“Be the Hammer:” A Conversation with Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Trae Ivory

The old saying goes, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail.”

Coach Trae Ivory flips that around. “What’s the tool that gets used the most?” he asks. “What does every single person have in his toolbox out in the garage? A hammer. As a coach, I say ‘Be the hammer.’ Be the tool that gets used the most.”

Versatility has been his watchword as a pro. An arena-league veteran of many years’ experience, Ivory played on both sides of the ball, often while serving as an on-field coach as well. “It’s the complacency that bothers me in some of these leagues,” he says. “Everyone does everything the same way. They’re just happy being where they are. When I started, I kept noticing tendencies. I’d see what guys were doing and I’d say, ‘Let’s get on that!’ I’d work up cheat sheets for [my fellow players]; we saw immediate success.”

Ivory believes that given a baseline athleticism, pretty much everything else can be taught. “A few years ago, we were so short-handed, we had a wide receiver playing linebacker. This guy had the skills; he needed the mindset. He could’ve been Defensive MVP if he’d really bought into it, if he’d consistently done what we taught him. You’ve got the [athleticism]; we’ll give you the tools.”

Ivory’s toolbox is largely online for now. He’s in Texas, near Head Coach Victor Mann (who is also Ivory’s cousin). He’s looking to tap in to the Lone Star State’s deep talent pool by holding tryouts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “But you know, the internet, social media,” he says. “I can do almost anything online as we get ready to hold tryouts in Kansas City, and of course Cedar Rapids.”

Ivory’s program starts with conditioning and film study. “I send guys an extensive program, both physically and mentally. Our offseason physical conditioning routine is tough. Film study’s tougher. I’m always sending guys film. It’s preparation for camp, where every day we have ‘script sheets,’ certain films to watch, certain series of plays. I’ve got film on [new Tucson Sugar Skulls head coach] Dixie [Wooten] going back to his days in Wichita. All of that is there for us to use, and we’re going to use it.”

“We don’t want to hear any excuses,” he continues, “but we don’t want to give anyone any excuses either. You always hear guys saying this and that about the coaches, the owners, whatever — ‘They didn’t give us this, they didn’t give us that.’ We don’t want any of that here. We want everyone who comes here to know: We gave you everything we had to give you. We gave you every opportunity to show us that you’re better than what we have right now. Because you know what? If we don’t, we [the coaching staff] are the ones who get cut first! We [the coaches] have to put it all out there.”

And he does mean everything. Coach Ivory is a savvy businessman. “I made my brand in indoor football,” he says. “That’s what this is about — building your brand. We hope everyone we coach goes on to the League, but even the best [pro football] career comes with one hell of an expiration date. This right here is your opportunity; I can help you make the most of it. I got a free education in sports management just by watching what the owners do. I can teach you that. You come in as a football player; I’m going to teach you to be a better football player, and a better businessman, too.”

And, it goes without saying, a great member of the community. Like Coach Mann, Coach Ivory is big on community involvement. “We have an effect on everyone,” he says. “Rapport with the fans is key. I’ve seen it from all angles — as a coach, as a former player. Everything has to be done with the fans in mind.”

He plans to show the fans something special this year. “Coach Mann is out there saying he wants to put up 70 points a game. I’ve got to keep up! If he’s going to make the scoreboard spin like that, we have to try to put up goose eggs every game. 26 points or less, that’s the landmark. That’s #TeamNoSoft football.”

Both Mann and Ivory stress that it’s the team culture that will bring results. “No politics, no favorites, always earn your way — and that includes us!” he says. “Players shouldn’t worry about anything other than playing. You worry about playing, we’ll worry about the rest. And then let t he rest of the league worry about US!”

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