Video: Julio Jones high school highlights
See the Atlanta Falcons star way back when he was a prep.
When rookie head coach Dan Quinn took over the Atlanta Falcons before the 2015 season, he noticed something was different from the environment that he had just left with the Seattle Seahawks. The players were not as close. In fact, after the last game of that season, he saw two players exchanging phone numbers, and knew that he had to do a better job of building his team.
Entering the 2016 season, he launched a new theme: "The Hood."
Players were given T-shirts with the phrase emblazoned on it. "The Hood" was for brotherhood, Quinn's goal for the season to bring his players closer together.
It worked. They reached the pinnacle of the NFL and had a big lead before the New England Patriots came back and won the title.
Here are five aspects that Quinn changed that led to his team's success.1. Arrangement of the locker room
The first thing Quinn did to build brotherhood was rearrange the locker room. He eliminated an inner row of lockers to open up the space so his players could communicate more efficiently. He also changed the way the players were grouped together, no longer by position, as is the tradition in the NFL.2. Appealing locker room
He then added a ping pong table and basketball hoop to the locker room to encourage the players to have fun, and spend more time together. I did something similar in my second year of being a head coach, with a ping pong table and couches. It was really cool to see how a few donated items made our locker room a more appealing place, and encouraged the team to hang out a little more.
When I took over at a school that was 0-10 the year before I got there, one thing I did was add lockers, paint the room and install carpet. We didn't have enough lockers for everyone, so kids were changing in their cars. I made it mandatory for all of the players to use that locker room. Again, it brought the team together, helped to create a great bond.
* Editor's note: MaxPreps has a ping pong table, couches and an arcade hoop-shoot game in the office as well. We highly vouch for this.3. Added team-building activities
If you have a military base anywhere near you, do whatever you can to bring some of those men and women to your training camp or summer program. I live in military-rich Southern California, and have had some great experiences with the Marines speaking with my players and leading them through team-building activities. Quinn had the opportunity to bring in some Navy Seals to work with the Falcons, and credits them for another great tool in bringing his team together.4. Asked for more leadership
Quinn reached out to his quarterback, Matt Ryan, to help bring his teammates together. Like any great leader would, he accepted this challenge. Build leaders amongst your kids who will reach out to the rest of team. Ask them to spend time with each other away from the gridiron, and help provide these opportunities as a team.5. Advertised their new slogan
It's important to keep your message in front of your team. Paint it on the walls, create a hashtag, put it on your summer T-shirts. PJ Fleck is famous for "Row The Boat." He understands the importance of advertising your slogan everywhere your team will look. Quinn did this buy putting "The Hood" on T-shirts and giving those to the players. Getting your theme in front of the players as much as you can will help to bring them back to your goal on a daily basis.
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.