"Last year, we messed around with this concept, but it didn't take off. What do you think about the offensive linemen having a white stripe on the back of our helmet like the American officers used on D-Day?"
This was a Whatsapp message I received from Max Evenhuis, a returning member of the Potsdam Royals who plays center. What struck me as unique about Max wanting to use an American military symbol from WWII is he is from the Netherlands.
More from Max - "I was thinking of something recently and wanted to get your opinion on it. In World War 2, just before D-Day, officers in the US Army put a white stripe on the back of their helmets. They did so, so their men could see who the leader was as they were leading from the front while storming those beaches! If the offensive line has a white stripe on the back of our helmet, we will be telling the running backs, 'follow us.' I know you are big on creating culture, so I wanted to get your thoughts. Thanks in advance!"
Holy cow, this message fired me up! Max and I had done a 1-1 zoom a few weeks prior, and I was pumped our relationship was strong enough for him to throw out an idea like this. Of course, I am big on creating a culture, and as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for the upcoming season, I had already been thinking about what we could use for an OL 'brand'. The white stripe idea was perfect. Not only did it accomplish a 'we are going to lead the way' mentality, but it was organic and came from a player!
But, I wonder if this will be ok with everyone on the team? We currently have players from sixteen different countries, but 60% of our roster is German. I wonder how they will feel about this?
The only way to find out would be to ask a German, so I set up a zoom with Bobby Sövegjarto. I have zoomed several times with individual players to begin creating a bond before arriving in Potsdam (I fly out Saturday, April 9). Bobby is one of our most veteran players, a 34-year old who has just joined the Royals this offseason. He has played his entire career w/ the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions. I knew he would be mature enough to give me honest feedback, so I asked him if he or any other German players would have an issue with us using an American symbol.
"Not at all, coach. I love the idea, and I don't believe any German player will have an issue with it."
Boom! We are off running and now with an offensive line identity!
I will take our Follow Us mentality a few steps further (I've received lots of help from ECMM guest John Weaver - see previous blog about his ELITE system).
We have our own WhatsApp group where we interact on football and non-football-related topics.
A 'Follow Me' patch each lineman will have an opportunity to earn after a game performance. I will have them on a backpack and award them in front of the team.
Now comes the challenging part. Creating some branding and symbols for group identity is one thing, but it is another to put it into play. We must now make this part of our daily communication, habits, and culture. If we are going to say we are the unit that will 'Geh voraus' (lead the way), we must be trusted to do so.
How will this make this happen and have an authentic brand and not one that is just signs on the wall, stickers on a helmet, and t-shirt branding?