Throughout my time playing football, I have been fortunate to have been around winning and efficient (for the most part) organizations.
My time at Stanford could be characterized as the foundation of what is now a nationally-recognized program. Watching a team go from 1 win, 11 loses to repeated BCS games, I tried to take note as to what helped the program change. Here is a list of many factors that not only made Stanford into the program it is today, but can also help your business.
1. Believe You Can Succeed
It may sound cheesy and cliche, but there is a level of self-confidence one needs in order to face a daunting task, and still find the idea of your success to be a feasible outcome. Many people smirked when Jim Harbaugh called out USC saying, “We bow to no program here at Stanford University,” but he was sending a message. That message was not just to USC, the media, and Stanford fans who had become accustomed to losses to the Trojans. I have a sneaking suspicion that the message was intended for his players. Don’t get me wrong, there was probably a bit of Harbaugh’s personal hubris shining through, but if he believed in us enough to say it in the giant’s face (the giant being USC), we were going to do everything in our power to back him up. Sometimes the phrase, “Fake it ’til you make it.” is the best way to go. Positive self-talk can do wonders helping you to believe. The best part is, nobody else has to hear it.
2. Play to Your Strengths
For Coach Harbaugh, coming to Stanford must have been a decision he had to weigh carefully. He was going to take the helm of a team that had just finished a 1-11 season, and had a reputation of being “soft” or whimpy essentially. Imagining guys with thick-framed glasses (before they were cool again), pocket protectors (still not cool. pretty sure fashion hasn’t stooped that low quite yet), and the standard Steve Urkel look on the football field probably didn’t help entice the Coach. Instead of frown at the situation, Coach Harbaugh seized the opportunity by installing (with the help of David Shaw, Greg Roman, and Pep Hamilton along the way) one of the most complex offenses in all of football– including the NFL. We weren’t going to “out athlete” opponents. We were going to outsmart them, and then along the way we developed the physicality to back it up. Recruiting has improved dramatically year over year, so the athletes at Stanford are likely better overall than when I committed, but Coach Shaw shows no sign of letting up on using the intelligence of his players to their advantage.
3. Work on Your Weaknesses
It wasn’t going to be enough to put together a fancy playbook to confuse opposing defenses. We needed a “calling card”. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that smash-mouth football would become just that. The juxtaposition of Stanford’s formerly finesse offense and the new physical, running game threw some people for a loop, but the team took pride its new identity.
4. If Someone Leaves, Get Somebody Else Better
The impact of a project manager or a position coach, can’t be overstated. The changes that made the most impact during my Stanford career were the Head Coach making high quality hires (and recruiting one heck of a quarterback). I distinctly recall Coach Harbaugh saying that if any coaches or staff members left, we would replace them with someone better at that job. We did that throughout my years at Stanford, and it helped both the players and the program blossom.
If you bring in someone of lesser quality, you are doing both the team and the new hire a disservice. That said, don’t underestimate the willingness of a job candidate to learn quickly. I’ll take lack of knowledge with a desire to learn over experienced and uncompromising all day long.
5. Use the Talents Around You
In playing for different coaching staffs, I have seen a variety of ways to approach making up a game plan. In some scenarios, one coach, usually the coordinator for that “side of the ball” (offense, defense, or special teams) uses a top down approach, where all the knowledge is coming directly from him, regurgitated from the position coaches, and followed by the players. To a certain extent every system must do this, but I’ve found that a system where tasks are divided up amongst position coaches within the offensive scheme and with oversight from the coordinator works best. This setup not only allows for more creativity and brainpower to be focused on one task, but increases the value of the position coach in both his own and the players’ eyes. For example, each week our Tight Ends Coach may be in charge of the Goal line and Short Yardage package, or the Wide Receivers coach may be in charge of 3rd down pass plays. Carving out a niche for a coach in game planning has helped us win games.
There are many steps and helpful tips that can be used for a football program or a business to succeed. These five came to mind as important basic principles that any program or business should be built around. If you’ve found other ways to help turn a program or business around, I’d love to hear about them on Twitter or Facebook. I’m sorry, but I had to disable comments on the website because of spam and other crap. It’s unfortunate, but the actions of a few can impact the consequences of many.
Odds and ENDS
1. The Heat and the Pacers played last night. The Bachelorette was also on… where does your allegiance lie? Dez is just so genuine…
2. I’m sorry for delay in posting. Off-season commitments have kept me very busy.
3. Mike Adams of the Steelers was stabbed after 3 men tried to carjack him. I’m happy to hear that Mike is recovering well, as he’s a really nice guy, and one of the guys I enjoyed hanging out with most throughout various rookie activities.
AFTER SCHOOL READING
1. Leave it to California to waste money they don’t have. Oh, and Elon Musk’s next project sounds pretty awesome.
2. Have a little time for a longer historical read that might change your opinion on the atomic bomb/WW2?
3. What can you buy with $5? I think you would be surprised.