Notre Dame Football: Has The Missing Element Been Found

Over the past thirteen weeks, I have written about how this team just looks different. Every week throughout the season a couple different players stepped up and took control of the game. Whether it was Julian Love, Drue Tranquill, Ian Book, Jafar Armstrong, Te’Von Coney, recently Tony Jones Jr and Alohi Gilman. Each one of these student-athletes had a moment that changed the outcome of the game. Each one contributing to the 12-0 record of Team 130.

Before we can talk about what the Missing Element being found, there is a need to go back in time. Last year when I was writing for another group, I Wrote a story on “What Is The Missing Element?” Let’s take a look at an excerpt from that article. The article was written December 7th of last year.

The Past

“For the last couple weeks, the fanatics have once again been calling for Coach Kelly to be let go. The decision to let a head coach go is just not that simple. The head coach position requires the ability to understand the workings of an offense and defense, it also requires the ability to lead and educate a team of young men to work as a team and to go out and “Play Like A Champion” on any Saturday afternoon. The head coach must have a passion for the game and a passion to win. The head coach must also be a leader and be a teacher of the game.”

“When you look back at Notre Dame football history, the teachers of the game won National Championships. Those teachers of the game were Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz. Rockne, Leahy and Parseghian are considered the “Holy Trinity” of Head Coaches at Notre Dame. These four particular coaches had an ability to motivate their players and reach football supremacy.”

The article ended with “The one thing that ties all of these coaches together is their ability to motivate their players to just not win, but to become students of the game, believe in the Notre Dame Value Stream, and the want to excel on the field on a Saturday afternoon. So in the end, if the Irish are to go back to their winning ways of National Championships past, Coach Kelly must look into each of these coaches past and look at how they coached, mentored their players, and taught them to get ready for GameDay.”

Photo Credit Valerie Lamanna

The Present

After each game the players give you such an insight into what’s going on inside the team during the week.

Ian Book

Shake Down The Thunder Sports: Coach a couple of weeks ago talked about this team’s identity was still being built. Last week you
guys built on that with you starting as quarterback. Your second week in, what would you say that this team’s identity is starting to be?
Ian’s Response We just want to be an elite offense. I know that one thing we were talking about through the first couple of games was having such a great first half and then kind of letting go the second half. So week in, week out, in our preparation we just want to keep
scoring points as an offense, don’t let go. There’s going to be ups and downs, we know that, but we want to be able to focus on that one play. That’s all we talk about. Don’t think about the play that just happened or the next play. Just focus on that play and the rest will take care of itself.
This is just one of the many examples that these guys are not just playing for themselves. It’s also about holding yourself to the same standards as you expect from your teammates.

Coach Kelly Press Conference After Syracuse

First Question:

Shake Down The Thunder Sports Question: Coach, back in September when you guys kicked off against Michigan, you were talking about this team trying to build its identity. I think the identity is showing what it is. Can you talk about this team’s chemistry because it seems to be much different from years past.
Coach Kelly Response: They love playing together. It’s a brotherhood that they have built. Look, most coaches will tell you that, if you walk into the locker room and you see a group of guys that hang out together that interact with each other and they care about each other, you’ve probably got a pretty good thing going. We sensed that from — I did, from day one. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win games. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win ten games. But it does guarantee you you’re going to have a group of guys
that enjoy being around and that they’ll probably do some really good things at times, and this group really enjoys being around each other.

Second Question:

Shake Down The Thunder Sports Question: If I can follow up with one more. Your chemistry with this team seems to be a lot different than other teams. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Coach Kelly Response: I think just that we’ve invested a lot with each other, and I enjoy being around them because that’s what I do now. I’m just around them a lot more. I’m in the locker room with them. I’m having meals with them. I’m hanging out with them a lot more. They haven’t allowed me to clock in on their games yet, but when they do, we really will reach a milestone. I just think hanging around them a lot more allows that kind of relationship to grow.

The Missing Element

In doing research for this article I did not just find one missing element, actually I found another.  Let’s start with the players. This was a surprise. As coach eluded to, these guys love each other. You need to have a feeling of “I will go to battle for you” in order to have success. These guys play for each other, they believe in each other. As I heard in a post game press conference, there is no “blame game” going in the locker room. When someone is down, they pick them up. When something goes wrong they discuss it. That is essential in developing a winning team mentality.

As discussed in the “past” portion of the article. The article ends with “Coach Kelly must look into each of these coaches past and look at how they coached, mentored their players, and taught them to get ready for GameDay.” The missing element was all about being around the players. Not just on the practice field, in team meetings, but in the weight room and having dinners with them. Relationships are essential in any line of work. When a relationship is built, and you cultivate it, magic can happen. Investing personal time into his players lives has had a major return on investment.

The Wrap Up

The team has developed a “trust in the process” mentality. This coupled with the time the players are investing in each other on and off the field and their love for Notre Dame, has given this team a skies the limit possibilities. For now, lets enjoy the moment, lets revel in the magic that this team has created. In return, show them the support that they deserve. They don’t just play for each other, as the players say “they play for the greatest fans in the country.”

Cheers and Go Irish ☘⚡🏈

Photos Courtesy @NDFootball Twitter

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