The following letter was sent to an NFL owner in a response to a question he sent me a couple of years ago. My focus was to explain how management and players MUST “meet half way” in order to achieve the goals of any organization. But it’s up to the front office to create the environment and supply the resources that sends the message “We want you to succeed”. Transforming a culture of “defeatism” into one of “anticipated success” can be quite daunting. Here’s an example of how to turn it around.
It’s been interesting following all the training camps without my own team to evaluate this summer. However, I have followed the Olympics quite closely over the past week as a diversion. I don’t know if you recall, but I was on the U.S. Bobsled National Team from ’84-’88 and participated in the Olympic Trials in ’88. An inadvertent and ill-timed crash ended are quest for Calgary. What a great experience though. I learned a lot about focusing efforts/resources towards achieving an ultimate goal and really was impressed with something I heard over the weekend as well.
The U.S. Basketball program really seems to have turned around its overall culture and philosophy since the ’04 games in Athens. The Federation hired Jerry Colangelo to run things and he really seems to have gotten what is arguably an “NBA All-Star Team” to come together and buy into a program towards winning the Gold in ’08. He focused on character, commitment & execution both on & off the court. It appears that USOC, as well as some of the other countries involved in the Olympics, seem to have everything on track & understand what needs to be done to be successful.
What I mean is supplying the “best of the best” in support of their athletes; top trainers, strength and conditioning, medical care, development, nutrition, facilities, etc… These ultra talented athletes know they have the full support of USOC and their Federations, and they have come to perform as a result. It’s really exciting to see all this come together on the court, in the pool or in the gym. Commitment is coming from both ends of the spectrum, athletes/coaches & support staff. What’s great about the Olympics is the focal point of focus to achieve a goal, winning an Olympic Medal.
I can’t help but think that this two-way commitment on the part of the athletes and USOC can be replicated at the NFL level; high character, top support, training and development. I just continue to see the same people and techniques over and over in what appears to be a futile chase for a Super Bowl Championship by the majority of NFL teams. Recently, a Denver Post columnist wrote that the League was filled with players and coaches that were concerned only about themselves; nothing more than paid mercenaries so to speak.
I think a core philosophy, coupled with a true culture of professionalism centered towards doing everything possible to allow your players to succeed, can & should be the reality. I’ve seen it work in the military (where you can’t afford to lose) and I’m seeing it at the Olympics. Great stuff! I hope to sit down with Jerry Colangelo after the Beijing Olympics to pick his brain on these very principles and incorporate them with what I know about the NFL. I think there’s a lot that can be learned and implemented into our game as well. These ideas are difficult to convey in close-minded circumstances, but I like to think that the Olympic movement is “cutting edge” & the NFL should be too.
This owner made changes within his own organization, changes that were necessary after years on the same leadership path. As with any plan it takes time to implement, but the conclusion appears to be a new-found “attitude” of commitment and success at every level of the club. His young team is now on the rise.
Player development is a passion of mine that will continue to be a central theme of The Football Educator.