I admit it… I’m a sports nut! Whether it is football (my favorite), lacrosse, cycling or golf, I love to watch it. I’m enamored with the pageantry, the competition and the tactics that envelop every event. However I don’t just watch for the entertainment value, as many do, but also for the opportunity to study amateurs and professionals alike as they go about their training, preparation, and performance of their craft.
The sporting world truly provides us with a laboratory to study the habits and strategies of those striving for, and playing at their highest levels. Thanks to the accessibility of these athletes and teams through traditional and digital media these days, we are given a perfect opportunity to take the lid off their entire operation. Now we can easily analyze the evolution of their personal and professional success. And, at the end of the day, as so many have written before me, the habits and processes involved in achieving sporting success are very much the same for achieving success in other parts of life too.
The story lines of sporting competitions are dominated by the athletes themselves. Their dynamic personalities and amazing display of skill captivate our senses. Indeed, many of them provide wonderful subjects for studying the pathways to success. But frankly, I’m more interested in the coaches that stand behind the performance, just out of the limelight. It’s their guidance and direction that shapes the development of nearly every athlete, allowing them to peak at just the right time and in just the right way.
Over the years the ways many coaches have approached success on the field of play have transcended the sporting world to take on a more universal application in life. Some have truly become life mentors from afar. I could fill hundreds of pages with the profound words of success wisdom from the coaching ranks of the ultra-famous all the way down to the unknown soccer dad/coach.
Here are 3 legendary coaches and their insights on success:
1. Bela Karolyi, Olympic gymnastics coach
I had the distinct honor to share the stage earlier this spring with a slate of inspiring speakers including Coach Karolyi. While he is probably best known for guiding Romainia’s Nadia Comaneci and the United States’ Mary Lou Retton to dramatic, perfect 10 Olympic gold medal performances, few realize he was also the driving force behind 7 other gold medal winning gymnasts too. His message to us that day was simple but profound: Be coachable!
We must be open and willing to follow the guidance of our chosen mentor despite how differently we may think something should go. They are in the position of leadership and know-how for a reason. They’ve already achieved what we are seeking! They are holding the door open for us and we must walk through it! We must be willing to sacrifice our ways and alter our life in order to achieve our goals under their direction.
Mr. Karolyi shared with our audience that day that there are no more painful professional memories for him than of those athletes with amazing talent and potential that refused to follow his guidance, instead relying on their own ideas in directing their gymnastics career. The vast majority of them, he said, remain unheard of to this day. Don’t be one of these people yourself. Listen and follow your chosen mentors in life!
“What is a better way to prove that your methods work than by winning? I have proved that my methods work.” – Bela Karolyi
2. Lou Holtz, college football coach
This College Football Hall of Fame coach is the only one to guide six different teams to bowl games and four different teams to the final top 20 rankings. Yet in many circles, the man known simply as “Coach”, is best known for his ever present list of “ 107 impossible life goals” written during what was arguably one of his darkest career moments. With 102 items currently checked off, including being a guest on the Tonight Show, meeting the Pope and having dinner with the President, Holtz has a clear message to the world: Write down your big, impossible goals!
Holtz realized that to achieve big things in life they must first be dreamed. A clear, concise picture must be formed for each imagined goal. Because the human brain thinks in images, writing down the goals serves as a method of laser focusing them. Further, returning regularly to review those written goals fuels the desire and prompts the actions necessary to make the images real.
“If you’re bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don’t have enough goals.” – Lou Holtz
3. John Wooden, college basketball coach
If there is any sports figure to study in terms of success, John Wooden is it! Named by The Sporting News in 2009 as “the greatest coach of all time”, Wooden’s accolades are too numerous to recount. Of course, a career of this magnitude produces many success tips beyond the sporting arena, but one in particular appears to have been a reoccurring theme for him: Make time for achieving success!
Wooden preached regularly on the virtues of investing in a training path with a mixture of preparation, discipline and allowed failure. Simply put, once an endeavor gets going, there becomes much less time to learn, plan and act on the basics the right way or the efficient way. Naturally, this initial planning and training takes time. And often this time isn’t the most enjoyable or sexy part of a project. But taking the time to learn things the right way, to practice them when the pace is slower and the demands are relatively less, makes achieving your success outcome much more likely.
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden
The sports world is abound with legendary figures that have offered up numerous practical success strategies applicable far beyond the field of play. Certainly, nothing is more important to achieving the success you dream of than first building your foundation as these three coaches taught. Be coachable, make your goals big and write them down, then make the time to perfect the necessary skills early and often. Your championship season in life is bound to follow.