to go to Ben Davis. I was there for nine years. A lot of those guys were assistants at other colleges. Everybody would come through and recruit at that school. That was a pretty pivotal time for me. When I did make the jump to college, I said, “It’s all about relationships. People hire those who they know and trust.” That was a springboard for me where God has brought me to this point.
For our GAPers, the other thing you said so compelling is that there are people in everyone’s life who can change their lives. How you show up matters. How you receive them, how they perceive you can matter. Let’s jump to 40. Where were you at 40? What was the attitude lesson from you being 40?
I was in the middle of my college journey. We had fifteen years of high school. We made the jump to college and it was a big deal. We left very secure. When you’re a high school coach, you’re not yet the ebb and flow of the college life and how that all can change so fast. One thing I’ve learned is when you go to college. You’re so dependent upon the head coach. What happens is if you are fortunate and you have success, he gets a new job oftentimes, either he takes it with you or he doesn’t or if they don’t win and you get fired, you then lose your job. You’re tied to that coach. It’s very critical.The choices that you make at the teenage stage of your life are the most important of your life. Click To Tweet
At that point, I would have been at Drake University. In between going, I spent a year at Wabash and two years at Lambuth University. I went to Drake University as a defense coordinator at the FCS level. I worked for Chris Creighton there, who’s the Head Coach of Eastern Michigan. He is phenomenal. He’s one of the best leadership guys I’ve ever been around. His attitude is off the charts. He’s so positive. He gets it and understands young people. I got the chance to be with him.
I’ll tell you what. It was a tough journey. We had opportunities there along the way and different things happened. Sometimes we had a chance to have success, but then we didn’t. The coach would go on and get another job. Even if he became a coordinator, I couldn’t go with him. We’re looking for another job. We had to learn to trust. The phrase of our life was learn to trust. We had to trust in the good Lord. We had to trust in the dream that I felt he had put in my heart. My wife had said this. She came to the point where my dream became their dream.
That was so critical because we lived in seven states in ten years. Talking about it was right in the middle of all that. We didn’t know what the future held. I didn’t know I was going to be at Ole Miss within two years of that year. At that time, I didn’t know I was going to move from there to South Florida as D coordinator and then back in Indiana as D coordinator a year after that. None of that was promised. We were pursuing it.
I took a huge pay cut to leave and go to the small college level. My wife’s job was what supported us. All along the way, she made more than I did at all those smaller places. Our incomes together allowed us to make it work. She sacrificed a lot. All those moves were hard. She was there. We were a team. We were already close but we got closer, our trust and dependence on the good Lord above for him guiding our future and directing us.
We didn’t know what tomorrow will hold was an unbelievable time. I needed that. I thought I wanted to go or I needed to go or could go from Ben Davis to the Big Ten. That’s what everybody would want to do. That’s what I wanted to do. God said, “No. I got some lessons you need to learn first.” He knew I needed Wabash, Lambuth and Drake. I needed those years to learn how to trust, to depend and not make it about me. To make it about trusting in Him for our future and not in me and what I can do in my own talent.
That was a valuable lesson to learn. Sometimes those lessons are hard lessons. We had to buy and sell a bunch of homes. I didn’t want our kids to live in apartments and feel temporary, even though they end up being temporary but I didn’t want them to feel that way. I wanted them to have some great experiences. They had to learn some tough lessons and it wasn’t easy on them either. We had to learn the word trust as a family and I had to learn individually during that time.
That’s a big attitude listening to that. That goes with maturity. It takes a mature person to trust but it sure sounds like Coach Tracy might be the best coach going on. I was fortunate to coach for the same high school for 25 years. I’ve always been told, “Glenn, it’s so beautiful. You did that for 25 years.” I said, “Let me tell you something. No one sacrificed more for that high school than my wife.” Here’s a shout-out. A lot of our readers are wives. I guarantee, we got plenty of coaches’ wives. God bless the coaches’ wives. I’m going to have to write a certain prayer for them.
