Football: New culture, no rocking of Gilbert’s Champions’ Ship at McNeese

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LAKE CHARLES – First year McNeese football head coach Sterlin Gilbert christened his ship with a new set of rules that has changed the culture of Cowboy football, one that has the Cowboys walking the straight and narrow on and off the field.

Discipline and accountability are two main proponents of this culture.

“It’s just an expectation and a standard,” said Gilbert. “And living up and meeting those expectations on a daily basis. That’s how you get a culture change, it’s holding each other accountable.”

Each player is reminded daily about the program’s culture by wearing two different colored wristbands with the words “Accountability and LaFamilia,” on a gold one and “Go To Class and Discipline,” on a blue band.

“Those bands are a true representation of our culture change,” said Gilbert. “How do you change culture? Well there’s a standard, an expectation. And to meet that, it’s going to take some discipline to make the right decisions. Go to class is being a champion in the classroom.

“For the accountability, those guys are broken off into different groups. It’s not offense or defense, it’s a mix of everybody.”

There are 10 accountability groups with 10 or more players in a group that are counted on to meet certain expectations throughout the week. Positive and negative points are handed out depending on whether those expectations are met or not.

“There’s a consequence for everything,” said Gilbert. “If they’re not hitting those positive points and have negative points, then the whole group is being held accountable.”

The punishment for not meeting the expectations includes post-practice conditioning drills.

Practice like a champion.

This is something Gilbert voices over and over throughout each practice.

“It’s practicing the right way,” said Gilbert on how to practice like a champion. “That’s one thing we’re addressing right now is making sure we’re practicing the right way. The game of football is the hardest game to practice. You’d rather be saying ‘whoa’ than ‘go’ with guys and enforcing that we’re in that certain situation. There’s a certain way to practice and making sure everyone stays healthy to the games.

“The speed of practice. If it’s thud, it’s thud. If it’s live, it’s live. Coaching that aspect of practice and being able to last an entire practice. Having great effort and great energy.”

One thing about the Cowboys under Gilbert and the new staff, the pace is unbelievably fast, so quick that the offense is getting in anywhere between 130-160 reps per practice between the skell and team drills while the defense is seeing between 120-140 reps.

“It’s not just the offense getting the reps in,” said Gilbert. “The defense is seeing a lot as well. The numbers are up there. We’re a rep team. Everything we’re built on is repetition.

“Everything is filmed and evaluated. All those reps are filmed and get a chance to be evaluated. They get a chance to be coached and taught.”

Gilbert said the biggest thing is the progression and to carry what was taught and learned in Tuesday’s practice to Wednesday’s meetings and back onto the field for Thursday’s practice and so on.

With so many reps being taken in practice, those who ordinarily wouldn’t see many reps are getting quite their fill now.

“Competition is our big deal,” said Gilbert. “We talk about it in the team meeting. Every time we go back to practice… compete. Compete. We have to make each other better. Have to make each other better.”

The Cowboys will go in full pads for the first time on Saturday morning at 10 at the Ratcliff Practice Fields as Gilbert said he’ll turn the team loose for a bit.

There’s no denying a culture change has been implemented and in full motion. There’s also no denying that there won’t be any rocking of Gilbert’s Champions’ Ship.

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