I became a sports fan in 2010—the year the SF Giants won the World Series. I now rootnot just for the Giants, but the 49ers and the Warriors, and as baseball season winds down and our playoff hopes slip away, I’m turning my attention to football.
Major league football: what a game
Huge men in padded uniforms run around a field trying to break each other’s limbs, and for the most part, they’re successful. Each week’s injury report tallies the fallen—those
who are invariably out for the season with myriad hideous injuries. Broken legs, ankles and knees, separated shoulders, the ubiquitous ACL injuries and most disturbing, concussions, which now appear to have life-dimming implications. But this is the ultimate guy culture. These players clearly love pitting their wits and brute strength against their opponents, going into deep withdrawal when it’s time to hang up their helmets.
What motivates these guys and keeps them competing?
What keeps them coming back for another year of abuse is the elusive dream of winning a Super Bowl ring, but you can’t win without an elite quarterback and some really explosive receivers with great hands. You need a strong offensive line along with a ferocious defense. You really have to have it all. Including superb coaches. And it’s up to the coaches to keep these behemoths motivated.
Let’s take a look at how football coaches are motivating their teams—and how these quotes are not just football lessons, but life and business lessons.
- Tom Coughlin, longtime coach of the NY Giants, is a huge fan of the daily quote. He wants to inspire his team and make them think. One enduring quote this year is “Be where your feet are.” It’s hard not to love this one. Focus on what you’re doing right now. For Coughlin, if you’re running routes, you should focus on routes, not what you’re going to have for dinner.
- Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals. “It’s a short elevator to the back of the shithouse. All of a sudden, I’m the greatest damn coach in the world. I’ve been a sorry SOB for 17, 18 years now. That ain’t changed just because we won a couple games.” Who can’t relate to this one. Everyone loves a winner. Make a few mistakes and we all know how hard it is to claw your way back up into people’s good graces. People in general–not just football fans–are really very fickle. We need to be consistent, playing at the top of our games. Make a mistake, and like Bruce Arians, we’ll be playing catch-up. Happily, if you keep on doing good work, like Bruce, you can redeem yourself.
- Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks. “Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” I like this one a lot. It’s amazing what can happen when people show confidence in you. We become empowered and start to excel. Anyone who’s had a mentor who challenged and supported him/her knows what a difference-maker this can be.
- Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan. “Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” Apparently this was Harbaugh’s dad’s favorite saying, the way he brought his kids up. If you’re doing work you love, it really is possible to attack each day with unbridled enthusiasm.
If we take the collective advice of these football coaches—seasoned, fierce competitors who’ve known their share of career highs and lows as well as wins and losses, we’ll be focused, enthusiastic, confident and persistent—requirements for football, life and business!