In his fifth season as the head football coach of the Greenville University Panthers, Robbie Schomaker has instilled a set of core values that are not only helping his players to become better on the field, but are aiding them toward greater success in life.
Introducing Robbie Schomaker
Roy Disney once said that “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” These words are as profound today as when Disney first said them. The truth is that our values are the true determiners of how successful we will be in our lives, because they determine how we will face the obstacles that come across our pathways.
They can impact us in many ways more than this, however. Values are the essential ingredients of what makes each individual different from anyone else. While most of us are greatly influenced in the things that we hold dear, the truth is that those things that we do consider to be the most essential part of who we are come from our own perceptions about life, the way we have been taught, and the experiences we have encountered along the way.
Those values, whether good or bad, will affect virtually every action that we take and decision that we make. That is a powerful thing to consider when you get right down to it, and this is why many parents hope and pray that the men and women that come into the life of their sons will be people of incredible integrity that will do and say the right things that will help their child to grow up to be a man who is rooted in exceptional values.
For the moms and dads who have sent their child off to play football at Greenville University, they can the utmost confidence that their sons are not only receiving a first rate education, but that their sons are getting a chance to embrace the kind of values that will enable them to be successful. That is because they know their sons are getting a first rate education in values, courtesy of Head Football Coach Robbie Schomaker.
Experience – the Game Changer
Robbie Schomaker attended Trinity International University where he was a two-year starter on the Trojans football team. The Coach loved playing football, but figured that once he graduated he would join the business world. However, an opportunity to serve changed his personal course of history.
“A couple of coaches asked me to work and FCA camp as a huddle leader. I had just finished my football career at Trinity International and so I said ya, I had some time to do that. I was in charge of like 15 kids at that time and one day one of the kids pulled me aside at lunch and he was crying, and he was like, ‘Coach, my girlfriend just told me that she is pregnant, I have no idea what to do, I wanted to go to college and play college football and now I just don’t think any of this is possible.’ I got a chance to share some life lessons with him, and share Jesus with him and got to see him be saved and that just kind of peaked my interest, that there’s some bigger things out there and there’s some way to impact people. I realized that the coaching thing really has some impact on people and then my head coach called me and told me that he had a graduate assistant position open and so at that point I was thinking that would be great, that I’ll get my masters and then get out into the business world, and I just fell in love with it the first year. I was working 120 hours a week and I felt like I wasn’t working at all.”
After graduating, the Coach remained at Trinity as the team’s offensive line coach. He spent four seasons working with the line and two seasons as the Trojans special teams coordinator.
Building a Program Built on Core Values
In 2010, he was offered the opportunity to come Greenville University to serve as the Panthers offensive coordinator. This was a great opportunity, but required quite an adjustment, however, the benefits have been beyond words.
“We lived in downtown Chicago before we moved here, and Greenville is kind of a town of 7000, so it was an extreme culture shift, but I was just really attracted to working for the head coach at the time, Ordell Walker, who became one of the greatest mentors of my life. So the people here, the mentorship aspect from the athletic director and the head coach, just all of those things kept me here for eight years so far.”
The offense thrived under his direction. In 2011, the team was third in the country in total offense, averaging 501 yards per game, and a season later they led the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) in points and total offense.
In 2013, head coach Ordell Walker left to become the head coach at Bluefield College, and Robbie Schomaker became the interim head coach. The team flourished under his leadership, posting a 9-2 record, winning the UMAC title, and advancing to the national playoffs. The nine wins were the most in school history, and the Panthers set several team records, including extending the Panthers winning streak to 17 straight games.
While the team was having a great deal of success on the field, Coach Schomaker was looking to create a set of core values for the Panthers that would become the foundation of the program. He wanted his players to be good football players, but he understood that if he instituted a commitment to be better men, the product on the field would improve as well.
“Our buzz phrase is that we’re building champions for Christ. We do that with four core values. We talk about others over self, rejecting passivity, we talk about embracing the process over results, and loving the me versus me battle.”
Message about Service, Not Selfishness
Football is the ultimate team sport. While there are 11 players on the field who all have their own role and assignments, each player must also support the other 10, otherwise failure is almost always going to be the result.
Robbie Schomaker wants his players to understand that life is really about service, and when you commit yourself to one another then great things can happen. This is why the first core value is to put others over self.
This philosophy starts at the top, as the Coach fully understands that he and his staff have to model the behavior.
“I have to be a good role model. If I went them to be good husbands then I have to be a good husband as well. We stress as a staff modeling the kind of behavior that we expect from our players.”
While the coaching staff can be a great model of expectations, there may be no more important role model than the seniors. The younger players often look up to those who are older, and so the Coach expects the upperclassmen to embrace these values above all.
