Ohio State’s Ryan Day to high school coaches: ‘Tough love’ the key to success for Buckeyes

What’s it take to be a great coach? Ohio State football coach Ryan Day weighed in Friday.

Addressing an overflow opening session on the second day of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Clinic, Day dropped a powerful presentation at the Easton Hilton in Columbus. A record 2,200-plus coaches registered for the annual three-day clinic this year.

“We call our philosophy at Ohio State tough love,” Day said. “Tough, because you have to be really tough in this game. You have to be physically tough, mentally tough and emotionally tough. But it’s about love. Love is what drives. Love sustains.

“(As coaches) we have to create that love. We talk about this all the time. You have to love your players. Motivating through fear is not the way we do it. I don’t think that’s really sustainable anymore. With this generation now it’s about love and if they know you love them, they’ll do anything for you. That’s the way our program is built.”

The model works.

And its one Day – coming off a 13-1 finish and Big Ten title in his first season as a head coach – has refined over years of experience.

“There are a lot of average and good coaches out there, but there aren’t a lot of great coaches,” Day said. “How do you become a great doctor? How do you become a great lawyer? You go to school, you get a major, you gets doctorates. What about coaching? Where do you get your degree in coaching? Does it exist? How do you learn to be a great coach? You learn through apprenticeship. You learn be being a mentor. And I believe it’s our job to leave a legacy behind as coaches.”

Day has been influenced by several legacy-leavers – most notably UCLA head coach Chip Kelly (whom he played under at the University of New Hampshire and coached with at the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers) and former OSU head coach Urban Meyer.

Day, however, named another as having a huge impact on his professional outcome: Dana Bible. Bible, a St. Xavier High School and University of Cincinnati graduate, was the offensive coordinator at Boston College during Day’s stint there as the quarterback graduate assistant.

“Every single day I learned for three years what it means to be a real coach, what it means to be a man, what it means to be a father and what it means to be a husband,” Day said. “Without that experience, I don’t think I’d have the opportunities I have today. I think it’s very tough as young coaches to learn to be a great coach.”

The OHSFCA clinic provides an opportunity for coaches to receive instruction, education and fellowship. Speakers this year included Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck, Indiana head coach Tom Allen, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and recently named OSU co-defensive coordinator Kerry Combs.

Day’s also done his part to provide opportunities to Ohio coaches. His open door policy during spring practice is an invite to all high school coaches (head or assistant) to attend Buckeye practices and “learn football, sit in meetings, watch practice, watch film.” He even tempted them with the ability to “jump into the drills if you want.”

“That open door policy means everything to us,” Day said. “48% of our roster right now is from the state of Ohio. We’re going to keep working as hard as we can on football here and providing everything we can for (Ohio coaches) to make this state as great as it has been. We have some of the best teams, players and coaches in the entire nation.

“The state of Ohio is everything to us. We understand at the university that we’re the identity and lifeblood of the entre state.”