Ohio State football: Leadership class even has Meyer taking notes

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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M. Spencer Green | Associated Press
Urban Meyer believes that leadership was the key component to an undefeated season in 2012.

CHICAGO — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said that he spends most of his waking hours thinking about it.

The success of the 2012 team was driven, he firmly believes, by leadership more than talent. Meyer never tires of talking about the example set by seniors such as John Simon and Zach Boren. But those players are gone, and Meyer has been consumed with figuring out how to fill that leadership void.

He feels much better about it now than he did immediately after last season, thanks in part to a leadership class he started in the offseason. That class got a big boost, Meyer said, after a chance meeting during a fundraiser at his house.

There, Meyer met Tim Kight, a pastor with a master’s in scripture and also a corporate-leadership expert. For the next two hours, Meyer and Kight sat and talked. The next day, Meyer had Kight come in and talk to him and strength coach Mickey Marotti.

“Ever since, he’s been involved in my program,” Meyer said yesterday at Big Ten media days.

Every Tuesday, Kight and his son Brian help conduct a leadership training class for Buckeyes players Meyer wants to develop as leaders. It started with 19 players and has grown by a few more.

“At first, it threw us all for a loop just because we didn’t know exactly what it would be,” safety Christian Bryant said. “But now it’s pretty good. We’re learning a lot of new leadership skills and talking to some leadership gurus.”

There’s even a leadership formula: E (event) + R (response) = O (outcome). Meyer and quarterback Braxton Miller wore rubber scarlet-and-gray bracelets yesterday bearing that formula.

“You can’t control the event,” Meyer explained. “You can’t control the outcome. But what you can control as the leader is your response. Your response as the leader is other people’s ‘E.’ ”

He described a scenario in which a defensive leader reacts poorly after a bad play by pouting or blaming others. That response has a negative effect on his teammates. If he responds the right way — by encouraging teammates and resolving to fix the problem — that changes the “E” in the right way.

But leadership goes beyond reactions to adversity on the field. Offensive tackle Jack Mewhort said that the weekly class has helped the team’s leaders maintain a sense of urgency.

“We’ve been through a lot of different phases,” he said. “One day, we talked about if you feel yourself going on autopilot and not making purposeful decisions, there’s a thing we talk about called press pause — stopping and evaluating and putting yourself on a purposeful path.

“You can either live above the line or below the line. Above the line is purposeful. Below the line is impulsive.”

Brian Kight said that there’s a learning curve but that the players are working hard at turning buzzwords into real change.

“Each of the guys has been forced to confront just how hard real leadership is,” he said. “They are embracing the challenge of leadership. We see it in workouts. We see it when we meet with them individually each week. We see it in the way they talk to each other and hold each other accountable.”

The most engaged student might be Meyer himself.

“It has been one of the most profound experiences I’ve been around as far as teaching these guys a systematic approach to teaching leadership, which we’ve always tried to teach,” Meyer said. “I’m 49 years old, and I’ve learned more from those leadership classes than the players.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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