“My seniors should be able to lead. They should be able to help teach guys the right way to do things in our program. We expect them to lead as servants and so they are going to be in charge of cleaning up the bus after an away trip, they’re going to be in charge of cleaning up the locker room if it’s a disaster, and they’re just held to a higher standard. They are held accountable to things, it’s not that they are the young guys’ maids or anything like that, but it is their responsibility to bring the young guys in and say, ‘Hey, this locker room here is a mess, this is unacceptable, we got to get this cleaned up together.’ It’s not a power-play, but it’s leading as a servant.
“When we’re in a good place culturally we want our seniors to just be extensions of the coaching staff.”
Never Being Satisfied
There is nothing wrong with being happy with an accomplishment. One can even be proud, but when a person becomes satisfied with a level that they have attained then it is easy to become complacent. Robbie Schomaker is having none of that, because he expects his players to continually strive for the highest level of excellence that they can attain. This has led the Coach to push his players to not be satisfied with mediocrity.
“For us, rejecting passivity means building men into men who are leading and out front, rejecting the passivity of just sitting on the couch or just letting life pass you by.”
That same kind of attitude is seen in the way that Coach Schomaker uses his “free” time. There is not much opportunity to sit on one’s hands and smell the roses when you are a head football coach. However, the Coach is taking advantage of every opportunity to better himself and, to accomplish this, he has modified one of his favorite recreational activities into an opportunity for growth.
“I love to read, I guess I don’t read anymore but it’s more of the audiobooks. I can do other things while I listen. I love to read especially other coaches. I just finished Urban Meyer’s book, and I’m working on Pete Carroll’s book. I’m reading this book called The Young Traveler’s Gift which is just an incredible book about how to take ownership of your life and not play the victim card and so I love to read.”
Being Proud to Be in the Fight
We live in a results based society where, often, the ends justifies the means, even if the means are not so just. Robbie Schomaker is quite the opposite in the way he thinks. He cherishes the process more than the results, and wants his players to see that engaging in the battle is often far more important than winning the war.
“When we talk about loving the process, the details matter more than what the results are. So we want to do things the right way, knowing that the results will come, but we’re not going to do things the wrong way just to get the results.”
Loving the process even extends to how he teaches others about Christ. While hoping that his players would come to know the Lord as he does, he hopes that they will at least seek to engage themselves with God and let the process lead them from there.
“If nothing else, I hope that they would at least be willing to explore what they believe without the spiritual world. So I have my beliefs, I’m a Christian, and I would never expect a guy to just take on my beliefs, but I want them to at least have that thought process where they ask, ‘Is there a God, and if there is a God what is that mean for my life, and how do I respond if there is a God out there and He wants to have a relationship with me?’ I want them to go to those questions and at least start that process before they go out, so that they are thinking about those things when they are out in the real world.”
Improving Oneself Daily
One of the biggest grievances that people have with the Millennial generation is that they act entitled. They feel that they are owed everything and while this may not be true, safe rooms, participation trophies, and demands that universities cater to their needs are clearly making the argument seem valid.
Robbie Schomaker doesn’t see this generation from that stand point at all. In fact, he sees a lot of himself in them.
“The students today are different in the sense that that they have been taught with different modes, but I was entitled when I was 18 and so I just don’t know how different they are than other generations. They get kind of a bad rap from the older generation that always thinks that that the younger generation feels entitled.”
This is important to understand, because the final piece to the core values is to push to be better today than you were yesterday. To compete with yourself to be better than what you have become.
“The me versus me battle is when we see that the game of football gives us the opportunity to compete against our best self, so we aren’t going to see our opponent as our enemy but instead were going to see our opponent as the way that we’re going to get the best out of ourselves. So, we always want our opponents best because that means that they’re going to get the best out of us as well.”
Because Coach Schomaker does not believe that this is the “lost” generation in some way, he is more readily able to connect with them and to push his players to be better.
“I want to see these young men succeed. You want to win as a coach, but at the end of the day, if you have taught them to be better men, prepared them for the next step in their lives, then you have won. These young men want the same kind of success that players did 10, 20 years ago. That hasn’t changed a bit, and that is why coaching can be so rewarding.”
A True Model of the Core Values
While Robbie Schomaker has become the model of what these values look like for his players, the truth is that he has the perfect role model for himself. While there have been coaches who have been mentors and inspirations to him personally, no one has impacted him more than his wife, Annie.
“My wife is the one you should really be interviewing. She is amazing. Her and one of her closest friends in Greenville raised $180,000 and opened a safe house for women coming out of human trafficking. She is amazing. My wife is incredible and she is raising two kids while she’s doing this, and I’m here watching film while she’s out there changing the world,” Coach Shomaker explains with a laugh.
With 22 wins since becoming the head coach at Greenville University, Robbie Schomaker has proven to have been the right man to lead the Panthers. That success has even included one of his players making it all the way to the National Football League, as Nicholas Morrow is now playing for the Oakland Raiders. It is a testament to the dedication and wisdom that the Coach has shared with his players that has enabled them to have such success. More importantly, it is a proof that when you have a solid core, success is bound to follow.
By Robert Pannier