PROGRAM SYSTEMS FOR SUCCESS Part 2 – Earn Everything Every Day


Welcome back to The Culture Factory and part two of a five-part series on program systems for success.  One of our pillars at North Forney is we are going to make them EARN EVERYTHING EVERY DAY as much as possible.  I’m sure this goes without saying, but our young people are given more to them than any other generation in history.  If you want your team culture to be tough, blue-collar, gritty, etc. then you better be intentional about having them earn everything you give them.

Let’s GO.

The Little Boy and the Caterpillar

A third-grade boy is walking home from school one day and finds a caterpillar on the sidewalk.  He decides to take it home and put it in a jar so he can watch it turn into a butterfly.  After a few days, the change begins to happen, but progress is slow.  The caterpillar is sluggishly making the transformation and is struggling mightily.  It appeared to have stopped making progress and seemed to have gotten as far as it could on its own.  The young boy takes matters into his own hands and uses an Exacto knife to make a tiny slit to help the wings break through the membrane.  Yes! Now the butterfly comes out, flutters around a little but doesn’t fly.  Confused, the boy asks his science teacher the next day if he can help him figure out why the butterfly won’t fly.  The teacher asks him to explain the entire story and when you boy gets to the part about the Exacto knife the teacher stops him and says, “oh no.  This is the problem.  When you helped the butterfly get its wings out that doomed it.  The struggle is what makes the muscles of the wings strong enough for them to get the butterfly airborne.  The butterfly has to EARN his ability to fly.”

Anytime you give a man something he doesn’t earn, you cheapen him.  Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.   

Woody Hayes, Head Football Coach Ohio State University (1951-78)

Our culture at North Forney is built on a few foundational pillars; unconventional, relationships, toughness, leadership development and earn everything.   We will discuss all of these in The Culture Factory eventually, but today the emphasis is on the importance of having your athletes EARN EVERYTHING and our system we use to achieve it.




1. ALPHA GROUP – We have three groups for our offseason workouts; Alpha, 2 and 3.  ‘Alpha’ is the group all athletes strive to be in.  It is the group we put our hardest workers, best leaders, and more dependable athletes, but no one just gets to just stay with the alphas.   Our groups are fluid, each day before the workout begins our coaches announce who has earned the right to move up a group or who is being held accountable for a transgression (late to workout, bad email, etc.) and is going down a group.


2. EARN THEIR LOCKER IN THE ELITE LOCKER ROOM – When our season is over and we begin offseason all athletes are moved out of the varsity locker room and into our freshmen/junior varsity locker room.  They are also given a white t-shirt with a large ‘?’ on the front which means, “we don’t know about you-you have to prove yourself to us.”  After eights weeks we survey the team and they vote for two guys who are then allowed to compete to get into locker #1.

What they must do to earn their locker:

a. know everyone’s name

b. say our core values and creed

c. win two of three ‘combative’ competitions

– sock wrestle          – football score          – battle ball

No one is allowed to compete to earn their way into the elite locker room without being invited.  The first two guys are voted on, but afterward, I will ask the ones who have qualified and we will decide who is the next two who are allowed to compete to earn their way in.  The next qualifier will get locker #2 and so forth.


3. EARN THEIR SHOWER AFTER WORKOUT – Each day we finish the workout with one last drill.  It is called overtime and it is a one vs. one competition that varies, but it is almost always what we call a ‘combative’ which means it is a physical contest with a wrestling type characteristic.   Each athlete is paired up with someone who is of similar size and ability.  The winner goes to shower and the loser finds someone else to attempt the drill again.  When you win you go in, but until you do you stay and compete.  Like most locker rooms we have lots more athletes than we have shower heads so it is advantageous to be able to get in first.


4. EARN THE RIGHT TO BE A MEMBER OF THE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL – We have a voluntary book study once a week in the spring.  All athletes who attend are then eligible to apply to be on our 12 member council.  Last year we studied Josh Medcalf’s Chop Wood Carry Water.  This spring we are going to break down Jon Gordon’s Hard Hat.  Our sessions last between 45 minutes and an hour.  This is some of the best time you will spend with your guys.  Every so often we meet at a restaurant and eat while we discuss a chapter.  Great stuff!


5. EARN THEIR HELMET DECALS – in the fall all our of guys must be able to recite our core values and creed (core values defined that I have mentioned before in The Factory).   Every year we have one or two guys who say the creed the day before the first game.  I always say, “please be the first one without your decal so I can use you as an example for the next ten years!”  The first 10 to 12 guys recite the creed in front of the entire team, but eventually we allow them to do it with their unit group.


6. EARN THE RIGHT TO BE A COIN TOSS CAPTAIN – At North Forney, we do not just pick four guys to represent us at the coin toss.  We have our guys vote on who were our core value winners for the week.  Sometimes our leadership council votes and sometimes our entire team does this.  For example: ‘Juice’ – who brought the most juice to our team this week?   We have also at times allowed one scout team member (who plays on our junior varsity) to be elected as a ‘family’ core value representative for serving unselfishly.

*At our football banquet, we do not give out awards based on an ability like “Offensive MVP”, “Leading tackler”, etc.  Our players and coaches vote on core value winners for the year and for four team captains.  We will always celebrate our servants, hardest workers, and team players.


None of these ‘earn it’ strategies are amazingly hard to do, but all of them will help instill a “Work For It” mentality with your team.  You can get whatever culture you want as long as you are intentional and they earn it.  Just like the butterfly we all have to earn the right.  I’m sure everyone reading this has a great example of something you have your group earn.  Please share it in the comments or on the Culture Defeats Strategy facebook page.  Thanks again for reading TCF!!!


“I don’t have favorites.  If I favor one then I wouldn’t be favoring the other 52.  I give everybody what they earn.”   Bill Belichick 
“You earn your leadership every day.”  Michael Jordan
“Everybody pities the weak.  Jealousy you have to earn.”  A. Swarzenneger


I am a proud 28-year veteran coach and educator and am the head football coach and campus coordinator at North Forney High School in Forney, TX.  NF is a 5A school with 1,600 students that was opened in 2009.  This past season we finished 10-3, the best record in the history of the school. We achieved a few milestones; defeating three teams they had never beaten, avg. 53 points a game (top 10 in 5A Texas history), won first 5A playoff game and advanced to the third round for the first time.  None of this would have happened w/o great players, coaches, and administration support.  But, it also would not have happened if we would not have changed the culture, a holistic approach and a commitment to the mental game.
I will share some of the things we did this season, but am also excited to learn from you out there who are also on this journey.  The bottom line for me is I love coaches and believe in our great profession.  I want to contribute and writing CDS has allowed me to do in a small way.  This newsletter will also, but I hope will connect like-minded leaders.  I plan to learn as much as I give by doing this.

6 thoughts on “PROGRAM SYSTEMS FOR SUCCESS Part 2 – Earn Everything Every Day”

  1. Coach Jackson thank you for your time and effort putting this together not only has it helped with the program but also how I reflect on the coach I am.

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