Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has had two signs in his office since the day he took over as interim head coach midway through the 2008 season. Those two signs have inspired him, driven him and helped him to achieve what few thought possible from a coach that had never even held the title of coordinator.
In an interview with Jon Gordon, Swinney spoke about what those two signs are, and how they have impacted his life and career:
“These two signs “believe” and then this one is “it can’t be done” — with the T marked out.
“But every team meeting that I’ve had, since I’ve been the head coach, literally from day one, I’ve carried those signs in and I don’t make a big deal I just walk in, I’m just … they just think of me as I’m the sign guy, you know. I just walk in, I got my signs, I set them down, and we go on about our daily business.
“But it’s interesting. From day one, the first day I did, I made a big point of those signs. I brought them in, I set them down. And I said, this is where it starts, you know, first meeting, and from for the past eight years, I’ve never had a team meeting without bringing them in there. Even my Friday night meetings with the team Saturday meetings, game day, they’re always there. And to me, the number one thing that had to change in our program, and I was very fortunate because I had been in the program and I had this insight, if you will, and I felt like I had a good feel for Clemson. But the number one thing that I felt like needed to change, and maybe part of it was my background, 13 years at Alabama, how I was brought up, you know, whatever was we needed to create this attitude of belief. You know, I mean, I’m talking about sure enough belief.
“Not, you know, I felt like we hoped to win, like we really wanted to win and we hope to win. But I don’t think we had this rock solid, solid core belief that we were going to win no matter what. And that’s what it takes. It takes this so so that’s the biggest change. If I could say from just one thing that was changed from 2009 to now in Clemson football, it’s this attitude of belief.
“That’s the inside. All right. That’s how you change anything, whether it’s you as a person or it’s your company or whatever. And, but there is there is no hope to win. Like, we expect to win. We believe we’re going to win. And it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play and so we don’t you know.
“Before I got the job it was always well what uniform are we wearing? Oh, we’re playing a noon game. Oh, the weather’s gonna be bad. Oh, well, we don’t win when we wear the purple pants and orange shirt. Oh, well, it’s we only they’re only excited at night or it’s, oh, it’s a Thursday night, you know, all this stuff. And and I was like, it’s not about who, where, when, what it’s about how we play, how we think how we, how we love each other how we work, how we believe. All right. And so so that’s has just taken root.
“And here’s his funny thing. So I had been, I’d probably had the job was probably halfway through my first season. And every team meeting, I’d had these signs. And I had gone to do a touchdown club or something in Greenville. And I’m trying to get back, I had a team meeting. And I mean, I’m rushing back. And I just got back in time when I come running in. I’m running the team room, and I had forgot my signs. And I stand up in the team. And I mean, I didn’t even get a word out and all sudden they go, ‘Whoa.’ And I’m like, ‘shoot, hang on. I’ll be right back.’
“So I ran into my office. But that and that’s that was a great indication to me that even though I didn’t come in there and talk about that every day, it was starting to take effect. And the guys were starting to understand that because at the end of the day, especially the kids that I deal with, they’re growing up in this world of you can’t do this, or you can’t do that. OK, I’m nobody … Well, that’s baloney. Oh, well, you know, you didn’t, you didn’t come from this type of family. So you can’t do this or you didn’t. You’re this color you grew up in this home, the world tells us what we can’t do. And what I tried to do is empower our players in how they think.
“You know, there was a lot of can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t. But I’m thankful that I have a bunch of young people and staff that believe that you could, that you that we can.”