“The Heart Of A Leader”

January 25, 2010

From the New York Times this last weekend:

“Ryan turned one of the N.F.L.’s most clandestine operations into an open book. The Jets collapsed at the end of 2008 in part because of the tense atmosphere. Ryan changed that, changed a culture, changed the way people felt about coming to work.”

This comment from a media source caught our attention in that the last part of it is what every coach would love to see happen on their team. When your players want to come to practice, 2-a-days, the games, the meetings, the PR functions, the press conferences, etc., that says something. It does not matter what level you coach at. When your team “wants to come to work” it says something about you as a leader. To motivate people to follow a vision takes those individuals buying into what one believes in and as a coach, inspiring a team has to start in your heart and then be transferred to your players. To play as a team requires a total collective buyout and not just a few team members. One of Rex Ryan’s former players, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was quoted as saying that Rex had the heart of a father. Your leadership as a coach has to begin with caring more about the player than the plays he makes. Otherwise you prostitue the player and he becomes just an object to your own selfish motives. When you care about someone, then you can lead them somewhere.


“An Incessant Seeker”

January 23, 2010

A coach’s schedule is so demanding that priorities must dictate how that individual uses his or her time to meet all the demands of life. In trying to become more informed about the 2010 NFL final four football coaches, we read about Coach Jim Caldwell, and realized that he is a man who cares about people. He is known to talk to everyone in the locker room about everything from physical ailments to family details. When a coach takes time to talk to every person associated with that team, you might wonder if they will be a winning coach. The proof is in the pudding with the Indy Colts this year under Caldwell’s leadership. He also is quite a reader and constantly seeking to draw on the wisdom of others. Books are a mainstay of the content in his office. Reading about sleep habits, jet lag, and how probability theory affects one’s life are just some of the areas that Caldwell desires knowledge about. One of the main things that caught our attention though was that Jim Caldwell reads his Bible first thing when he arrives at the office every morning between 5 and 6 am. This truly tells us that his priorities are in proper order. A coach who begins his day like this with a demanding schedule that comes with being in this profession has disciplined his or her life to  be a person of character. That may explain why resting players for the playoffs and seeking a berth in the Superbowl were bigger issues than having a chance at a perfect season. Criticism reigned down on him for making that decision but truly he was sticking with his plan for the bigger picture. Coach Caldwell’s example to us should cause us to evaluate our priorities for every day and set out to change our personal lives in order to be successful as an individual of character.

Jay Cutler Could Have Taken Another Route

March 17, 2009

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Smart Is The New Tough

August 7, 2008

I was watching the Tennessee Titans at training camp yesterday. It was 95 degrees and they were in full pads with extensive live contact work, but right behind the line of scrimmage and at different places around the field, trainers were moving around with golf carts that were loaded down with water buckets and energy drinks. They handed cups out to players continually and the coaches called for water breaks after every session.

What a change for those “good ole days” when coaches refused to let their players drink water. I remember getting salt tablets and told not to be a “candy ass.” It was all about being a tough guy. Who in the world was dumb enough to think that was going to make them into better players? I’m surprised more players didn’t die.

Thank goodness times and coaches have changed, or at least the smart ones who’ve learned that in order for an engine to run right, it has to have fuel in it.

When Pride Gets in the Way

July 17, 2008

I’m troubled by what’s happening between Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Having grown up in Wisconsin, I’m an old die hard Packers fan and Brett is at the top of that list, but enough is enough.

Like a child crying wolf I’ve grown tired of him dragging out his retirement the last few years and changing his mind even though he says he was pressured into the decision by the Packers this time.

As in the case of Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice, the same pride and passion that made him great is now the force that refuses to let him face reality.

As a superstar he became accustomed to the football world, especially in Green Bay, circulating around him. As real and unaffected as he tried to be, it seeped in through all the royal treatment through the years. He became bigger than life, but it eventually got to the point that reality no longer existed and preferential treatment became an expected way of life.

It shattered his ego that the head coach of the Packers told him that they were moving on. How could they possibly think of being successful without him and didn’t he have every right to wait as long as he wanted to make a decision and then change his mind? Now his bruised ego has gotten to the point that he talks about walking on at the Packers training camp, forcing their hand in making a decision on his status.

I know he loves the game and hates to give it up, but pride has eaten him up.

Reality is that every single football player has to quit at some point. Others with the same prideful issues dragged it on too long and it became painful to watch, but that’s the reality of life not only sports. In life, corporations make the same decisions with long time, valued employees and it’s not easy to accept.

I know, I’ve been there and gone through that. Brett Favre will as well even though he won’t enjoy it.

Pride is a powerful motivator but can also be a devastating enemy.

You Can’t Fake Caring

May 24, 2008

I’ve been watching the Tennessee Titans mini camp workouts and was struck by an obvious point.

Assistant coach Jim Washburn is so animated and vocal with his players that you can hear him from anywhere on the field. He rides his players like a rented mule but it never sounds mean spirited. The minute he’s made his point it’s over. He’ll be at their side laughing or teaching, but never gnawing on past mistakes.

You can tell, just from the tone of his voice that he likes them and wants to push them, but not break their spirit. He’s considered one of the best in the NFL at his position.

To a man, the players he coaches have told me that they never take anything personal when he chews them out because they know he cares for them as a person, but he just won’t put up with not trying.

There’s a proverb that says “what’s in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth”.

You can’t fake caring. That’s true in coaching as well.

Does Color Really Make a Difference?

April 29, 2008

NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was in town the other day. I interviewed him and he said a fascinating thing:

“The man who had the biggest influence on my life was my high school football coach. He gave me direction and taught me discipline. He was like a father to me…and you know what, he was white. It’s a shame I have to tell you that, but in this day and age that’s the way society is. Color makes a difference when it really shouldn’t. He was my coach and I loved him.”

Those words from the greatest running back in the history of the National Football League.