Cardinal Life Lessons


by Debbie Harbsmeier, Kent Spencer & Rocco Gasparro, University of Louisville

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 25 at 11:25 AM

University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong is building a program. Not just a football factory, predicated on the importance of wins and losses - but an entire football program from A to Z.

Sure, wins and losses are how Strong will be judged, and it's important to the fans. However, in his eyes, he wants to see these young men develop into great people off the field.

There was no better example of that then Tuesday night at the Howard Scnellenberger Football Complex. A number of major corporations and professionals spent three hours with the U of L football players, working with them on resume writing and building, networking and how to effectively communicate when going for a job.

UPS, Papa John's, Kraft Foods, Yum Brands and the police and fire departments, were just some of the companies represented on Tuesday night. Many representatives talked to the players about the proper way to greet people; what they should wear; and how important a hand shake was to their maybe getting or not getting a job - valuable life skills that can't be taught between the lines.

Former secondary coach, Larry Slade, who is now the Director of Community Relations and Career Preparedness, put on the career symposium for the players, and he saw many of the players really enjoying themselves.

"They were taking notes. They were paying attention," said Slade, who plans to do another one on Aug. 1. "I think the players are really responding well to it. Sure, it's a time commitment for the players and the people that are presenting tonight. But, the players understand why it's so important, and are really taking it serious."

With practice just about 10 days away from starting, the Cardinals put away their playbooks for a night, and focused on their future after football, which is something Strong preaches to them on a daily basis.

"It's about their futures," added Slade. "It's about preparing them for life after football and for life after college."

Slade broke up the meeting rooms into different areas for presenters to talk to the players about the importance of networking, resume writing and building and communication skills. Former Cardinal Josh McDonald talked to the players about the importance of networking and what meeting new people can do for their prospects when looking for a job. Many of the players learned how to put a resume together and what to look for when trying to get an employer to notice you.

"It's about the basics," said Slade. "We talked to them about resume building and resume writing. They were learning about interviewing, and how to go get a job after college. These things are so critical to our players' development. There are people here who are pretty excited about helping our kids, and are players are excited about these people being here."

Slade, who has been at great programs at Tennessee and Texas A&M, says a lot of places just talk about doing these types of things for the players, but applauds Strong for actually giving him the green light to put his plan in place.

"A lot of different places talk about this kind of stuff," Slade said. "But I also say a lot of schools have this checklist mentality. They have a group of kids and the entire team in a room, and they will bring someone up to talk about resume writing for 5-10 minutes or interviewing. That person will go to their seat and they will check it off like we did that, but that's not teaching the kids. Coach Strong is so committed to these kids and so committed to what they are going to do after football. This gives us the opportunity to do something's that other places aren't doing. I've been a part of some great programs and we never had the opportunity to do this. We need to take advantage of these opportunities."

As Slade's days of coaching are likely over and he begins a new chapter in his life, he is excited about his new endeavor, but knows that he won't likely see the fruits of his labor for a few years when these players actually enter the work force. However, right now, Slade is making a huge difference in the development of these players off-the-field, where it will matter the most.

"Yes, I think that comes in the future," said Slade when asked if he can sit back and smile right now about the development of these players. "I think five years from now when these freshmen are gone, is when I can sit back and smile. It's a goal to give our guys the chance to go get a job and interview for a job. We want to give them a chance to go out and be prepared for an interview. I can always sit back and say "he did a great job on his interviews" because we trained them for this."