It’s Not Just a Color
Marotti Employing Unique Motivational Techniques
By Brandon Castel
Ohio State players are very clear on how to feel about maize and blue, but suddenly those are not the most dreaded colors in Columbus.
At least not until Mickey Marotti is done with his winter conditioning program.
Marotti has been called a master motivator, but how does someone motivate a group of players who are already used to being motivated? That was the task charged to Ohio State’s new strength and conditioning coordinator when he began winter workouts a week early.
His solution was simple: do what comes natural.
“We just try to focus on basic principles like accountability, discipline, effort, competitiveness and performance that we look at every day,” Marotti told a group of reporters in Columbus on Wednesday.
Competition and performance are at the core of everything Marotti does during the off-season. They are interchangeable in Urban Meyer’s program and if there is not a winner and a loser then players are just wasting their time.
“If a guy doesn’t run all the way through a drill or a cone, that gets evaluated,” Marotti said.
“We have ‘charters’ all over, team managers. So, if two guys are doing the pro shuttle, there’s going to be a winner and a loser. If a guy does the drill wrong, maybe has his wrong hand down, he gets a penalty.”
It is one thing to lose because of penalty, but players know they better not get caught dogging it or Marotti will bust out the dreaded “ lavender shirt” as a reminder for everyone at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“You don’t want to wear those shirts at all,” senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said Wednesday.
They also serve as a reminder that there is a new sheriff in town. That isn’t a criticism of the former sheriff, but Meyer and Marotti and their own, unique, ways of doing things. That includes the lavender shirt for ‘loafing’ during a workout.
“If I win and I know I’m beating you by like 10 yards and I point at you or I go slow through the line – even though I still won – that’s called a ‘loaf,’ said Marotti, who worked with Meyer at Notre Dame and Florida.
“Any deceleration before the finish line and guys get a loaf. If they get two or more loafs, they have to wear a lavender shirt.”
Meyer’s system is all about training the mind and the body. It is about four to six seconds of relentless effort, not just in the first quarter, but on the final snap of overtime. In their minds, a loaf is nothing more than weakness, which is what Marotti is trying to yank out of his players, even if it has to come by force.
“Everybody in the building sees who out there is wearing the lavender shirt,” Marotti said of the shame that comes with getting caught loafing more than once.
“And also, it’s charted in the weight room. All the loafs are up there and guys have to do certain things depending on how many loafs they get. As a team, we can’t have that.”
The impact of Marotti’s program has been palpable around the workout facility, at least for Sabino, who said his body fat is down and he already he feels faster than he did a year ago.
“Speaking for the team, I think we’ve all seen great changes in our bodies,” said Sabino, who is now weighing in at 235 pounds.
“We’re just really pushing ourselves and trying to get the best out of each other each and every day.”
Marotti is taking notice. He remembers day one when he and Meyer were first getting a look at these players during conditioning back in January. He can barely even compare it to what he sees today.
“It’s not even close,” he said.
“You expect that. It’s something new and all of a sudden a month later, they understand who we are, what we’re about, what we’re trying to accomplish. It was very evident from day one that they knew my expectations and my staff’s expectations and I know they knew Coach Meyer’s expectations. Once you know what is asked of you, you just do it. We push them hard.”
As he expected, it was a rough start. Not everyone wanted to be a part of it, but as players started to buy in, Marotti saw a group of guys who wanted to embrace the idea of getting better and pushing themselves to the limits—both physically and mentally—of what they thought possible.
“I think obviously there’s a time period just to get adapted to what you’re doing, what we’re asking them to do,” Marotti said.
“The body adapts. They’ve been doing a great job. They have a great attitude. That’s all I look for. When you hear that door creak open and they walk through there, there can’t be any bad demeanor because our program is a high energy program.”
Meyer wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why he made sure Marotti was with him, but the task is far from over.
“We’ve been excited about their effort and their enthusiasm, and we’re not there yet – not even close,” Marotti said.
“You just keep on going.”
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