The Learning Leader Show With Ryan Hawk

#325: Ron Ullery

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Coach Ron Ullery began his football coaching career at Centerville High School in 1977.  He was the Offensive Coordinator (and play-caller) for my four years as the quarterback for Centerville (1996,1997,1998,1999).  He was promoted to Head Coach in 2000.  In his 14 years as head coach, he compiled a 107-45 record. Eight of his teams advanced to the Division 1 (big school) postseason.  He is currently the Offensive Line coach at Springboro High School.  This episode was recorded in front of the Springboro football team, coaches, and administrative staff.  He’s coached high school football for 43 years.


  • Leaders who sustain excellence =
    • Understanding how hard it is to be excellent
    • Knowing there are multiple ways to lead (militaristic, fear driven, soft spoken, calm)
    • Must be organized — Have to set a plan to direct people.  How are we going to get where we want to go?
    • Must have a tremendous work ethic — Ask the people you’re leading to work extremely hard and you must be willing to work even harder
    • Have extremely high expectations, unwilling to ever waiver — They don’t lower expectations to feel good
    • Must have humility — Can’t be all about you
  • A great coach can make a player feel invincible:
    • A great coach sees another level in you.  A level above where you think you can go.  And they push you to go there…
    • Doing things you never dreamed you could possibly do makes you think it’s possible.
    • “We are in a era where mediocrity and average is okay.”
      • “If you want to, you can lay in bed all day, have your iPad here, your TV with 250 stations, your phone, you can doordash leave your door unlocked…  you never have to do anything.”
    • We need to strive to be elite and excellent
  • Being grateful for the hard work — What it leads to…
  • X & O’s are not the most important part of football:
    • “Young people will live up to your expectations or down to your expectations almost all the time.”
    • “It’s our job to place the level of those expectations.”
    • The elite performers hit the level of expectations set and then keep going.
  • The confidence a coach gives his/her players by exhibiting an incredible work ethic:
    • “It has everything to do with making sure I’m prepared.  I want to control what I can control.  I don’t want to be the weak link.”
    • “To prepare, I need to be in a quiet place.  I became a morning guy in college.  I was majoring in Math.  It was tough.”
  • Delayed gratification — Voluntary hardship:
    • The ability to delay gratification is a super power
    • “Instant gratification is what everyone wants now.” — Foresight: People have less foresight now than they used to.  They have instant access to everything they want at all times
  • “If you are unsuccessful, look in the mirror.  The competition is not real stiff.  If you have some foresight and a strong work ethic, you can do whatever you want. Most people don’t have that foresight.”
  • The difference between winning teams and losing teams
    • Winning teams: The players were empowered, had ownership. and they (the players) held each other accountable.
    • “You can coach them as hard as you want and they will respond as long as they know you care about them.”
      • “It’s a lot harder when you care.”
  • Why stay as a high school coach?
    • “I love the high school atmosphere.  I love the age, I love everything about high school. I love the challenge.  You take whatever comes in the doors.  There’s no recruiting.  You do the best you can with what you’re given.  I love everything about these guys.”
    • “In my 43 years of coaching, I’ve never felt like I’ve had a job.”
  • Why offensive line?
    • “It was the biggest learning off-season of my career.”
    • “Offensive linemen is by far the hardest position to succeed at.  It’s also the most impactful of winning games.”
    • “They are the least athletic players on the field by far.  They do the most important job, yet they are the least athletic.”
    • “It’s a tremendous challenge.  And I love challenges.  I love seeing them succeed.”
  • How to earn respect:
    • Must exhibit leadership, mental toughness, and discipline — “You can’t ask anything of anyone else if you’re not willing and already doing it yourself.”
    • You have to care and it has to show how much you care about people.  You have to do more than other people.
  • Advice to his son Brent Ullery (head coach of Centerville High School):
    • “You have to formulate things you believe in.  You have to have strong beliefs.  Formulate your beliefs not based on what you did when you played, but base them on what you’ve learned from all of your experiences.  Don’t let the outside noise influence you.”
  • Framework for continuous improvement and ability adapt:
    • “Listen and learn.  I’m a better learner today than any year of my life.  When I started out coaching I thought I knew everything.  Then I realized I knew nothing.”
    • Learning talks with Coach Gregg every morning — “I would meet him every morning and we would talk about everything.  Some about football, but more about people.  He was a master about human nature and motivating young people.”
    • The main idea with continual learning is “you’ve never arrived.”
    • You’ve never arrived, you’re always becoming.”
  • How to effectively lead peers/friends:
    • As a leader, it becomes your responsibility to lift others up and expect more of them — Sometimes when you have to make difficult choices to prioritize leadership over friendship
    • The moment that Kirk Herbstreit became a leader (he was a quarterback at Centerville High School)
  • It’s much easier to follow.  But far less fulfilling.  You have to make the choice to lead daily.
  • The sacrifices made to be accountable to teammates — Doing everything within your power to maximize your ability
  • Laying the foundation for future generations
  • Having the willingness to go get what you want — Don’t let anything get in your way
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea

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