WHITEWATER — Kevin Bullis isn’t going to tell his players what to think about.
Instead, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater fifth-year head coach hopes that he can teach his football team how to prepare and how to think.
If he does that, and he believes he has, outside distractions like which team’s coach sent an email with the defensive playbook in it won’t matter. That exact scenario is going to take place this weekend when the UW-Whitewater opens its season with Dubuque in a non-conference NCAA Division III football game at Perkins Stadium beginning at 1 p.m.
As originally reported by the La Crosse Tribune in January 2019, Dubuque coach Stan Zweifel allegedly received an email with UW-Whitewater’s defensive playbook before the 2018 season from former UW-W offensive coordinator Craig Smith. Zweifel allegedly sent the playbook to UW-La Crosse coach Mike Schmidt.
The Warhawks won both games handily, but they have yet to play either of those teams since the news of the released playbook.
“When I was asked for a quote about it when it happened, I said I was just worried about spring ball,” said Bullis in an interview with the Daily Union on August 6. “I don’t worry about it. I haven’t.”
Not at all?
“Nope, not at all,” Bullis said. “There’s nothing I can do to control it.”
OK, but what about the players. It would be human nature to believe they’ve been wronged and seek some revenge. Perhaps even humiliation.
There’s no room to harbor such vitriol in Bullis’s locker room. He went so far as to give reporters a 437-word monologue during Wednesday’s phone conference explaining the need to avoid distractions.
“The most important part is that we teach our players how to think and how to process the approach to a game,” Bullis said. “That’s the greatest thing we do. We teach them how to think going into a game. How to think about today’s practice or today’s class that they sit in.”
To put it simply, he believes the role of the coaches is to help the players understand what is important and what isn’t important as they prepare for games. The important pieces are the fine details which can’t be overwhelmed by distractions.
“The most important piece of that is in the present,” continued Bullis without hesitation. “Be in the present right now. Don’t let your mind wander to other things. When you’re sitting in Biology, don’t think about Cover 4. Don’t think about what’s going to happen in practice. Stay locked into the present.”
This is where Bullis started to sound professorial.
“What that is, is it’s intrinsic. You control it. It’s intrinsic motivation that also comes from inside,” Bullis said. “The extrinsic motivation, studies have proven it, is not very good. It’s short-lasting motivation. Being angry, being upset or whatever with a team that did something that wronged you, is extrinsic motivation. It doesn’t tie into being in the present and being intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is the greatest motivation and the most powerful motivation. That’s how we look at it.”
Definitionally, the word intrinsic is used to describe something that is within a greater body. In this case, intrinsic is used to describe the motivation within the players. The word extrinsic, in this case, are all other outside actors, aspects or … distractions.
Bullis continued with an explanation that also describes his feelings on rivalries as motivators for preparation and for winning games. Bullis believes the greatest motivation on game day is perfect execution.
“The other part (of this is) I’ve been around programs that sit and talk about, ‘We hate those guys. We hate them.’ That is short-lasting motivation,” Bullis said. “Hate is wrong. We have enough hate in the world. We don’t need to teach hate or disdain as a form of motivation. There’s plenty of it going on right now. Much more than any of us really want to (have to recognize).…
“I’m not going to teach it. That is, I will not bring it up to our players. I have not brought (the sharing of the playbook) up to our players because it does not fit the right teaching model. It’s about us teaching them to be consistently in the present and consistently building their intrinsic motivation.”
And if that’s truly built, the players won’t care about any of the other noise.