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Coaching Beyond the Field

It's the start of college football season, a big deal in our family! Appropriate for the season, I ran across a Lou Holtz quote on social media the other day, one of his quotes that resonated with me:



For me, this specific quote describes a holistic approach to doing whatever you do - be it sports, work, hobbies - and how success comes as a combination of physical ability, drive or desire, and mental attitude. Each element has challenges. For me, I will never be an accomplished athlete; however, with some practice and a positive attitude (on a good day), I can find a sense of accomplishment in the gym and stave off the challenges of aging, at least for another week.


It's not the load that breaks you down - it's the way you carry it


The quotes represent an approach to leadership practiced by Coach Holtz. As a Notre Dame family, we've seen Holtz on the field and, at many alumni events, heard from players Holtz coached. In each story, Holtz coached the individual to be a better player but also to be a better man. It wasn't enough to win the game, although it was a key objective:


On this team, we're all united in a common goal: to keep my job


If what we hear from players is true, this was the truth, but not all there was to it; Holtz created a culture of caring, of development, of making the most out of the college experience. The quotes resonate well in the football context, but also resonate in the broader sense of challenge, work, and life.


You were not born a winner, and you were not born a loser. You are what you make yourself be


Consider the culture established in the locker room, hearing this kind of rhetoric on a regular basis. Better yet, consider the experiences that drove the conversation in the first place - a difficult practice, the half-time talk during the now legendary Miami game, a personal coaching conversation at the start of a new season. Lou Holtz is a persona, a caricature, a well-crafted brand. However, his approach to coaching has been steeped in his values and personal mission to forward the game of football and the character of the men who played for him. His brand of leadership transcended the football field for his players, and made an impact on their lives beyond their years playing the game.


If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven't done anything today


I can't believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary


Imagine how a similar approach to leadership would have on your business - in today's terminology, establishing values, vision, rationale for doing the work you do, investing in the character and capability of the workforce to consistently and collectively deliver. Can you articulate these elements for your business? Better yet, can your players articulate how you as a coach and leader has built experiences and a culture that reinforces those elements each and every day?


I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care - Lou Holtz

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