We’re going to get to the here and now. The no place I’d rather be in the greatest time of our lives. You turned 50. We’re going to wrap this interview up. Number one, I’d love you to give a message to our GAPers. Give a message of hope. That person sitting there facing something in their life that’s not a football game. That could be a divorce, job transfer or bankruptcy. I’d love to hear a positive message. What’s your attitude lesson for here and now when you’re 50?
It’s all about mindset. Before there’s a reality, there’s a mentality. You got to believe in your heart. What you’re doing is something so much bigger than yourself. If you want to have passion in your life, you know your purpose and why you’re here. I tell our team this all the time. I’ll tell an adult this. “I don’t care how old you are. You chase and pursue the passions of your heart. You figure out what you’re passionate about. You say, ‘How can I get paid to do this?’ That’s going to create some absolute joy and peace in you of knowing that I am fulfilling what I was created to do.”
I don’t want to just punch in and punch out for my job. That’s a horrible way to live. I am such a big believer that when you chase the desires of your heart, the good Lord puts those there as long as there are things that make you and this place a better place that you’re going to be a part of. I’m not talking about just going out and doing the things that make it about me, but there are things you can do to fulfill. Usually, when you have that big passion, it involves people around you. That’s what makes it so powerful and meaningful.
Imagine at the end of the game where you have a huge victory and you’re in the locker room celebrating by yourself. There’s nothing greater in sport than a celebrated locker room. It’s such an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment. You’ve been a part of the teams that have won championships and maybe get a big win. If it was just you in there, that’s silly. We never do that, but sometimes we make this life about us too much. I challenge people to invest in the people around them. Love and care about the people around you. That adds so much value.
I learned a valuable lesson. John Maxwell talks about this principle. I’m a big reader of his, John Gordon and Mark Batterson. We all should read. That’s how we grow and learn. John Maxwell has The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I use that for our leadership council. One of those laws is called the Law of Addition. Within that chapter of the Law of Addition, he talks about that 90% of people in relationships either add value or take away from the others around us. We either add value to them or we take from them. We’re either givers or takers.
Those that add value to others around them, they do so intentionally, 9% on purpose. Those that take away from others, they do 90% of it unintentionally. We don’t mean to do it but we naturally do it. Why? It’s because we’re naturally selfish. We have to intentionally give and serve other people. That’s to me is why it’s such a big deal that you made as a choice. You choose to live that way. You choose to live a life thinking of other people.
That’s why when you’re a young person, you have to learn to share. I didn’t have to teach our kids how to be selfish with their toys. I had to teach them how to share their toys. That’s what the beauty of not being an only child because they had to learn that lesson. I had to learn that lesson as a kid. We had one bike that when I was younger, we all had to share that one bike. I remember it was a red swim bike that we all had to share when we were younger. That’s what we did.
That is a valuable challenge to everybody. I don’t care what age you are. For me, it’s about pursuing the passions of my heart. I don’t have to get myself jacked up to come to work every day because I love what I do. I feel so blessed to be the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers. This is where I’ve been called to be. It stays in my life. I feel so blessed to be in this position because I’m doing what I was created to do. I want that for everybody. I don’t care how old you are. You can always pursue that, whatever that may be and maybe something you do on the side in addition to what you do. Chase those passions that you have and make it about somebody else besides yourself.
Coach, you added to our audience and we appreciate it. The people will know this. You’re going to help somebody. Your words matter. Dependence, obedience, choices, trust and the mentality to pursue your passion, that is Coach Tom Allen’s knowledge through the decades. You’ve been a real blessing to us at the show. We’re so fortunate and thankful to have you with us. I’m sorry. I kept you over a little bit but you’re so good. I had to let it keep going. God bless you. Thank you so much, coach.
Lord bless you too, Glenn. Thanks for having me on your show and LEO.