Week Three under the lights. Rain is in the forecast, the temperature is cool and it’s getting a bit closer to fall. It smells not quite like football season yet, but almost. It’s a perfect night for high school football.
It’s High School Football season… The smell of fall hinting in the air and an opportunity for young men to play a kids game under Friday Night Lights. Play tonight with passion and like it’s the last game of your life. It will go fast so enjoy every moment, every play, and every opportunity to be a great teammate. Ma
Recently friend and colleague Dr. Chris Stankovich wrote about athletic transferable skills an athlete learns from sports, and how those skills can be used in situations such as a classroom, a future career, and in life. Dr. Stankovich gave a few examples of these skills including: discipline, being a team player, motivation, goal setting, and I’d like to add commitment.
We’ve all been on some type of team in our life whether it be a sports team, a work team, a family, or just a group of friends. Think back to that team you were a part of and recall if there was a true sense of commitment not only to the team, but also to team excellence. Vince Lombardi said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of thier chosen field of endeavor.” Lombardi had a way with words that still echoes in every football coaches office in this country. Football coaches are notorious for one-liners and repeating slogans handed down from the generations… It’s not necessarily that current coaches do not have creativity or originality, rather the slogans and beliefs of the Vince Lombardi’s of the world were simple and believable, and maybe best described as motivational. I think Lombardi’s messages and certainly this particular quote resonates deeper than simply the locker room. The commitment that Lombardi is referring to is the same transferable skill Dr. Stankovich tells us we can learn from sports and use in other aspects of our lives.
After watching this video and listening to the greatest football coach of all time describe the game of football in his own words, I think we can relate to what Dr. Stankovich meant by a transferable skill. It doesn’t matter what field one is in, if you go about your work with the passion and conviction that Vince Lombardi did, you’re a winner. Vince Lombardi breathed, lived, and died football. Football was more than a part of him; football was in his soul. His voice still gives me goosebumps when I hear him talk about the game of football because for a long time, that was how I felt. Luckily I found another passion after football because I don’t know how a person can stop something they feel that strongly about.
Lombardi mentions twice in his speech the importance of having a commitment to excellence… He mentions this because it’s the right way to represent your family, the right way to coach and play sports, and it’s the right way to do our jobs. While I don’t believe I’m as good at sports marketing as Lombardi was at coaching football… (yet) I do believe having a commitment to excellence is a sure way of becoming the best at whatever it is any of us aspire to be. Whether it be a football coach, a marketer, a ditch digger, or a parent; listen to Coach Lombardi talk about the fulfillment and reward of working as a team to accomplish a goal and try to incorporate that same sense of unity in what it is that you do… Individual accomplishment is great, but “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi (1913-1970)
My fist real mentor was my college strength coach. Cal Dietz helped me become the athlete I became on a number of platforms. The first platform was the wooden one I did power-cleans on in the University of Findlay weight room. I had no idea what I was doing and quite frankly I was lucky I didn’t hurt myself. But Cal saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He coached me, encouraged me, and developed the self-confidence I was lacking that ultimately led me to the NFL.
I’ll never forget the embarrassing first day of college football. For those that don’t know what testing day is, it’s the first day of the season that coaches can see the progress an athlete made in the off-season by having the athletes demonstrate various tests of strength and explosiveness. Players are tested on various strength tests such as the bench press and vertical jump. My first day as a skinny college athlete I did the 225lb bench press test zero reps. Yup, dropped the weight on my chest and couldn’t lift it. Good thing I could catch a football because that was the only thing that was impressive about me as a freshman at the University of Findlay.
It wasn’t until the following off-season when Cal came to the University of Findlay that I aspired to be the best football player I could be. He started by teaching me how to eat. That’s right; brought me to the dining hall and filled my plate with whole grain bread, deli-style turkey piled high – and I mean high, lots of vegetables, and two glasses of milk. I followed in his shadow as he explained why he was putting the different foods on my tray. “When you finish this tray, go back through the line and get the same thing again. If you need some ice cream to fill in the cracks that’s ok.” – I guess he wanted me to gain some weight. Which I did, the right way. Nutritious food with a little humor- I’ll always remember that moment as Cal’s first day of coaching me. From there it was all business in the weight room. I was always a good athlete because I was blessed with talent but Cal helped me become great.
I’ve had a lot of great coaches and teachers in my life but none quite like Cal. It takes a special person to find personal success in helping others achieve their goals. Cal certainly has his own goals, which is another skill I learned from him, but he always cared about his athletes reaching their full potential. In his mind, if his athletes weren’t reaching their full potential, he wasn’t doing his job to his fullest potential. He gave us everything he had everyday as our coach, and in return, we gave him everything we had. It was the epitome of team. And I loved being a part of it. He made me want to be better every time I was around him.
Cal will always be a dear friend and mentor. We talk about business ventures and philosophy when we have time and most recently we discussed the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the themes in Collin’s book is having the right people in the right positions for your organization. Maybe it’s the competitive nature of the NFL in me that has influenced me, or possibly jaded me, but this philosophy is not just a suggestion for managers to consider. If we do not have the right people in the right positions, a company will never be great. Just as Cal was the right person to help me, corporations have to find the same “right” people to ensure greatness. People are every company’s greatest resource and I completely believe a happy employee is one whom is passionate. Find employees who have a passion for your business and listen to them. Develop them into what they want to be and they will give you everything they have for your business. You may not bench-press 420 lbs when its all over, but you will have won the right way, with the right people on your team. – Thanks Cal for inspiring me to be great.