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The Oregon Model



There was an article in the New York Times last year about Chip Kelly and Wiz Khalifa and being the fastest offense in America that I’ve probably read three or four times and sent to a few dozen people. I was obsessed with this article, but not because of the shiny unis or the crazy rapper. I was obsessed because the practice model implemented by Chip Kelly is so countercultural to the norm that most coaches can’t even believe it.

Oregon practices in the morning before its players attend class, and the sessions are brief — usually an hour and 50 minutes, and sometimes less. The music blares from start to finish, and you see players during their short rest periods busting out dance moves.

WARNING: Uncle Rico-like “back when we won state” comment coming below…

When I played baseball in college I used to detest practices. They would last three and half hours and we would do no more work (in fact, sometimes less) than we got done in an hour and a half during high school. I’m the biggest believer of having fast, short, fun practices of any college football blogger on the internet. I promise.

I fell in love with Chip Kelly because of the way he ran his sessions.

Enter Chip Kelly midwest: Mike Gundy.

If you’ve ever had a job where when you got up, you were dreading getting to the office because of the boss or your environment or you didn’t like it, it’s not very fun. Your production level’s going to go down, I don’t care who you are

This is in reference to the fact that the head ball coach for the Cowboys has cut down practice time to four and a half hours. A week.

On Gundy, Jeff Latzke writes:

He has even incorporated music and occasionally humorous skits into practice to keep the atmosphere lively.

Does this sound familiar?!

Gundy goes on:

We do the best we can to make sure our players are having fun, so their mental approach is they look forward to coming over and being in the offices with us, they look forward to being in meetings, they look forward to being in practice because they know they’re going to have fun.

As a former athlete I can’t begin to tell you how important this is to players. To have a coach who understands that practices can be enjoyable and sometimes even more competitive versions of games is to have the biggest ally on campus.

It hasn’t always been like this though. Todd Monken notes it was much different during the Les era:

I’d like to practice like Les did. I’d like to be out there about five hours. But that’s not realistic.

This has to be the most underrated storyline I’ve read all year. And it’s one more bullet in the holster for Gundy who, as Htownpoke pointed out in the comments section yesterday, doesn’t have the depth an LSU or an Alabama or an OU has. He needs to keep guys healthy and motivated and his decision to not hit in fall ball coupled with his wise choice to cut the fat out of weekly practices tells me he gets it.

He understands how all of this works. He is secure enough in his job to take some minor chances like this. I bet if he was going 6-6 people wouldn’t say “oh this is cool, he’s countercultural!” No, he’d be getting axed. He trusts in his methods though and he trusts his players. You have to when your weekly practice time isn’t even as long as a Miguel Cabrera brunch session.

Here’s the full AP story.

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