Will to win
Charlotte 49ers football embarks on season of energy and new traditions under first-year head coach Will Healy
Charlotte 49ers football embarks on a season of energy and new traditions under first-year head coach Will Healy
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Dancing at practice is encouraged, rather than considered a lack of discipline.
Celebrating success is expected, not regarded as showboating.
After-practice hugging is deemed a show of strength, not weakness.
As first-year head coach Will Healy says time and again, “It’s about energy, enthusiasm, passion and positivity.”
As a rookie head coach, Healy turned around Austin Peay University’s football program and led the team to postseason success in just two years. Healy, now 34, believes in:
• Welcoming fans to practice—even though many say it’s distracting—because building relationships is as important as winning games.
• Hiring friends who know how to win—even though some caution against doing so—because successful allies strengthen the program.
• Including family in practice, at meetings and around the office—even though he’s heard that coaching means sacrificing family time—because family comes first.
“When you have passion, energy and enthusiasm, and add positivity, you don’t even realize how hard you’re working,” Healy said. “You work 365 days for 12 guaranteed opportunities; why do it if you can’t enjoy the other 353? For me, the definition of fun is executing at a high level and winning football games. Getting there requires a lot of work; making people want to be a part of it will help us be successful.”
So, players rock, jump and holler at practice. They dance and celebrate—and give one another alley-oop passes after turnovers, slamming the football into an aluminum “dunk can.” They chase each other into the end zone after touchdowns.
“It’s exciting and brings a lot of energy—something to look forward to during practice,” said senior safety Ben DeLuca of the dunk can. “Celebrating with your teammates gives you an extra push to make turnovers.”
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Positive energy at practice provides motivation, which can yield positive results. But is it necessary for large numbers of fans to be present, getting close enough to reach out and touch the action?
“Relationships matter; it’s important for fans to put faces with names and meet the incredible young men on this team,” said Healy. “Once they meet the 49ers, they’ll be pulling for us. They’ll want to spend game day here rather than anywhere else—and keep coming back. Creating a great home field environment, giving people an unforgettable experience and extending our fan base are all important.”
This spring, appropriately on 4/9, Healy rolled out Young Alum Season Ticket Signing Day. Partnering with the Young Alumni Association, Healy welcomed young alums to practice and gave tours of the football stadium and Judy W. Rose Football Center, treating them like recruits.
“I hope my vision for 49ers football is evident,” he said. “It’s my job to get people in the stands—and I hope they see my energy and passion for this University, athletic department and football program. I want to be sure to demonstrate the same things I preach to my players every day.”
At the forefront of Healy’s value system is family. He encourages his staff to invite family members to practices as well as home and away games, providing quality time and the opportunity to model a complete family structure for student-athletes.
“It’s important for our players to see us as more than just football coaches,” said Healy. “If we are doing it the way I would like, it has so much more to do with who I want them to be after football than it does with winning football games. We pride ourselves on teaching life lessons that transcend the game of football; being a good husband and father is the most important thing we can demonstrate by example.”
So, Healy welcomes families. He welcomes fans. He welcomes fun. The more positive and inclusive the environment, the more satisfying the experience for everyone involved in the program.
Even when that experience comes at 5:30 a.m. on frigid March mornings, when Healy held spring practices.
“You can’t be out here and not have fun,” said cornerback Nafees Lyon after one dawn workout.
Not in Will Healy’s football world you can’t.
A new era of 49er football begins