‘We’re moving in a new direction’: Golesh working toward improving program’s culture

Following spring break, coach Alex Golesh said he is setting new standards for South Florida football. ORACLE PHOTO/HANNAH HALILI

When Alex Golesh stepped up to take on the difficult task of transforming a football team with a losing record into a successful one, he said he knew it would be a lot of work.

In a Tuesday press conference, South Florida’s new head coach acknowledged the first spring practices have been used to establish a new culture – a winning one.

“We haven’t won here in three years,” Golesh said. “And so how do you battle? Well, you scrap it and start from scratch and hold guys to a certain standard. ”

Coming off of three seasons full of losses, Golesh said he wants the team to stay focused on every opportunity to get better. Part of that mindset is not just about being successful in games, but also around each player’s everyday lifestyle.

Their performance in the classroom, continuous hydration levels and their behavior outside of practice are all under observance by the coaches. Grade point averages of position groups were presented on Sunday to find a “winner” with the highest number.

Golesh said the underlying goal of promoting the drive to “win” is to push the idea of growth among players in every aspect of their life.

“We got into some situational football practice with third down, there’s a winner and a loser. Everyday, turnovers are a huge point of emphasis and there’s a winner or loser. Generally everything we’re doing, there’s a winner or loser. The standard is to win in everything we do,” Golesh said.

Much of that encouragement is fueled by the coaches. Golesh said he expects the coaching staff to continue pushing the team through his first season with them.

Golesh said player-driven leadership within the team is monumental in progressing toward being a victorious group.

“When it becomes player-driven, when that locker is run by the players and they hold each other to a standard, that’s the definition of a winning culture,” Golesh said.

“And we’re nowhere near that.”

While the end goal is still a work in progress, Golesh mentioned certain players that have shined by taking charge individually. On defense, Golesh said juniors defensive back Jayden Curry and defensive lineman Rashad Cheney stood out for their leadership. On the other side of the ball, Golesh said quarterbacks junior Gerry Bohanon and freshman Byrum Brown, junior wide receiver Yusuf Terry and graduate student Donovan Jennings were also on his highlight list.

Senior safety Matthew Hill also independently stood out to Golesh as a player who is continuously growing in the defensive scheme.

On Tuesday, Hill explained a strike system Golesh established when he arrived that motivates the team as a whole. If a teammate is caught missing an academic appointment, a scheduled class or their daily team lunch, they receive a strike. On the fifth strike, they sit down with the head coach, their position coach and coordinator. Leading up to the fifth strike, they are given conditioning punishments at practice.

Hill said once a player receives a third and fourth strike, the position group is invited to watch the player’s assigned punishment at practice, such as up-downs.

“You’re basically letting your whole group down. You’re not really holding each other accountable if you are letting your teammates get all these strikes for missing class or tutors,” Hill said.

Overall, Golesh said he is pleased with the pace practice is moving at so far, as well as the intent they are practicing with. High energy and not repeating mistakes are two big themes on the practice field, he said.

Although the team isn’t up to Golesh’s standards yet, he said keeping them focused on new standards is a huge first step.

“You don’t have to demean anything that happened before. I respect history and I respect what’s happened, but we’re moving in a new direction and setting standards in everything we’re doing.

“You don’t have to put down the history, but you can respect it.”