A successful high school football team needs more than just talented players to reach the third round of the playoffs.
Those players must have confidence in each other and sport a positive mental approach. And success against other talented teams is largely determined by how much the players identify with their coaches' message.
The Rolling Meadows football team, now 11-0, is preparing for a quarterfinal tussle with visiting Benet Academy of Lisle at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Mustangs coach Matt Mishler has the team, win or lose against the Redwings, ready for success. Required reading this past summer was Jeff Olson's book The Slight Edge.
Olson is the CEO of Nerium International, a leadership trainer and founder of LiveHappy.com. The book focuses on ways to increase success.
"I chose the book because I had heard the the University of Iowa's football team read it before last year's successful season that took them to the Rose Bowl," said Mishler. "I wanted the players to focus on the mental aspects of football and toughness."
Nick Delporte, Kevin Haltman, Thomas Larson and Asher O'Hara, all seniors and all-conference players, are among the believers in Olson's message.
"We read about how the little things that you do get you to where you want to be," said O'Hara, the team's quarterback. "Once you achieved success, what you did to get you there. Sometimes practices can be long and tiring. But then I think of what gets you to where you are, and you learn to keep your mind set."
Haltman, an inside linebacker, told of a instance where Olson's message put him back on track.
"Sometimes in practice after two years," said Haltman, "you know the drills but you can get tired of them. In one of the games I missed my reads several times and one of the coaches yelled at me pretty good. I realized that you always have to keep up with things you already know. The repetitiveness has helped me be a successful football player."
"After football is over," said Larson, the team's center, "I intend to keep the book with me throughout the rest of my life. Once people think they have reached success, they stop their daily discipline and they can fall back down to failure. Being a lineman, you work on the same movement and step-type drills that make plays work. We've learned to help others. When a player feels down, there are always others who pick that player back up."
Delporte, who is a multi-purpose player, saw reading as a way of learning balancing football and life.
"To me, reading this book has helped me put life into perspective,"said Delporte. "Even if you don't find success right away don't put your head down. Keep striving.
"I think coach Mishler's purpose of reading was to help us on the path to become responsible adults. We have learned that nothing is going to be handed you in life. You have to work for what you get. I think I've succeeded on the football field because of my dedication of watching films and breaking down plays. I think our work as a team has helped make it to the third round of the playoffs."
Mishler indicated that the book, along with the work ethic the players already have, keeps them focused.
"Sometimes as coaches we can get away from things that helped us to become good coaches," said Mishler. "We talk about doing the same things in practice over and over that help breed that success.
"The players were so receptive to reading the book. We would have them read a few chapters and then after a summer practice we would talk about what we had read."
"If you don't do the little things that get you to where you are every week, you're not going to go anywhere," said Haltman. "Doing the same thing every day can be a grind, but you need to work at it to help you to get to where you are."