SHEPHERDSVILLE - University of Louisville football coach Larry Slade knows the important of getting the best from his players, and it showed during the school’s recent Sugar Bowl victory.
Outside of football, Slade hopes to bring similar success to local students with the Cardinal Strong Program, an initiative developed by Louisville head coach Charlie Strong encouraging and preparing youth throughout their lives.
Slade visited Bullitt Lick Middle School to share the secret of the Cardinal Strong Program that follows the Cardinal Principals, or CARDS method: Commitment, Attitude, Respect, Discipline and Sacrifice.
Bullitt Lick principal Robert Fulk learned about the Cards Strong Program after contacting Strong for a possible school visit. The head coach directed him to Slade and the Cards Strong Program.
Slade is a 38-year college football coaching veteran, the past four with Louisville. He kept the audience’s attention while sharing valuable life lessons to help them through middle school, into high school and throughout their lives.
“When we won the Sugar Bowl it wasn’t all about talent, it was about character,” Slade said. “When our guys heard they couldn’t win the game, they didn’t listen to that. They stayed positive.”
Slade added that the team’s effort in the game was part of their commitment to excellence, something everyone should have toward any goal.
Taking a student aside, Slade asked her what she would say to him if he told her to do drugs. The ‘no’ reply was an obvious one.
“It’s easy to say no to drugs here,” Slade responded. “But it’s harder outside of school. It’s hard when there’s peer pressure.”
Slade added that each individual needed to make a personal commitment to do the right things in life and to avoid the wrong paths.
“When you know someone with a winning attitude, every time you see them they have a smile on their face,” Slade said.
The coach compared people to speedboats and anchors, advising students to attach themselves properly.
“The people that smile all the time, these people are the speedboats,” he said. “They pull you forward. The anchors, they pull you back. Do you want to be a speedboat or an anchor? That’s your choice.”
Slade stressed the importance of remaining positive and surrounding yourself with positive attitudes whenever possible.
“If you hang out with the right people, they pull you forward,” he said.
Slade reminded students that respect is not something that is automatically given by others.
“Respected is earned by your actions, your appearance, and using proper language,” he said.
Slade mentioned how earned respect could lead to better opportunities, while a lack of respect could limit possibilities.
“It impacts you for the rest of your life when you earn respect,” he added.
The coach referenced Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to discuss proper discipline.
“He comes in early for practice,” said Slade. “Does he have to? No. When practice is over he’s the last guy to leave. Does he have to be? No. But that’s what champions do. They do that extra.”
Discipline, Slade said, was about doing things the right way with maximum personal effort.
“Failure is not an act, it’s a habit,” he said. “Discipline is working hard, doing it over and over again until you get it right. Practice doing it right so often that it becomes second nature to you.
Slade said discipline was about doing things the right way even when no one else is watching or notices your efforts.
“You can talk goals all you want to, but if you don’t have discipline you’ll never build that bridge to your accomplishments,” he said.
Slade told students that sacrifice had to do with character, about what to do with your life even if it meant giving up something else, or something easier.
“Ask yourselves ‘Who am I’,” he began. “The next thing, ask ‘What do you believe’, then ask ‘What is it that you want in your life?”
Slade summed up by comparing thermometers and thermostats. A thermometer, he reminded, measures temperature, while thermostats change temperature.
“Weather reflects climate,” he said. “Everyone else is doing it, so it must be right. That’s how a thermometer works. But a thermostat sets the temperature.
“Are you going to be a thermometer or a thermostat,” he continued. “If you’re a thermometer, everyone else tells you what life is going to be. If you’re a thermostat then you tell what life is going to be. You have a choice.”
Slade wrapped up his comments by comparing people to icebergs. Only the part at the surface is visible, but there’s much more underneath that people can’t or don’t see.
The coach challenged students to be like an iceberg, with more character inside of themselves, rather than just being what others see on the surface.
Slade’s official coaching title is Director of Community Relations and Career Preparations. His coaching job is as important off the playing field as on it.
“The big thing, and Coach Strong approves it, is we help players get ready for life that aren’t going to the NFL,” he said. “Only a handful will go pro, and we prepare the others for what to do afterward. And for the others, the NFLers, we offer financial literacy for them.”
Slade hopes the Cards Strong Program will help Bullitt Lick students and others throughout the Louisville area as a positive validation to always do the right thing throughout their lives.
“Don’t let others write part of your story if it’s bad,” he said. “It’s your story. You make sure it’s good.”
The Cards Strong Program is available for students ages 6-13 (high schools are not eligible due to NCAA regulations). He said the program had already reached more than 1,000 area students. For more information contact Slade, (502)526-2059.