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Wednesday, July 31, 2013


A few weeks ago, I had a post about a book and made reference to the fact that I would have loved to have read it when I first started coaching.  In fact, it would be in my Top 10 books that I think could've impacted me greatly as a young coach just starting out.  I have since received a great number of requests asking for the complete list and so each day, over the next few weeks, I will list a book that I think young coaches would benefit from reading as they start their coaching journey.  I would imagine that many will be looking for X&O books -- just as I did when I first started coaching -- but instead you will find a list of books that will not only make you a better coach, but a better person. Books that concentrate on teaching, goal setting, communication and leadership.

Book #7

Bill Parcells with Jeff Coplon

This is a book that is written for head coaches or assistant coaches, bosses or employees, leaders and role players.  Early in the book Parcells writes: "That desire goes beyond the scoreboard, or the fame, or the money.  Those are just the incidentals, the by-products of winning.  For me the point is something else: Can you contribute to greatness?  Can you witness -- even if just for a moment -- an end product that reflects character and courage and principle?"

No on questions the importance of confidence in determining success.  But the roots of confidence are sometimes misconstrued.  People don't get it from fancy pep talks, or psychological string-pulling, or positive-thinking handbooks.  An organization's confidence level is defined, first and last, by its tangible performance.  Confidence is only born of demonstrated ability.

In my business, a team's collective mental state is ruled by the psychology of results.  In other words, past outcomes dramatically affect the group's attitude going into the next game..  A team teaches itself what it is on the field, in action.  Sometimes this can be a resource to the leader; at other times, you're fighting your darnedest to overcome it.

To keep his team on track, a coach must take this syndrome into account before the fact, and frame the most positive mind-set he can for his players.  (As Bear Bryant once advised me, "You better know what you're gonna tell 'em if you're winnin' at halftime, and you better know what you're gonna tell 'em if you're losin'.")  Coaches can't leave their teams to decide for themselves what's going on; they have to assert their influence, prepare their players for any results.

One is your competition. If your product line can’t compete, you’re in big trouble—whether your rivals are Toyota and Honda or the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins.

The second is public perception, as shaped by the media. If you’re always seen in a negative light, your groups morale will likely go under—along with your performance.

The third factor? Division from within—and this is the greatest threat, hands down. When your team is united, it can ward off any flak from negative perceptions; it won’t make any difference what outsiders think. And when your team is working together, your competition will have fewer weaknesses to exploit.

But a team divided against itself can break down at any moment. The least bit of pressure or adversity will crack it apart.

The first task of leadership is to promote—and enforce—collective loyalty, also known as teamwork.

Everyone thinks they know what teamwork means, but very few people really understand it. To begin with, you need to ask: What kind of team do we want?

In my line of work, teamwork is all-important. Every player, from the starting quarterback to the special teams rookie, is interdependent. We have this sign up in our locker room: “Individuals play the game, but teams win championships.”

The capacity to get past distractions. There are players who get thrown by less than optimal conditions; they need perfect weather, a perfect playing surface, perfect health. There are other players who can’t be distracted. They can play on grass, turf, or the parking-lot blacktop—the only thing they focus on is the competition.

The willingness to condition mind and body for the task at hand. After a leader supplies the needed direction and knowledge base, it comes down to that old cliché: Who wants it more? Which side is prepared to push itself forward and seize the day?

The ability to keep your poise when those around you are losing theirs. Mature players will absorb these excesses in stride, even when they’re out-and-out flagrant. I tell my players to put their emotions on hold, to stone-face their opponents. Once the opposition knows what you’re thinking, it gains an advantage.

What many people in football—and in business—fail to understand is that there’s a major difference between skill and talent. Skills are basic tools, and we all know they’re important; in football, for instance, you can’t play if you can’t run. But skills alone can’t carry you if you lack the talent to apply them in performance. And talent—and certainly greatness—is more than the sun of a person’s skills. Larry Bird was a great basketball player, but not because he could run or jump or even shoot.