Mark Richt
Photo by Ken Rada (kenrada.com)

2nd Annual Youth Character Development Speaker Event

Mark Richt, head football coach at the University of Georgia, captured the attention of Atlanta parents, teachers, coaches and students with his inspiring lecture on character development at Holy Innocents Episcopal School on May 22nd. Recalling his adolescent and young adult years growing up in the world of football, Coach Richt underscored the importance of developing and maintaining a set of values in order to be successful in life.

Taking the lectern after being introduced by former UGA star offensive lineman Bartley Miller, Coach Richt gave an engaging account of his life in the world of football and his early influences–including his dad and Coach Bowden from Florida State.

Coach Richt underscored the importance of developing and maintaining a set of values in order to be successful in life.

Richt told the story of how since he was a boy, he had wanted to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He had athletic ability and a strong motivation to succeed; however, through a series of circumstances and coincidences, he was constantly thwarted from that goal. First he went up against Jim Kelly at the University of Miami; then in Denver he ran into another strong competitor, John Elway. Continuing the pursuit of his goal, Richt pursued a career with the Miami Dolphins and found himself face to face with Dan Marino. Through all these trials and tribulations, Richt never gave up. The man who finally inspired him to go into coaching was Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, who Richt said personified a man of true character.

Richt’s philosophy of coaching is this:

  1. handle all responsibilities with excellence
  2. hire good men and give them authority along with responsibility
  3. dedicate yourself to assisting players in reaching their full potential—in the classroom, on the field and in society

Coach Richt underscored how important it is for coaches to help athletes develop more than just their bodies—in fact, in Richt’s opinion, the number one thing is to encourage the development of a person’s spiritual life. He remarked how this spiritual journey is by its very nature a voluntary commitment, but one that is supremely important to a person’s success. The mind and the body are critical parts of the plan too, but in the end they take a back seat to spirit.

Coach Bobby Bowden was one of Richt’s earliest mentors. Bowden taught Richt three things about coaching and sports:

  1. Team loyalty
  2. If you can’t take criticism get out of coaching
  3. You can’t break the rules just because its convenient.

Richt decided he would live by these rules in addition to one other: put your faith in God. Through following this philosophy, Richt has made it to the top of his profession. He believes that everyone can achieve great things if they decide to follow a path of good character and commit themselves to a higher power.

Other highlights of the evening included a rousing rendition of the national anthem by Holy Innocents Episcopal 9th grader Sara Eckman and an outdoor barbecue cook out provided by Jocks and Jills of Atlanta.

Coach Richt’s parting advice to the audience was this: Be a great example of what you’re trying to teach. The true test of character is what we do when no one is watching.