Aug. 13, 2014
Rob Sgarlata Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVFEzG6PSnQWASHINGTON - When Rob Sgarlata was named the head coach of the Georgetown University football program in February he wasted little time in communicating the values that he found most important in building the program his way. He established the team's mantra with three phrases; "Sisu," "Four for 40," and "Men for Others." Each aspect has been on full display during the Hoyas first week of training camp.
In the process, he has also brought in several guests to help the team visualize those three concepts, including former Hoya defensive back Marques Lucas, the co-founder of the Ward Five Warriors, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and Georgetown Board Chairman and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
"I believe that you win with people and our preseason camp is a great example of that sentiment," Sgarlata said. "Georgetown is a truly special place a direct result of the individuals associated with the University. I constantly tell our players that many people are very interested in them and our program. We were honored to have Marques Lucas, Rodney Slater and Paul Tagliabue visit with our team this week."
On Monday, Lucas, and his Ward Five Warriors under-11 football team attended practice. The Ward Five Warriors is a non-profit program designed to empower D.C. area youth through mentoring and athletics, particularly football and basketball. Lucas brought his team along to encourage them, through the Hoyas' example, of the benefits of working hard on the field and in the classroom. Many of the Hoya student-athletes took time out to speak with the youth football players on the sidelines and some of the kids helped out in special teams drills. Lucas volunteers countless hours per week with the Warriors on top of a full-time job and serves as a prime example of the Jesuit tradition of being "A Man for Others."
"It was awesome to see Marques, a Georgetown football alum interact with his Ward Five Warriors," Sgarlata said. "He is a great teacher and leads by example by volunteering his time to give back to the community."
On Friday, Slater, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation under Bill Clinton, attended practice and spoke with the team about continuing to commit themselves to the community. Slater, talked to the Hoyas about cherishing the opportunities they have as student-athletes, and using that platform to make their surroundings better, particularly by setting a good example for the area's youth. Slater, who helped bring Major League Baseball to Washington, D.C., urged the Hoyas to get more involved specifically with the Nationals Youth Academy.
Sgarlata welcomed current Georgetown Board Chairman and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to practice on Saturday morning. Tagliabue, a basketball team captain and 1962 graduate from Georgetown, stressed the importance of the four years at Georgetown helping set up the next 40 years of life. Tagliabue talked about his own collegiate experience and its importance in building his successful career. He shared stories of his time with the NFL with the moral of his stories to always, "Listen, Learn and Lead," three principles that fit well with what Sgarlata and the Hoyas coaching staff will continue to use as the Georgetown football team moves forward.
"It is not every day that you have a former Secretary of Transportation and the former NFL Commissioner address your team," Sgarlata said. "I am truly grateful to Mr. Slater and Mr. Tagliabue for taking the time to share their insights with our players. I want our players to be exposed to as many successful people as they can. I believe by hearing about these people's journey, they will learn what it takes to achieve their goals."
On the field throughout the first week, the focus has been on the Finnish term, "Sisu." The term loosely translates into determination, bravery and resilience in the face of adversity. Adopted by the Hoyas from the program's all-time sacks leader Janne Kouri, who has not allowed a paralyzing accident in 2006 to slow him down, Sgarlata uses the term to push his student-athletes through the difficult first week of camp. While Kouri turned the tragedy into a nationwide movement, Sgarlata hopes instilling the same kind of mental toughness will prove important with the team's challenging 2014 schedule and beyond.
"My father worked for IBM for over 30 years and is a very logical person," Sgarlata said. "He taught me the importance of building a solid foundation whenever I encountered a challenge. Our staff constantly talks about the importance of teaching our players the right way to do things. This applies to every aspect of the program. Mental toughness is not something that can be turned on the week before the Wagner game."