Ryan Day's Manchester appearance focused on youth mental health
Mar. 16—RYAN DAY learned something helpful from each of the notable coaches he played for and has worked with since joining the football coaching ranks.
The common lesson the Manchester native and Ohio State University football coach learned from them was the importance of building relationships and communication with your players.
"Wins and losses and competitiveness and all that is huge, obviously, when you're playing," Day said Thursday in an appearance at the Boys & Girls Club of Manchester, "but it's also the humanistic part of it and building those relationships and helping them later on in life, which all these coaches have done for me."
Day played football for Jim Schubert and basketball for Mike Fitzpatrick at Manchester Central. As quarterback at the University of New Hampshire, Day played one season for Bill Bowes and three for Sean McDonnell and McDonnell assistant coach Chip Kelly.
Day began his coaching career in 2002 as the UNH tight ends coach on McDonnell's staff and later served on Kelly's coaching staffs with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Before succeeding Urban Meyer as Ohio State's head coach in 2019, he spent two seasons on Meyer's offensive coaching staff and earlier served as a graduate assistant on Meyer's University of Florida staff in 2005.
During his speech, focused on the importance of youth mental health, Day related a story about Harry Miller, a former offensive lineman at Ohio State.
"One day, he (Miller) came into my office and shared that he was in a dark place and wanted to end his life," said Day, who at a young age lost his father to suicide. "We immediately got him with our psychiatrist and our professionals and, over the next year, he received the treatment that he needed."
Day said Ohio State has instituted a "circle of care" program that focuses on 12 areas that players need to maximize, one of which is mental health. Players have access to a physiatrist, two athletic counselors and two sports psychologists, Day said.
Day and his wife, Nina, last summer established The Christina and Ryan Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness through Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Day, who will begin his fifth year leading the Buckeyes next fall, said he and his wife want to be part of improving mental health care in Manchester and New Hampshire.
"As we've learned, one of the best ways to do that is through conversation," Day said during his speech. "The more people talk with friends and loved ones about mental illness, the easier it becomes to acknowledge your own struggles and to understand the other people's struggles and more conversations lead to less isolation and fear."
Day and the Buckeyes are off this week as part of the school's spring break but return to spring practices next week. The team had two practices last week and will hold 12 more before its annual spring game on April 15.
Some of the team's focuses this spring, Day said, are identifying who will fill starting positions on the offensive line, in the secondary and a starting quarterback to replace NFL-bound C.J. Stroud. Day considers Stroud a franchise quarterback and said he would take Stroud with the No. 1 overall pick in next month's NFL Draft.
Getting Ohio State's 11 early-enrolled freshmen and eight transfers acclimated to the culture of the program is also important, Day said.
"Usually, what we think about in the spring is we're trying to improve individually," Day said. "Then when we come back in the preseason we start to really come together as an offense, defense and special teams."
Day also added Mike Dawson, whom he coached with on McDonnell's staff at UNH, to his staff as a defensive analyst this week. Dawson spent four of the past five seasons as the outside linebackers coach at Nebraska and the other with the New York Giants in the same role. At UNH from 2000-05, Dawson spent seasons as McDonnell's linebackers coach, offensive line coach and defensive coordinator.
Dawson and Day also worked together on Kelly's staff with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.
"I think it's just another piece on the defensive side that can really help us as we get into conference play and some of these big games," Day said of adding Dawson. "You want to have as many good minds in that room as possible and he's one of them."
When the team breaks after spring, Day said recruiting and building relationships with his current and incoming players are huge parts of his offseason. With the one-time transfer rule in the NCAA now, he said it has forced coaches to follow through with what they preach during the recruiting process because otherwise players have the option to leave.
There were a number of those among the packed house for Day's speech at the Boys and Girls Club wearing scarlet and gray colors or sweatshirts embroidered with the Ohio State logo. Day said throughout his career, he has always felt great support from back home.
The event, Day said, was a great opportunity to bring people together who care about kids' well-being.
"It's just great to be around great people who care about the youth," Day said. "That's what we're doing as coaches, administrators, teachers and today was just a great opportunity to get people together and help the youth."