The story behind Sean Lewis’ ‘Be the Alpha’ Motto

By Stephen Spiewak | Posted 1/28/2019

Inspiration can take unusual forms.

For instance, Kent State head coach Sean Lewis discovered one of his fundamental coaching and life philosophies while training his dog.

Lewis' "Be the Alpha" mantra, which he's carried with him from its inception in 2012, took root when Lewis and his family added a puppy. Lewis took on the task of training the dog and studied the animal's connection to its ancestor, the wolf.

When a wolf pup is born, Lewis said, it knows only one thing: One day becoming a pack leader, something each pup strives toward every single day, with laser focus on the end goal.

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Lewis found that the message of wholly dedicating each day to self-improvement and excellence is something that could benefit his position group and extend to the entire team.

"I wanted each guy to be the leader of his own life," he said. "If every single one of my players had that goal, had that aspiration and was working in all phases of their life to be the leader of their own life, we'd have the best position group on the team. And then I've done my job as a position coach."

Much like the journey to becoming pack leader for a young wolf is multi-faceted, so too is Lewis' "Be the Alpha" mindset for his players. It stretches beyond the athletic or physical and touches on the social, mental and spiritual.

"In doing that, they are becoming the best young person they could possibly be," he said.

The "Be the Alpha" mentality is not limited to men in Lewis' program. In fact, he's quick to point out that "a lot of alpha wolves are female because of how they care, protect and love others."  He doesn't have to look very far for a woman exhibiting those traits, as Lewis openly shares that Sarah, his wife, has many of those attributes in abundance.

Lewis recognizes the external pressures on young men and the roles they're expected to play. Instead of asking his players to fit the mold of what he calls "quote unquote 'real men'", Lewis' “Be the Alpha” approach demands that players block out external noise and remain dedicated to self-improvement, in ways that manifest publicly, especially beyond the gridiron, as capable professionals, respectful husbands and loving fathers.

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It's unsurprising that the "Be the Alpha" rallying cry remains popular at Kent State, where Lewis recently wrapped up his first season as head coach. The three words are simple, yet the demands—and results— are profound.

"Let's have everyone in every single unit be the alpha of their own life. To have a passion and a purpose so that each and every day when they wake up, they can do great things," he said.

When Lewis got a puppy back in 2012, little did he know he'd also be signing up for a new defining slogan that now guides his entire life.

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Stephen Spiewak is the former senior manager of digital content at USA Football. He now works for Vivid Seats and his most recent project includes studying trends in Super Bowl ticket prices.