THE CRISTOBAL WAY IS A WINNING WAY; A New Culture, Leadership Council and Team Unity is Paying Dividends

The Cristobal culture is paying dividends.

It’s evident in every aspect of this Oregon football team and is certainly responsible for the Ducks clinching the Pac-12 Northern Division crown Saturday and having the opportunity to win a conference title on December 6th.

It’s been a long road though and hasn’t been an easy one for head coach Mario Cristobal and his staff.

It’s much like building a hot rod from the ground up; you already have the frame, but then you have to include the engine, the transmission, the tires and the high gloss finish.   And after all of that, you still need someone to drive the hot rod to the finish line for the win.

And even then, it’s still a work in progress.

Changing a team culture is difficult and demanding.

Since Cristobal was named head coach back on December 8th 2017, he’s not only implemented a complete change in culture throughout the Hatfield Dowlin Complex, but he’s also added his own curriculum of sorts which teaches his team how to win both on and off the field.     In that curriculum, Cristobal thought it prudent and invaluable to add a ‘leadership council’ to assist him in guiding and molding the direction, and personality of the Duck program.

And as mentioned above, it’s paying off.

“When something is as challenging and demanding as that is, you’re leadership council becomes the most instrumental and critical,…they play the most critical role in being able to push forward because it does get tough” explained Cristobal when talking about implementing the current pillars of Oregon football.

“I’m sure there are moments in time when it’s like,…man is it really worth it,…this is really hard and demanding.

“When your team has bought in and it’s player led and there’s ownership in it, man they just start demanding from each other ….actually they won’t tolerate anything less from each other than each others very very best.   So that’s echoed constantly,…it becomes truly a part of the DNA.”

That DNA, the fabric that’s woven into these players was something that needed to be taught.   While many college football coaches are drawing up game plans, or scheming X’s and O’s on both sides of the ball, Cristobal continues to masterfully create a sweeping atmosphere of parental trust and strict guidance on how to win at football in all phases, and henceforth, life after football.

But within the Cristobal classroom, each player to a man is guided by the principal that a win can only be achieved by the team and not a single player and therefore each player must do their part equally at the highest level.

If that’s done, according to Cristobal, success will follow, and it has.

“When you watch our players now throughout the course of the week, the way they handle meetings,…the way they handle walk-thru’s,..the way they demand of each other in practice,…the way that they handle everything leading up to the game,…up to that pregame moment in the locker room,…and then the sideline throughout the course of the game,…all the things that have been emphasized are becoming a reality and that reality and their work is being validated in the results that they’re having.”

The Ducks ‘leadership council’, according to Cristobal, is comprised of more than a dozen upperclassmen who in essence are teaching assistants in the Cristobal curriculum.   They not only act as councellors to the younger players who might need a little extra guidance, but they’re also enforcers of the culture to maintain stability and doing things the right way.

“It’s like having another sixteen,…eighteen generals,…guys that truly carry out the messaging and live it” says Cristobal.

“They actually carry it out by example,…they voice it,…they echo it,…and they hold others accountable to it.  It’s in everything we do.  It’s arriving early,…it’s staying late,…it’s making sure we’re running on and off the field.  It’s little things that people say ‘why is that a big deal’,…it is a big deal, because in everything you do you’re sending a message to the other side.”

For Cristobal there are no little things.

From film study, to practice and for games, Cristobal and his staff diligently manage every item, scenario and situation to make sure nothing falls through the cracks that can cause a lapse in their system.

And as small as it might be, that also goes for the manner in which his team dresses for games.

Mario Cristobal walking the sideline during the Ducks 35-31 win over Washington on October 19th. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

Mario Cristobal walking the sideline during the Ducks 35-31 win over Washington on October 19th. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

Cristobal emphasizes unity to his players.   That they respect the uniform and therefore wear it as a single unit.

“Making sure we look the same” explained Cristobal.     “Guys are dressed the right way…so we don’t have officials complaining that guys are kind of wearing their own uniform stuff and doing their own thing.”

And while it might seem over the top or more expansive than necessary, you simply can’t argue with the results.

The Ducks have won nine of their last 11 games dating back to last season and they’re on the verge of winning a conference championship and a chance at the College Football Playoff.

“The best way to put it is this,…people say take care of the little things,…there are no little things.  They’re all big things,…so we treat them all as big things and important things so that way nothing slips through the cracks.”

Big things or little things,…they’re all the same to Cristobal.



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