College & Pro Football Management – UNITY under adversity

We’re reaching the point in the football season where champions are yet to be determined but the bottom of the barrel is becoming abundantly clear.  There’s still a few weeks left in the college game to capture a coveted rivalry trophy or perhaps enter into spring drills on a high note, but by and large schools like Kansas, Southern Miss, and Kentucky have seemingly very little to play for.

Character under fire

At the next level there’s half a season left and yet some of these professionals are already looking forward to the 2013 NFL Draft.  Carolina, Jacksonville, and Kansas City aren’t eliminated, but for morale purposes they might as well be.  Nothing brings out the true character in athletes & coaches more than how they take on adversity.  Adversity and failure are key components in sport.  In football there are winners and losers, as we’ve gone out of our way to eliminate ties in the college game and taken steps to ensure the same in the National Football League.

The pressure mounts

As the popularity and coverage of all things gridiron continues to grow, the outside pressure put on the inside of a facility or field house is immense.  Win now, win big, win at all costs.  Win, win, win.  Coaches, players, management and staff feel the forces of failure.  How they react is both indicative of their own personal character and that of the club, team, or organization being placed in the percolator.  Most reactions are related to fear.  Fear of loss, but not the kind on the scoreboard.  More like the loss of prestige, power, and ultimately the loss of employment or playtime.

It’s only human to feel this pressure and those making careers in and around the game of football are well aware of its presence.  Individually it’s not the impact internally that weighs heavy on a team, though a negative reaction to loss and failure can have a profound effect on overall performance on the field.  But a less than maximized individual, whether player, coach, trainer, equipment manager, public relations director, ticket salesperson, or team mascot, only rips at the UNITY of an organization in achieving its goals.

Who doesn’t love to win?

Team sports (especially football) rarely are won by any individual.  Individual performances play a pivotal role, but I don’t believe that any team at any level will have success unless unified in its efforts.  Football is entertainment and entertainment is the amount of pleasure or enjoyment garnered from something.  It’s not pleasurable to be affiliated, associated or otherwise identified in a losing effort.  In fact you want to get as far away as possible.

As General George S. Patton said in his famous speech to the 3rd Army, “Americana love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.  Americans play to win all the time.  …Because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.”  And so this love of winning is only further manifested in the fear of losing.

Loose threads

Teams that begin to lose their FOCUS tend to also lose UNITY.  They find excuses for just about everything; “It’s not my fault.  We need more talent.  It was a terrible play call.  The ref missed the penalty.”  And so it can go on and on.  I’ve been a part of it (both good and bad).  It’s like pulling a loose thread on a sweater and watching the entire thing unravel.  If the pressure continues to pull it just keeps coming undone.  The only way to stop eventual destruction is to clip it off at the roots.

A unified message

Straight to the players and coaches feeling the pressure of loss and the urge to “pull that loose thread”.  DON’T DO IT!  Don’t bend your character to protect your personal place.  Stay one, stay UNITED.  All good things do come to an end, especially in football.  Each and every one of you will move on, but lasting friendships persevere points on a scoreboard.  This is especially true in college, but should be in the NFL as well.

And there’s no fault from fans and the media for demanding high standards of excellence.  Patton also said, “I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed.”  Just keep your perspective.  In the college game these are kids and the coaches are the only ones getting paid BIG salaries.  The NFL is a whole different story, though keep in mind that success isn’t achieved in the same manner as your Fantasy Football Team.

That comes from over 20+ years in both the pro and college game (as a player, as a coach, as front office executive).  Sink or swim, but do it together with unity.

Hang tough Colorado Buffs, hang tough.