Jake Dickert points to a special memento in his office.
“I just got a new family picture ready to get hung up,” Dickert says with a smile.
It is a photo of Dickert, his wife, Candice, and their three children, daughter Rylee and sons Jett and Jace, at the Cougar Pride statue.
Dickert then turns his attention to his office window.
Situated on the fifth floor of the Cougar Football Complex, Dickert enjoys an expansive view of campus.
“All the time,” Dickert says when asked how often he looks at the scenery. “Best view of Pullman possible.
“I’ll take recruits to that window,” Dickert adds, explaining that he tells recruits, “This is the heart of Pullman right here, right where you’re standing.
“I think it’s a really cool visual that everybody gets when they come here.”
Prioritizing family, whether at home or on the field, is what drives Dickert in his first full season as the Washington State University head football coach.
“This is a place for family,” Dickert says. “The best experience our players will have is because of each other. That’s what can really unite a football team.”
Uniting the team and setting the culture was at the forefront of his actions during fall camp in August.
“The biggest thing that we want to set out for is the connectiveness of the team,” he explains.
To illustrate this, Dickert points to a group of sticks, nearly 100 of them, with a rubber band around it.
“These sticks right here represent connectiveness,” Dickert explains, since they’re impossible to break as a group.
Dickert takes one stick out of the collection.
“You pull a single one out, you can easily snap it,” Dickert says, as he breaks a stick.
“How can we be connected?” Dickert asks. “When things go bad, they don’t point fingers. They stay together. It’s building a mindset for the hard times. One of my biggest jobs is to make sure when things are hard, we keep pushing.”
Dickert knows there will be challenges ahead. Time is a precious commodity for him, especially early in the season.
“Sometimes it’s hard that I spend more time with my players than I do with my kids in a season,” Dickert admits, “and that’s hard for me to say out loud.”
Dickert says there are instances during the season when coaches will make excuses to spend more time in the office to prepare for gameday at the expense of family during the season.
“I’ve done that in the past,” he concedes.
Staying consistent in a routine is how Dickert strikes a balance with work and family.
“There’s a lot of people who say ‘I can’t make my daughter’s volleyball game. I can’t be to this,’” Dickert says. “Well, you can. You just have to do it.”
Dickert makes it a priority to carve out time with his family.
“We find little moments we can all share together,” Dickert says. “Hopefully, someday, when Rylee or Jett or Jace look back on it, Dad was really present in those moments we got to share.”
Dickert’s coaching journey to Pullman has taken him and his family to North Dakota State, South Dakota, Southeast Missouri State, Augustana, Minnesota State–Mankato, South Dakota State, Wyoming, and finally to Washington State. All in the span of nine years.
“I don’t think anyone realizes what coaches’ families go through,” Dickert says. “Everyone thinks your journey was perfect. It was anything but perfect. There were times when maybe we doubted if we can do this.”
Dickert credits Candice for keeping him on track.
“She would always keep pushing me,” he says. “Those are the support systems we all need in life.”
On the eve of fall camp, Dickert posted the photo about to be displayed in his office to his Twitter account with the tweet: “Everyone needs to know their WHY!! Mine is real simple … my family. I know that as we begin this journey with the team they are always right by my side.”
“When things get hard, you always got to go back to why you do something,” Dickert says.
He points to his desk.
“When I am sitting over there and maybe things aren’t going right, this is why I do it,” Dickert says, as he points back to the picture. “Because I got a bunch of people at home who love me and support me.”
Dickert demonstrates team strength with a bundle of sticks.
(Courtesy WSU Athletics)