Four Fs Are Path To Success For WVU’s Neal Brown
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons began his search for a football coach to replace Dana Holgorsen, he asked a lot of people for recommendations.
Apparently, the recommendation he took came from the Sugar Plum Fairy, for this guy Neal Brown, the 35th coach in WVU history, seems too good to be true.
After listening to him for half an hour as WVU stepped all over its own media and jumped a day ahead of his introductory press conference by putting him on a podcast on its own site, one reaches the conclusion that such legendary football coaches who once defined the profession such as Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes and Vince Lombardi are rolling over in their graves.
While this guy’s coaching record, 10 or more wins in each of the last three seasons at Troy screams out that he knows how to coach football and can bang heads with the best of them, his approach is more out of the black and white era of television sitcoms like “Father Knows Best.”
His approach is built upon four F’s, and we’re not talking about player’s grades at this point: faith, family, future and football.
“What we preach to our players is the foundation of everything we stand for and we always talk about being fourth. We talk about faith, your family, your future and football,” he said.
And he means it in that order.
“Everything that goes into being a football player should be fourth,” he said.
Family dominates everything with Neal Brown. He and his wife, Brooke, have three children, Adalyn, Anslee and Dax, and while most football coaches talk of spending 16 hours working on film and game plans, some even sleeping at the facility, Brown has built his life around the family.
“The most important thing for a leader is to practice what you preach,” he said. “Our players must understand, that first and foremost before I’m a coach, I’m a father and I have to live that every single day.
“There’s enough hours in the day to get everything done. My wife and I have made the commitment to adjust our schedules where Adalyn, Anslee and Dax remain the focus of our family.
“You can be a great father and a great football coach. It’s been done. There’s tons of examples,” Brown continued. “For me, personally, your quantity of time is not going to be as much as the guy with 9 to 5 job. It’s just not. But your quality of time can be.”
Brown goes out of his way to see to that he has quality time with the children and his wife.
“As I’ve grown in this role. I’m in my fifth year and you always grow. I’ve found a schedule and figure out how to do things. I know what time my kids are getting up. I decided to make early mornings hours,” he said.
“I have a home office and you can get a lot of quality work done in the morning and then you can be part of the process of getting them ready for school and taking them and dropping them off at school.
“That’s a great opportunity for conversations.”
Not only is his day built with quality time with his family on his mind, but his work week, too.
“We’ve staged our weeks so we get our late work at the front end. Therefore, Wednesday night is a time you can get home, Thursday night is a time you can get home… to me, starting the day with the kids or ending the day with them is critical opportunities,” he explained.
“We give our staffs Friday mornings on home games so they have time to spend with their families as well.”
Brown also looks upon his team and his staff as a family and has a thoroughly unconventional approach there.
“We do some fun things for our staff,” he explained. “There’s going to be a lot of kids when the staff is in place.
“What we do on Sunday nights is a family victory dinner. That’s a dinner just for the families… our sport staffs, coaches, kids. Every game we win we do a dinner. I think it’s good for our kids to understand that winning means something.
“Victory you should celebrate.”
And that’s only the start of it.
“On Tuesday nights after practice is a family dinner and I think that’s important. It’s with the entire team, with all the families. I believe our players are watching everything we are doing and it’s important for them to see the coaches who are working with them day in and day out are not only a coach but a person with kids.
“There’s so many unscripted things that happen when you have small kids. And they see them as a husband. When they see the coaches in those situations it makes them more human. They come to understand they are vulnerable, they make mistakes. They aren’t just coach… they have a greater purpose.”
And on game day… no, no, the wives and kids aren’t on the sidelines signaling in plays, but ….
“Saturday, the box we have is almost like a day care. We keep toys in there and it’s fun,” Brown said. “That’s one of the things we sell to assistant coaches. ‘Hey, you come here and you are still going to be able to be a father. Your family is going to welcome in the office. Your family is going to be welcome in the box,” he said.
“That’s not the way it is everywhere.”
And, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak.
“We have a rule with our players that at team dinners or breakfast… any time there is meal that is required there’s no cell phones allowed. My wife will hold me to the same standard at home,” Brown said.
“She’ll say, ‘This is family time. Put the cell phone in your pocket.’”