Interview with Chris Douglas
From the time he was born in Mississippi and through the years of his small-town upbringing in Poteau, Oklahoma, MacMurray College’s head football coach Chris Douglas was infatuated with sports.
As a kid, Douglas jokes that he played “all the sports,” but he distinctly remembers in seventh grade falling in love with the mythical Friday night football games. The lights, the sounds, the intensity of the game were all magical to him, so much so that he and his friends would gather in the end zone, playing their own game of football while the fans cheered for the home team. Knowing that his opportunity to take part in these big games was down the road in 10th grade, Douglas began focusing on football with his goal being to play in those legendary games.
Douglas began working his heart out to make it as a player on the football team, and boy did he succeed. During his sophomore year, Douglas set the record for interceptions and had a phenomenal year. He credits some of this success to the fact that he is a student of football; not only did he enjoy playing, but he was continuously analyzing his game, and not just for where he excelled. He would often look more intently for areas where he could recognize weaknesses in his abilities and then work toward improving them, allowing his detail-oriented nature to help his skills on the field.
As his love for football grew, Douglas also became interested in coaching as he found himself looking up to all of those that had guided him through his sporting career. He jokingly describes how different the culture was back then with the different attitudes toward sports to the cigarette smoking in the coaches’ offices. Though much has changed in that respect, he still remembers fondly the coaches of his past and how they have guided him to be the coach he is today.
One coach in particular, football coach Monty Lewis who at the time was leading the team at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, had a tremendous impact on Douglas. Lewis’ gregarious and open nature really pulled the team and coaches together and was captivating to those around him. When Douglas was given the opportunity to follow Lewis as the next head coach of the team, he jumped at the chance, only to find that Lewis’ coaching style, though perfect for Lewis, did not work for Douglas who has a calm and level-headed demeanor. It was only later in Douglas’ coaching career did he lose his cool to a player, “in front of God and everyone,” and finally come to the conclusion that to be a successful coach, he needed to find his own way of connecting to his players and creating a winning team.
Connecting to his players in one of Douglas’ many strong points, and all it takes to verify this is to speak to one of his players. Each has developed a relationship with Douglas and the other coaches at Mac, and this is definitely a priority to the coaching staff. “If you don’t know them, you can’t coach them,” Douglas says as students wander in and out of the football office, waving to Douglas and his staff. He goes on to explain that success to him is not only defined by the win/loss record of each athlete during their four year college career – instead, he focuses on preparing his student athletes for the future, referring to the “4 for 40” goal. “We have four years to prepare these guys for the next 40 or so years of their lives,” he explains. “We want to make them great football players, but also great men, entrepreneurs, husbands and citizens.”
At the end of the day, one of the many lessons that Coach Douglas wants to instill in his players is that it is less about the game itself and more about the dedication and the preparation that you are willing to put into the craft of the sport. “Playing hard is overrated,” he explains, “you have to practice hard, work hard and prepare hard.” He goes on to add that he always wants his players to get a little bit better every day, referring to a concept called “the aggregation of marginal gains,” the idea being that if a player improves by 1 percent each practice, then during the course of a season he will improve by 70 percent. That sort of commitment toward general improvement will hopefully stick with the for the rest of their lives.
Sitting with Coach Douglas in his office while a constant stream of well-mannered and conscientious football players walk by the door, you get an idea of the incredible impact he and his staff have on these students’ lives. In addition, it’s not surprising when Douglas mentions that no matter where life has taken him, from fourth grade on there was not a year without football – it is evident in the way that he has converted this love of a game into a true commitment to the sport, his players and MacMurray College. With any luck, Douglas will continue to instill these principles into students for many years to come.