This paper examines the incentive-based system of Urban Meyer, head football coach at The Ohio State University. Personal discussions with this coach and members of his football staff took place following a review of his methods as described in biographical and media reports, and were compared with the approaches used by other successful coaches as documented in coaching research. Meyer has created clear guidelines and expectations for behaviors that players must consistently display to be recognized as successful team members and leaders. He also has developed a comprehensive set of processes to promote the development and adherence to those desired behaviors. This examination of Meyer’s approach focuses on the connection between the three levels (Blue, Red and Gold) of his incentive-based system and the three phases of a rite of passage (separation, transformation, and reincorporation) associated with them. The system rewards more grownup behaviors with greater status and privileges befitting the increasingly mature individual. A case is made that coaches can employ such a rites of passage framework as part of a comprehensive philosophy about turning boys into men, thus encouraging successful outcomes both on and off the field.
Stephen Gavazzi is a professor of Human Development and Family Science and is Dean/Director of The Ohio State University at Mansfield campus. His research focuses on how families influence the development and well-being of children and adolescents.