Behind-the-scenes, pre-game messages for facing your competition. Competitors at any level will realize a sharpened perspective with an advantaged mindset.
The NFL playoffs are exciting, intense, emotional, and fascinating. I enjoy the world’s ultimate team game in the one and done atmosphere of the playoffs. It is intriguing to follow the mindset of each team as they approach game day.
Leadership vs. Leadership
Leadership is the secret ingredient. Leadership in the playoffs is as important as the players themselves. It must be understood that leadership is critical throughout the organization in order to win. It starts with the head coach but must be carried throughout the coaching staff and into the locker room with the players. The head coach casts the vision and process, and the coaching staff sells that process to their units who carry out the plan.
Eagles vs. Falcons
The Philadelphia Eagles winning their game against the Atlanta Falcons is a prime example of leadership at its finest. Doug Pederson is the head coach of the Eagles and never lost confidence in his team and his staff, players, and process when they lost their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Few people outside of the organization gave the Eagles much of a chance to win. The belief in his team and the players’ belief in each other was the mindset of the leadership at every level that the Eagles used to carry them to victory and into the NFC Championship Game.
The players who rallied behind the backup quarterback Nick Foles, and that collective confidence created the momentum of each positive play moving forward.
Pederson, his coaching staff, and the Eagles players were examples of leadership throughout the organization.
Steelers vs. Jaguars
An example of a breakdown in leadership and organizational mindset could have contributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers’ safety, Mike Mitchell was quoted: “We’re going to play (the Patriots) again. We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. We’re gonna win.”
The problem with that statement is the fact the Steelers had to defeat Jacksonville first. That lack of focus on the task at hand is a reflection of leadership at some level of the coaching staff and team. What team members vocalize is a reflection of leadership. I do not doubt Mike Tomlin’s leadership. He has exemplified tremendous leadership on many occasions.
As I believe that leadership must be evident at every level of the team; somewhere within the team that leadership failed. It could have been at the coordinator level, the position coach level, or the players’ locker room level. Although only one player voiced that lack of focus and singularity of goal, it does plant the seed in the mind of the whole locker room.
New England is playing in their seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game in large part due to the leadership of Bill Belichick and the rest of his staff and team.
Leadership will continue to play a key role in determining the outcomes of the NFC and AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl.
But to reach any goal, you must play one game at a time, one play at a time, one chance at a time.
As we prepare our minds for competition, remember that we are not playing them, they are playing us. I'm referring to your competition -- whoever they may be.
When you focus on the competitors you can easily lose focus. Play your game as long as the game is played.
Real success comes only when what is on the outside finds strength and purpose from the inside. When talent meets heart! When talent meets heart, your actions speak louder than words.
Play your game which is noticeably different from the rest. A game in which you captivate the audience by your energy, enthusiasm, and passion.
A game where all you have is what you give.
Success is not WHAT you do for a living, Success is HOW you live what you do!
In my coaching career, I’ve listened to many athletes proclaim they would do things differently if they were going to be competing for the championship or team championship.
How well they would prepare, practice, play faster, stronger, more consistent, etc.
Each and every time you step on the field, stage, or into the big meeting, you are demonstrating to everyone that you have it in you to be a champion.
Ask yourself this: Will you take what you do for living and every time you compete, live what you do to the fullest?
When you answered “yes” to that question -- you are a winner regardless if you ever become a champion.
Successful people live what they do daily.
Others wait for the big game or big stage, or so they say to show how really talented they are.
Success is not WHAT you do for a living, Success is HOW you live what you do!
Learn how to develop your talents to the fullest. Take my Leadership Course.
I write this letter in hopes you as my teammates have an opportunity to read it before we cross the lines onto the playing field to do battle.
All of us must deal with our fears, anxieties, apprehensions and stress.
In my case and most likely in yours, I’m not speaking of serious injury or losing the game.
My biggest fear is failing to do that for which I have so passionately trained. In the heat of battle or competition, letting my teammates down.
I have made my spiritual peace and in the secret place of my mind called the Will, counted the cost of what I am willing to pay.
We have already paid the price in preparation. In order to obtain the prize we do not have, we must go to where we have nothing. Travel light and carry only the thoughts necessary for the competition or battle.
Compete one moment at a time. The last moment is gone, future moments uncertain.
Live and focus in the present moment. Play as though there is no game clock. Effort is your weapon. Give your best effort every moment until there is none to give. It is at that point you will realize that buried beneath our fears and anxieties is love for one another.
Not love in the emotional sense, but love meaning giving our best, moment after moment, doing what is right day after day, laying it on the line play after play.
Realizing we are not playing to win only the scoreboard, but fighting for something bigger than ourselves. It is here you realize the times you are most alive and truly enjoy walking between the lines with these teammates and offering yourself to the team out of the spirit of love.
We fight not for the scoreboard but for one another and that gives us a sense of peace, pride and FIGHT!
