Story written by Sports Information Student Assistant Hunter Chovanec
Alma, Mich. — Most football teams have a saying or motto when they're building a program or culture. The Alma College football team and Head Coach Jason Couch are no different.
The Scots have used the term "KILTstyle" since early 2019, following Couch's first year on the sidelines at Alma. Each letter in the word "kilt" stands for a pillar for the football program.
"K" stands for kinship, which means being a part of a family and being there for one another.
"I" stands for integrity — Couch says this is the simplest one of the four, simply "doing what you're supposed to do off the field." He elaborated that means going to class, doing well academically, and giving back to the Alma community in some form.
"L" stands for love — "love one another, pick up your brother when he's down."
The last letter is "T," which stands for tenacity.
"This is football and you will get knocked down, but you have to be tenacious and ready to get back up," Couch said.
According to Coach Couch, "KILTstyle" got its start in a unique way.
"It all started in 2018 when I wore a kilt on the sidelines for our home opener and my first game back in Alma as the Head Football Coach," said Couch, who played center on the Scots' football team from 1993-96.
Couch's wearing of the kilt gained national attention from the likes of ESPN. Following that game, he has worn a kilt for every home game as head coach.
In early 2019, the football staff sat down to discuss which direction they wanted the program to head in and what they wanted the team culture to center around. Assistant Coach Scotty Cole coined the term "KILTstyle," and the football team was off and running with their new slogan.
The slogan has both similar and different meanings for each player. Due to injury, junior Brendan Hamilton wasn't able to play in 2019, however, that did not stop him from feeling the kinship and love of his teammates.
"I lived on the third floor of my dorm, and guys would come and help me get up or get down the steps because I was on crutches," Hamilton said.
Hamilton also said the bond between players is what led him to attending Alma and becoming a part of the football program.
Family and values were a common theme for all players when asked what "KILTstyle" meant to them.
For junior Justin Headlee, "KILTstyle to me is the reinforcement of a culture we already have at Alma, and something we can abide to as football players and also as students."
Headlee added that the "integrity" portion of the slogan resonates with him in particular.
"To me, integrity is doing your studies when no one is watching, staying up late to study for an exam, and doing the right things to play the sport we love," Headlee said.
Sophomore Marcus Owens Jr. said that the love that was apparent between Scots players is what led him to coming to Alma College out of high school.
"I enjoyed the culture," he said. "I remember before football started, I was trying to remember the four pillars."
The Scots have faced a lot of adversity this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where "tenacity" really came into play.
"For me, it was tough not having a fall football season, but it really changed our mindset and how we think about things, we can even use tenacity in our lives," junior Alexander Dean said.
In anticipation of the upcoming spring football season, Dean said, he has shown tenacity by staying ready every day for the next opportunity that comes his way.
When Couch wore a kilt on the sidelines, it was "his way of externalizing his pride of being back at Alma as the head football coach."
When asked what he looks for in a recruit, Couch said, "I love when a recruit tells me that the culture of the team matters significantly to them, and we've had more of that."
"I think more young men that are choosing to come to Alma are seeing that it is a part of our values, and having that togetherness," Couch added. "The culture while they're here is certainly important, and that's what we look for in a recruit."
When the Scots compete for a conference championship, they want to do it the right way. The Alma College football program will compete for a MIAA conference title this spring when they open their season in March.
"The wins will keep coming if we continue to do the right things both on and off the field," Couch said.