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In his fourth season at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is taking a new approach and making some changes in the football program.

Jim Harbaugh’s change in demeanor, attitude, necessary for Michigan football

Rachel Lenzi

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Why are players talking about a change in attitude for Jim Harbaugh?

People grow. People change. Following an 8-5 season in 2017, the Michigan football team is seeing a kinder, gentler side of Jim Harbaugh as the players circulate through the team facilities.

He’s asking for hugs. And who’s not to oblige?

“Sometimes you’ve got to give him a hug,” running back Karan Higdon said. “The guy wants a hug.”
Some are wondering about this new version of Harbaugh we’re hearing about from his players.

Harbaugh, however, is doing this for a purpose. To better the football program, and to better himself.

Maybe it’s part of becoming a grandfather. (Jay Harbaugh’s wife recently announced they are expecting their first child.) Maybe the stress of “Michigan mediocre” 2017 season got to Harbaugh. Or maybe Harbaugh wants to become a more empathetic leader.

When he met with the media at the start of spring practices March 23, Harbaugh didn’t come out and say, “Yes, I feel completely rejuvenated, and I’m taking on my fourth year of coaching the Wolverines with a new attitude!”

But he explained that he did some assessment of the program and of himself as a coach. Anything that was mediocre in the program, he made a point to, as he put it, “make it great.”

“Maybe that’s what’s rejuvenated me. I feel great about all aspects of the program right now,” Harbaugh said. “Probably the best analogy I can think of is you plow the fields and expose what’s good and what’s not good and then you go about fixing it.”

His players have noticed a change. They have become part of the program’s process of evolution, too.

“He wants us to win, just like we do,” defensive end Chase Winovich said. “He wants us to succeed, just like we do. He’s not just the pointer-outer, like, ‘go here or go there.’ He’s in there with us. He takes criticism, just like we do, if not more, and he’s just trying to add more.”

An individual can coach or manage or run a business for years and years. The difference though, is that some people can coach or manage the same way each year for years and years. Others choose to adapt and evolve as a leader, and that lends to their longevity.

British novelist H.G. Wells stated it best: “You either adapt or perish.”

If Harbaugh is making these kinds of changes in his program, it means he’s adapting as a leader. That progressive change will help the Wolverines for 2018, and will help Harbaugh in the long run.

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