Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on Football pt1: coaching

[Editor's note: I'd like to take a few posts (possibly as many as 10) to spend some time talking about the game of football. For those of you who read this blog, and don't like football...sorry!]

I've said it a couple of times during the past week, "I think coaching/leadership is 3-fold: recruiting talent, teaching a philosophy/gameplan/strategy, & then motivating your talent to follow your philosophy/gameplan/strategy. Everything that a coach/leader does can be found within these three parts. I think this is exemplified most clearly on a football team. Interestingly enough, I read a Bobby Knight book where he said - when looking to develop his coaching philosophy - he actually talked with football coaches to get tips, learn what it meant to coach, and to develop habits for himself.

Football, more than any other sport, relies on good coaches. For the most part, other sports can overcome poor coaching; even then rarely. In these other sports, a star athlete can compensate for poor coaching, but football is the ultimate team sport. Because of the sheer size of a football team, it requires a leader who is organized, motivated, and passionate enough to form a group of players into 1 cohesive unit.

My friend Handyman Mitch works for NBC's camera crew during the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, which gives him an interesting vantage point of the game. He was talking the other day about the difference between ND's [now former] coach Charlie Weis and Southern Cal's coach Pete Carroll.

Pete is the personification of energy during games; running up and down the sideline; high fiving his players; getting in players faces; constantly coaching, constantly cheering, constantly spreading energy to his players. On the other sideline, Charlie Weis would stand still with a massive laminated sheet that had all the plays. He'd stay pretty stationary on the sideline talking strategy with his coaching staff and players. Both coaches profoundly impacted their teams, and USC under Pete Carroll went undefeated against ND under Charlie Weis. I wonder why?

The head coach of a football team is the football team. Only in rare occasions does any other position on the team have a larger impact on the team than the head coach [the only such example I can think of is Peyton Manning and the Colts]. A team will mirror its coach. It is the pure truth. If you look at the great teams down through the ages, they all had great coaches leading them. There are 0 exceptions here.

Here are the characteristics I think that a head coach needs to have.
  1. Enthusiasm/Passion/Drive to succeed
  2. A strong understanding of who and what he wants his football team to be. And the ability to clearly articulate this understanding
  3. The ability to surround himself/herself with players that fit that understanding.

What do you think?

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