We've had several posts the past month about the importance of coaches being continual learners. Last night I ran across the article from the New York Times in 2006 written by Judy Batista on how Bill Belichick as driven to learn more and more regardless of his accomplishments...these are just a few of the excerpts from the article:
But even as Belichick flourishes at the highest level of his profession, he is engaged in the equivalent of a postgraduate education program, an independent study tour that has taken him from Annapolis, Md., to Gainesville, Fla., from a cot in Ted Marchibroda's hotel room to Jimmy Johnson's boat.
At each stop, usually in the off-season and sometimes involving intensive film study, Belichick has picked the brain of his host, gleaning bits of wisdom about everything from Navy's run offense to Johnson's philosophies on drafting and contract negotiations.
Such sessions are common among college coaches, who freely share information about their schemes with coaches whose teams are not on their schedule.
Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama coach, went to Texas one spring to study the wishbone. Current college coaches frequently visit Virginia Tech to learn some of Frank Beamer's special-teams techniques. But Belichick's forays are unusual in the N.F.L.; limited time in the off-season and heightened paranoia result in most coaches avoiding anything more than the most informal sharing of information.
"He's a perfect example of what we've let slip away in the image of a coach - the job is a teaching job," said Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi, who was the general manager of the Cleveland Browns when Belichick became the head coach there in 1991. "Bill certainly has a great deal of self-confidence, but he's got the humility to know that he can always learn from somebody that's successful. To me, the smarter you are, the more you want to learn."
It's just an exchange of information with somebody that you have common ground with," Belichick said in an interview during training camp. "You talk about things that are successful, and sometimes that has an application to what you're doing."
When Belichick took his first job as a head coach in Cleveland, he made an unusual request when he and his staff members went to the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Each assistant was assigned three other teams; they were to ask members of those coaching staffs what their practice routines were. The point was to see if anybody else had good ideas about how to run practices.
Another summer, Belichick put a pile of books on a table in a meeting room. Each book had something to do with sports or great athletes. Belichick and his father have enormous libraries of football and sports books, about 500 volumes each, some historical, some technical. He assigned two books to each of his coaches, and when they returned to work for the start of training camp, he asked them what they had gotten out of their summer reading. Book reports for the shoulder-pad set.
"He said, 'I think you can learn from others,' " said Pat Hill, who was a member of Belichick's staff in Cleveland. He is now in his ninth season as head coach at Fresno State.
He added: "Bill is a very good listener. He wanted your opinions. He didn't want yes guys. There's a big difference between listening for what you want to hear and listening to learn. When he listens, he has a reason for the questions."
Perhaps that explains what Belichick and his quarterbacks coach, Josh McDaniels, were doing in Gainesville during the off-season. Belichick met with Florida Coach Urban Meyer while scouting his players, and they spoke about Meyer's spread-option offense. It was highly successful in Meyer's two seasons at Utah and is all the rage in college football.