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SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 2007
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Tide players have say in discipline

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Philosophical jargon is one of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s strengths.

He uses it in his book, in media gatherings, in his media guide and wherever else he can drop in some kind of reference.

Though with his players, it is a little different.

He channels it through them with something called the “Peer Intervention Group,” a system he has in place in which athletes use each other as support, security and discipline.

“When one of your peers says something, even if you tell him to buzz off, when he says it, and you don’t know what he or she is talking about, you still go home at night and think about that,” Saban said.

“You say, ‘What I am doing isn’t professional,’ whether you acknowledge to your peer or not.” Saban and his staff designate three players from each class as peer counselors. If there is a discipline issue, they get together and decide the punishment.

It was one of the first things that Saban instituted when he became Tide coach.

“It is one of the best additions that (coach Saban) brought to this football team,” said center Antoine Caldwell. “If a guy messes up, we kinda decide that guy’s punishment in-house. We come out and recommend to coach Saban our method. He’s going to decide what he wants to do, but we can bring suggestions to him.”

The peer intervention program was put to the test last month when defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Brandon Fanney and running back Roy Upchurch were arrested in front of a Tuscaloosa Club on July 14.

While there was a buzz on what Saban would do for punishment, it was the group of players that took care of the issue, defused it and kept it within the team.

This is all part of Saban’s values as a football coach. The peer intervention group helps young individuals take charge and present a level of maturity.

His cerebral approach toward coaching bleeds into the whole program.

The back page of the media guide has four core points, only one of which dealing with sports. He says he has conditioned his training staff to help players as much with mental strength as with physical strength.

Speakers also talk to the team on an almost nightly basis, giving the players encouraging messages.

“This is not something that is not done in sports,” Saban said. “All these personal characteristics that you try to develop to be successful work on the field too.”

Is it a big change from the way coach Mike Shula worked?

From a discipline standpoint maybe. While Caldwell wouldn’t elaborate, he said that the group of players deciding punishments adds a different element.

He said: “Everybody has to be accountable.”

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