Strength Coach James Dobson is always looking for ways to improve the team.
By Randy York
“The Program” has pulled off something difficult to accomplish – worked its way into the Nebraska football vocabulary. The two-word catch phrase has become a four-minute video that showcases the Huskers’ high-level off-season challenges. James Dobson, Nebraska’s head strength coach, oversees Nebraska’s relationship with the Boston-based training experts.
Eric Kapitulik (pronounced Kappa-too-lick), the founder and CEO of The Program, is so immersed in helping Nebraska develop a combat-like mindset that he has the full endorsement of Bo Pelini. Nebraska’s sixth-year head coach paid The Program his ultimate tribute last fall when he presented Kapitulik the game ball after the Huskers stopped Michigan in its tracks, 23-9, in Lincoln. Earlier in the week, the N-Sider asked Dobson for an update on The Program and a broader view of Nebraska’s involvement with Kapitulik and his dynamic organization.
Q-1: In a nutshell, what is The Program?
A: For our players and our team, The Program is another way to develop leadership through shared adversity. The Program had the same message as last year but they presented it in a different way. Hopefully, the change in presentation got the message across to guys that didn’t get it the first time around and reinforced it to those who did get it.
Q-2: Who benefits most – the older guys or the younger guys?
A: Both benefit. Anytime you can bring in legitimate people from the outside with a different approach to things everyone can benefit from that. The older guys have been through this process once and will get reinforcement about The Program’s message and the young guys will get that message for the first time. We all benefit from facing the adversity that The Program presents.
Q-3: How good is the U.S. Military?
A: They’re great! I have a tremendous amount of respect for our armed forces. They are the best and the most successful armed force in the world. They have legitimacy the minute they walk in the door. They’ve had to cope with every stressful thing you can imagine. They can do things that normal people can’t do. We take more from their message than just how you can be a better player. It will make you a better person.
Q-4: Why is it so hard to be a good teammate these days?
A: I believe we live in a very selfish world for the most part and being a good teammate means that you have to be very selfless. It is hard to be selfless in times of adversity. It is at these times when a good teammate truly worries about the guy next to him and not himself. The Program stresses the importance of this. Their code of honor addresses the team higher than themselves. That’s the essence of The Program … team first in every case.
Q-5: After losing an early conference road game in 2012, Coach Pelini said his team had to win the next six, and he was going to do everything possible to make that happen. Was The Program imbedded in that?
A: You would have to ask Coach Bo. I wouldn’t be surprised that The Program’s message had some influence but Coach Bo has always had and continues to have high expectations for this team academically, athletically, and socially. Coach Bo has always challenged the team and the staff to meet those expectations. Coach has promoted and nurtured this environment since I’ve been a part of his staff. I don’t think anyone in this football program would have it any other way.
Q-6: I know you prefer not to name names, but some leaders from last week’s training have to move to the front of your mind. Even at the risk of missing some, can you throw out a few names for some quick kudos?
A: The Program is about the “Team”. The team did well with the training, and I am positive that the team will produce leaders that we can all be very proud of.
Q-7: What does “It’s not about me” really mean?
A: To me, it means that every day you need to be a good teammate. It’s about the guy next to you and not yourself. To be a good teammate, you have to set high expectations and hold each other accountable to meet those expectations. In order to do this, trust becomes very important. The minute you start to trust each other, you’re on your way to become a better team.
Q-8: Kenny Bell emerged last year as a team leader. Is he still leading?
A: Yes. I think that Kenny has his own type of leadership skills that he applies with his teammates. I believe he would be the first to say that The Program has helped him with these skills and how he can be a good teammate.
Q-9: The sign on your wall quotes Dan Gable, the Olympic wrestling icon. It says: “They have options. You don’t.” What does that mean?
A: It means if you want to become a champion, you have no options.Period.
Q-10: Last question. How would you describe Bo’s take on The Program?
A: You would need to ask Bo about that one, but I know that Bo would not put people in front of this team that he didn’t believe in. I believe Bo wants to develop the guys on this team to be great men and set them up for a successful life, and I think that The Program has a message that will help in that pursuit.
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