GROVE CITY, Minn. - Anybody who's ever had a great teacher or coach knows how influential they can be. But there's one high school football coach in western Minnesota who's taking that mentoring role to heart -- incorporating real-life lessons into his playbook.
On the practice field, head football coach David Blom runs a tight ship with very little mercy, and absolutely no sympathy. Because that's what good coaches do. Push their players to do better.
But this isn't a story about a good coach. This is a story about a great coach. Great because he pushes his players to be better.
"Who's told your mom or dad that you love them in the last 24 hours?" he asked the team.
Welcome to the heart and soul of varsity football practice in the ACGC (Atwater Cosmos Grove City) School District.
It's a little surreal watching a room full of sweaty football players get in touch with their feelings. They're all present, practically reverent, as they watch a cartoon about respecting their parents. And when the lights come up, he gives them an assignment to write a thank you letter to mom and dad from the heart.
“Most of you don't get the opportunity to tell mom thank you dad thank you whether it's for doing your laundry or whether it's for anything and everything."
But these 'love letters' are just the tip of the iceberg. Coach Blom is the mastermind behind dozens of similar, dramatic life lessons over the last few years. Among his greatest hits -- a music video with a message -- "all women are beautiful".
"We had to know the song front to back and everyone's nervous and we didn't know how it was gonna go, are we gonna embarrass ourselves,” high school senior Beau Anderson said.
"I told em you know what, these girls have to put makeup on, they gotta do their hair, they gotta have the right clothes,” Coach Blom said. “If we can be embarrassed just one time to make someone's day better, hopefully make one girl beautiful, then we did our job."
And then there are the heavier lessons, like the time Coach Blom tried to discourage students rumored to be drinking during homecoming. He knew that in order to get through he had to get personal.
"I found this video on YouTube. These boys know I love my daughters and I would do anything for my daughters. And as soon as it started I paused the video and I said ‘here right now this is my daughter.’ And it ended with the girl laying in the middle of the road dead. And I point blank tell them, ‘you guys killed my daughter’ and you could just tell everybody's heart sank."
But coach wasn't done with them yet. He'd make each boy give a heart-wrenching impact statement in front of the entire team, apologizing to their coach for taking the love of his life.
And that's the end game here -- to raise the bar and raise these young men as if they were his own.
"If I can make an impact with these guys and they can meet my standards of being my son-in-law then I think they're good enough for society and to make this world a better place,” he said.
"We're definitely not gonna forgot all the stuff that he's having us do and I think it's definitely gonna stick with us,” Anderson said.
It's just more proof that good coaches can show you how to win, but great coaches, those who teach from the heart, can change the game.
"He actually cares about you as a person, not just a football player," the students said.