When Josh Heupel was introduced as the new head coach of the Tennessee Vols in late January, he made it clear that he wanted positive energy on Rocky Top.
“Everyone has to bring energy and passion while sustaining a positive movement through everything we’re doing to create the sustainable change we need,” said Heupel at his introductory press conference.
It should come as no surprise that the theme of “positive energy” dominated Heupel’s media session after Tennessee’s first spring practice this week.
Heupel said the words “positive” or “energy” 15 times during his media session with reporters on Thursday.
The new Vols head coach is working hard to change the culture at Tennessee. The biggest change that Heupel is hoping to make is the overall mood of the team.
Heupel has high expectations for the players on UT’s roster, but he understands that a culture of negativity isn’t an effective way to get the most out of his players.
“We’ll go push them to go be their best every single day,” said Heupel. “But you can do that in a positive way. And I think our staff is built and wired that way.”
“We have high standards, we’re going to make sure that our players are meeting those standards, we’re going to be positive and consistent in the way that we communicate with them,” added Heupel. “If you do that, your players gain a great trust level in you, not just to a respect factor, but a trust level in you that they know exactly who and what you’re going to be every day.”
So how did Heupel feel about the energy at Tennessee’s first spring practice?
It was exactly what he was hoping it would be.
“I saw guys who really accepted coaching, challenging themselves to get better from one rep to the next in a really positive way,” explained Heupel. “I thought there was a ton of positive energy out there between players and coaches.”
Heupel acknowledged that having a high level of energy on the first day of practice is easy. It’s what the players do in the ensuing practices — when they become a grind — that tells the true character of a team.
“Day two gets a little bit tougher,” said Heupel. “Who are we as we come back? You know, a couple of days from now that will be telling.”
Will the program be able to sustain the positive energy that Heupel is looking for?
That’s a question that we won’t know the answer to for several months.
But for now, the Vols are off to a great start under Heupel.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications