I am pleased to learn that Jim Harbaugh is the University of Michigan’s 20th head football coach. With his hiring brings hope, high expectations, confidence about the future, plenty of excitement, stimulation and electricity. It was a wise choice to say the least. There is plenty of coaching DNA within the Harbaugh family.
Jim arrived to Ann Arbor in 1973 as a young child, about 10 years of age, which is a critical period of development, psychologically and emotionally. His father Jack was hired by Bo Schembechler to be a defensive backfield coach. By 1973, Bo’s transformation of excellence, and becoming part of the great Michigan football tradition was in place. Jim began thinking and dreaming (playing, having fun) of himself as a hero on the Gridiron at the Big House. Thus, sports, imagery of success in Ann Arbor was imprinted, at this time, on this young boy
Harbaugh played high school football, in Ann Arbor. His family moved to California, but Jim was recruited and returned to Ann Arbor In the early 80s. He was well acquainted with coaches Bo Schembechler, Jerry Hanlon and Gary Moeller, whom he met about 10 years earlier. From this solid foundation of coaching relationships, was added increased experiences of learning from these wonderful, personable, and caring mentors.
From especially Bo and others, Jim learned about the importance of team. He now realizes how important team cohesiveness is for a successful program. He knows that the team becomes like a band of brothers, that each cares for each other, plays for each other, in order for that the team to function as one. The offensive team has to be cohesive, the defensive unit must be cohesive and the cohesiveness of the special-teams unit is also required to increase the probability of victory. Jim also learned about the importance of practice, working out and its place in minimizing mistakes. Jim was well aware of the repetition that is required in practice, as well as the hard work required and needed in order to meet victory goals. Further, Jim learned about fairness, which is treating the players equally and not allowing individual egos to get in the way. There can be no prima donnas on the team.
Bo made it clear to his players that they could achieve more than they realized (re- framing thoughts), and it was his job to make them perform better (one can always get and perform better), which he did. Jim knows and learned this lesson well. Jim improved player performance at the University of San Diego, Stanford University, and with the San Francisco 49ers as their head coach. This suggests that Jim knows how to turn things around and can assemble a coaching staff that requires cohesiveness as well.
Jim also learned from his past player and coaching experiences, not to trash or speak negatively about the players previous coaches. At Jim’s first press conference in Ann Arbor he spoke highly of previous Michigan head coach Brady Hoke. Class was modeled for Jim and he demonstrated that he has learned this trait very well.
Thom Darden, Michigan All-American and All-Pro with the Cleveland Browns returned in 1975 to Ann Arbor to assist. Bo Schembechler, and Jack Harbaugh in implementing and teaching staff and players, the Pittsburgh Steelers Cover 2 defense. Were they successful, you bet your life.