AFCA 2013 Notes: Jimbo Fisher on Creating a Positive Atmosphere and Player Accountability

Jimbo Fisher has had the weight of the world on his shoulders the past few months. Besides the obvious stress of following in the footsteps of a legend (which Bill O’Brien can tell you is never easy), the longtime Saban and Bowden assistant had to deal with a firestorm of legal trouble surrounding his true-freshman, Heisman winning quarterback. Through it all, he hasn’t allowed his players to become distracted and take their eyes off of their ultimate goal. Or, if you ask him, and read some of the things he had to say last year in Nashville, it was the leaders on the team who didn’t allow their team mates to become distracted.

Tonight is Florida State’s first BCS Championship appearance since Fisher took the reigns from one of the all-time greats in Bobby Bowden. To hear him tell the story of his program’s success this season, you’d think his team is the underdog, as he’s tried everything he can to keep his team from falling victim to apathy during practice the past week.

Fisher is a Saban disciple, so it’s no surprise that he believes in a lot of the same principles as the man leading the Crimson Tide. However, as all great coaches do, he puts his own personality on things, and allows his players a great deal of freedom- provided of course, that they produce on Saturdays. Read on to learn what kinds of things Jimbo Fisher does to make his teams believe in one another, especially when dealing with kids who’ve never had a great deal of confidence in anyone, least of all themselves.

(NOTE: These quotes and highlights are not in chronological order from the presentation, but I decided to group them together based on the topic being discussed at the time)

General Session

Jimbo Fisher – HC Florida State

– There are three seasons of coaching: Recruiting, Player Development, and Coaching

– “Your football team has a one-year life expectancy. We have to develop its attitude, character, very quickly. The most fun teams are the ones who develop team chemistry off the field.”


People say you don’t change, that’s partially right. The things you stand for never change, but the way you do business day-to-day has to keep changing. Ask anyone in the business world if they still do business the same way they did ten years ago.”

– Kids today have a sense of entitlement, a ‘Me-First’ attitude. Take the ‘me’ guys and turn them into ‘we’ guys, develop this attitude in the offseason.

– No matter what you do, or how much you achieve, you can NEVER arrive. Kids today don’t understand that.

Create an Atmosphere Conducive to Success

– At the end of the day, it’s all about infrastructure and what you do on a daily basis. As they develop, how does it help the players as they go?

– The more people you can get to interact with your program that you trust to get your message across, the better the kids will absorb it. “If everyone who comes into contact with your kids doesn’t have the same mentality, you’ll lose em.”

– Communication and honesty – “I’ve never promised a player he’ll play or he’ll start.” They have too many people telling them what they want to hear (Friends, girlfriends), we as coaches have to be different.

– The definition of success is consistent performance at a higher level over a long period of time.

– You have what they want most, playing time on the football field.


We are here for them, they’re not here for us. We wouldn’t have a coaching career if it weren’t for the kids.”

– Recruiting pitch: “When you leave Florida State, I want you to have two abilities: Accountability and Dependability.” Education is not as important as these two qualities. Education is a very opportunistic thing, not everyone has the chance to go to school, but everyone has the opportunity to develop accountability and dependability.

Motivation and Creating Confidence

– Most kids don’t feel they have control over their own lives, which is why they make the decisions they do. They don’t understand the power of decision making. Most decisions they make are based on the next five minutes. Teach them to make a decision based on the next day, next week, next month, etc. It’s a process.

– Meet with every player every semester. Let’s them know where they stand.

– Most coaches don’t reinforce the positive, in turn, we don’t give them confidence.

– When a kid starts to have success in the classroom and as a person, his confidence grows. When a player’s had success in things he’d never thought he’d have success in, now he has trust in you, now you can coach him. “It’s amazing how unconfident how most guys are in themselves.” Just because a kid is loud and seems cocky, doesn’t mean he actually believes in himself. Most kids underestimate themselves. When a kid can’t learn and he can’t get confident, you’ll demoralize them. If you haven’t given them every chance to succeed, you’ve failed them.


Talent wins you games, character wins you championships.”

Creating Accountability

– Philosophy on rules: Don’t give em a bunch of rules, they can’t remember them all anyway.

– The rules are simple: Don’t embarrass yourself, don’t embarrass this team, don’t embarrass this university.

– Create accountability anyway you can. What are you doing to reinforce it everyday?

Player Discipline – Handled by the players – Called the “Unity Council”

– At FSU they use a point system for player behavior. Late to class = ½ point, missing a class = 1 point. 3 points and he sees his position coach, 6 points and it becomes a problem, he sees the Unity Council.

– The Unity Council is made up of guys that reinforce the core values of your organization. Meet every Thursday. The greatest pressure kids face is peer pressure. It’s much harder to lie to your teammates about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing, because they’re with you all the time. When meeting with the Unity Council, it’s just the players on the council, the player being disciplined, and an assistant strength coach who reads off the rules the player has broken. The player then has to sit there and explain why he is in trouble, and what happened. You have to empower players, they play a huge role in developing players. They set the punishments. After nine points, they see the HC, it’s an automatic suspension.

– Since he took over as a HC, he’s never had to suspend a player, though some have gotten close.

Jimbo Fisher

Until your players are accountable to each other, you don’t have a team.”

– “What are you going to do to reach the goals you’ve set?” Teach them to set short term goals. Get them to focus on the process. “What am I gonna do daily to make this happen?” When they do well, brag on them, don’t just punish them.

– They drug test guys 10-20 per week randomly. Everybody gets their ‘one time’. Shows the players that you’re not trying to ‘catch’ them, trying to help them. 3 strike policy. If they don’t wanna get help, you don’t wanna have them on your team.

– Every player coming in meets with a sports psychologist. Coaches see them too, getting them to buy in. They get a profile on the kid, find out what makes them tick. “Why waste a year trying to figure out what makes them tick if you don’t have to?”

– “You’re never a great player until you affect the guys on your team in a positive way on a day-to-day basis.”

– During weight training, they try never to train in groups larger than 14-18 at a time, allows for more individual attention. This is harder on strength coaches, but better for the kids.

– During offseason conditioning, don’t be content with the status quo, don’t always keep doing the same things you’ve been doing. Give your kids something different to do, it doesn’t matter what it is, so they can feel like they’re doing something different than their opponents. Gives the kid confidence in the coach, and they will play harder for you.


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