With his father in the Army, Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera spent his childhood and teenage years moving from state to state. Sometimes country to country. There were stints in California, Washington and Maryland. Germany and Panama, too. Each move meant another uprooting, new friends for Rivera to make.
But when the 58-year-old recalls those days, he lights up. Those experiences, after all, shaped him into the coach — the person — he is today.
With Memorial Day coming up, Rivera shared memories of his upbringing with a group of military families Wednesday in an online question-and-session over Zoom. Many of those listening, like Rivera, had similar tales of families shuttled around the world while parents served.
“One of the things you learn in the military is that it’s all about the mission,” Rivera said. “What’s your intent? If you have a specific mission, a specific goal within that mission and everybody buys into it, then you can accomplish that. … My very first press conference, I talked about what the ultimate goal was: That was to build a winning, sustainable culture.”
When Rivera speaks, it’s clear that players “buying-in” is important to the coach. On Wednesday, he again discussed the need to have a team united behind a single purpose: winning a Super Bowl, adding he’d get rid of players who can’t get on board.
Managing the different egos and personalities on a football team can come more easily to someone who’s had to move so much growing up, embracing new people in every location, Rivera said. It’s good training for life as a coach.
Rivera was an assistant in Chicago, Philadelphia, back to Chicago again and San Diego before landing a head coaching role in Carolina.
“My wife likes to tell people she’s professional mover,” he said.
The lifestyle also taught Rivera the value of discipline and structure — simple things, like waking up at 6:30 a.m. to establish a routine.
Rivera remembered going to dinner on base at an officer’s club with his mom and siblings when two older brothers started elbowing each other — prompting two officers nearby to offer their help to his mom, She looked up, Rivera said, and told the officers no help was necessary, “I’ve got this.” The boys got the message and sat the rest of the dinner in perfect posture.
“She was a strong woman,” Rivera said.
Participants in the online event asked Rivera about life, the challenges of adapting to the outside world. To one mother asking about her teenage daughter, Rivera recommended the book “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William McRaven that makes the case that simple tasks like making your bed can provide structure.
Rivera opened up about the difficulty of transitioning from being an NFL player. He said it took a couple of years to determine what he wanted to do, dabbling in real estate and media. But he found that coaching offered the challenge he sought.
When the conversation turned back to the Redskins, Rivera was asked if he thought any player could be the next Darrell Green. He said Chase Young, Washington’s top pick taken second overall, has the potential.
After a fan remarked how Washington wasn’t given a primetime game this year, Rivera said it didn’t bother him. “It doesn’t matter when you watch us, you’re going to enjoy us,” he added.
Rivera, who a few weeks ago said he wanted to wait to address the entire team until they could all assemble in the same room, said he finally went online Monday to address 130 players and staffers in a video meeting. He went over the team’s goals and what was expected of them to help build a winning culture.
“I want to find guys who believe in the same thing I believe in,” Rivera said. “I want to find people that share in my vision and are willing to commit to it.”
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