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Saturday, May 28, 2011


Not only is Don Yaeger an outstanding writer but he is also a good friend.  I got to know Don as he spent a year with our LSU men's basketball team writing about Coach Dale Brown and he is one of those journalist that takes great pride in his craft but also greatly cares about those who compete in the arena.  This past weekend I bought his most recent book "Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership from the World's Most Beautiful Game."  It's another detailed look by Don into one of sports most intriguing people -- Rex Ryan. Don's also written with/about Dale Brown, John Wooden, Walter Payton, Warrick Dunn, Jerry Takanian and George Karl - just to name a few.

Be sure to take the time to go to his website ( ) for great blogs -- especially his 16 Consistent Characteristics of Greatness.  This is my 2008th post on this blog and back on September 24, 2008, Don's 16 Characteristics became my very first post -- and a passout to every team I've coached since.

Here is Don's most recent blog talking about Rex and the vision he has set forth for the New York Jets:

Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets since 2009, doesn't shy away from making bold predictions for his team. Even though the Jets haven't won a Super Bowl since 1968, Ryan didn't hesitate to make a promise to the Jets Nation both in 2009 and 2010 that he would "soon" bring the Lombardi trophy back to the Meadowlands. And even though it didn't happen these last two years, Ryan did manage to lead his team to the AFC Championship game both seasons -- a pretty big improvement for a first-time head coach of a team that had been struggling for much of the last decade.

This past month, Doubleday released Ryan's book entitled “Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership from the World's Most Beautiful Game.”

I had the privilege of working alongside Ryan on this project and his unshakable sense of vision is one of the themes we came back to time and again.

Time and again I would ask him on a Monday morning what he thought his team's prospects were for the next week. "We're going to win," Ryan said simply every time. Years of work with coaches have taught me that most will occasionally offer the answer that they are: "not sure how we can win this one given the opponent's talent." Not Rex. He truly believes that he and his coaching staff can build a plan that will help their team win every game. He's not always right, but he believes!

Visualizing victory -- and articulating that vision - can be a tremendous motivating power. The night before the Super Bowl this past February, the Green Bay Packers invited a representative from the Jostens jewelry company to measure each player for his championship ring. Packer players have said that moment crystallized their eventual championship in their minds. While it was killing Ryan that it wasn't his team in that locker room, that's exactly the kind of thing he plans to do when it's his turn.

What Ryan understands -- and what gains him such devotion from his players, staff, and fans alike -- is that vision is a key part of success. His critics discount his predictions as empty bravado, but Ryan will tell you that he's the last person to care what his critics think. By setting bold goals and articulating them publicly, Ryan is not only letting his team know how much he believes in their abilities but he is also holding himself accountable. As a leader, he is willing to put himself and his reputation on the line because he has such a clear vision and strong confidence in what his players can accomplish.

Tips from the GREAT Ones

Everyone wants a leader who has a clear sense of where he or she is taking the team. In fact, if they don't have a clear sense of direction, it's hard to classify someone as a real "leader" at all. Even if you aren't the head of your company or division, you can still lead those around you by inspiring them to see the same road to victory that you do. Often, it is a road they don't see.

Private goals are great to have, but it can sometimes be a huge boost to go ahead and make those goals public, too. By letting the people around you know what you believe you are all capable of achieving together, you can inspire confidence, enthusiasm, and a shared sense of purpose -- all key aspects in visualizing victory.

The way I see it -- and the way his players see it, too -- it's only a matter of time before the Jets take off and win that Super Bowl championship Rex Ryan has promised. Why are we so sure it's going to happen? Because Ryan can see it so clearly that he's willing to stand up in front of the world with a huge smile and a lot of heart, and tell them so.

That's the first step. That's Greatness.