Every one of us, as we travel the winding road called life, will find ourselves in circumstances that are bleak.
The vision of where we want to go is possibly beyond our reach. Somewhere within, you search for a reason and purpose to continue to fight.
“Even though the righteous man falls seven times he will rise again.” Proverbs 24:16.
Concern yourself not with past failures, but with the future. Be persistent, determined, and continue to compete and you will transform obstacles into accomplishment.
Your team is forged and molded by the brotherhood of mutual respect, shared hazard, shared fear, confidence, shared triumph, accountability, and love.
It is love that ignites the spirit and binds teams together.
There is real meaning in your game, whatever your game is beyond the outcome. A meaning only one who is part of a team-related venture can fully understand.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend.” Not literally, but doing what is right for the team day in and day out.
In all circumstances, continue to battle, demonstrating your commitment to a purpose larger than any tangible reward could ever be!
You are a talented group of players and so are they. What will make the difference?
Not by might, not by power, but by spirit.
It is the ordinary man through extraordinary belief who can achieve the heroic; even the miraculous.
To succeed on your battlefield, you don't need the heroic or miraculous. All you need is belief in one another.
For it is in our belief where our actions reflect our hearts and our SPIRIT prevails.
As you prepare yourself for the battle I asked you to do something immensely rewarding: carry no excess baggage.
When you step on the field, pursue your pre-determined purpose.
Our purpose is to be the utmost for the highest. It cannot be a matter of debate or reasoning. You can have no undue regards for self.
In order to achieve greatness, you must forget greatness and go where you have nothing.
Once you've given each other your all, give them the rest!
It is game time that our efforts and shortcomings will shine brightest. We have prepared our team and provided the motivation to give it everything we have. Win or lose if we give it our all, we can hold our head high. This is the goal of all of us as leaders and coaches. Prepare your team for battle and have them battle with maximum effort til the very end. Victorious or not, you can walk off the field proud you gave it your best effort.
This is the day. It's time.
You set your sights on the goal.
It's now time to go beyond planning and thinking.
This is the day. This is the time to prove we are the choice ones.
But it is here in clear sight of the vision, most turn back.
Many become clouded by complacency, distractions, and the grind of the process. The comfort of past successes dulls the edge and softens the armor.
Every bit of your training has been in the direction of the vision. What is behind you and what is ahead of you is not nearly as important as what is within you.
Life is never easy. It is always the hard road.
Real opportunities to become the best are few. These precious opportunities are not to be feared. Do not worry about what might be lost. You cannot lose what you do not yet have.
Consider what it is you have that you may give. This is the day you celebrate your good fortune by using the talent you have been blessed with for the common good of your team.
To give of yourself to something bigger than you could ever do alone.
Commit your mind and spirit to battle in that secret place called the Will. It is there where you must count the cost. Count the cost and be at peace to give all you have on the field.
This is the Day to give of yourself to the team. More than talent or intellect, passion, and spirit will prevail.
Learn how to motivate your team using techniques taught by Coach Slow at his leadership course.
How to get the most out of your team.
Compete with a meaningful purpose in mind.
Not only for a tangible goal, but something bigger. It's your heart and soul's desire. It's the substance of all dreams.
Life is filled with competition, adversity, detours, twists and turns -- a roller coaster of emotions.
To get the most from life and football you must have strength and purpose.
Our souls are hungry for something larger than ourselves. We are hungry to be part of something that has meaning. Hungry to contribute to making a difference in a positive fashion.
We don't have to have an impact globally, we need only to make a difference in our own small world. The team only you and your brotherhood of teammates understand across those lines into a world of competition most people only dream of.
We pour our hearts out with our effort not only to find joy in spite of difficulties, but in the midst of them.
How can you make a difference?
Play each and every snap of your battle with your best effort.
Give your best to a good and common goal so that in victory or defeat you may stand in judgment with no regrets.
A football game is only 60 minutes but the lessons last a lifetime.
As you leave the battlefield, be free from becoming a prisoner of the thought of a lifetime: “I could've given more!”
Most competitors can give their best in battle once, but it takes a real warrior to do it again and again.
The most dangerous missions are those when you cannot identify your enemy.
We have however, found the real opponent and it is ourselves.
When you cross the lines into your field of battle, carry only the weapons necessary for battle. Anything else is excess baggage and will weigh you down, distracting you from your target.
Your most effective weapons are your effort and teammates formed from a common goal.
Recent success or failure can cloud your focus and soften your armor.
The burden of carrying anything mentally or physically that is not necessary for battle will weaken your desire. You must enter again the field of battle.
Most competitors can give their best in battle once, but it takes a real warrior to do it again and again.
Each victory will make the next battle more difficult, more important, and more fierce.
Once you’ve done the physical work, you must go to your secret place of the mind called the will where you decide if you will return to the field as a warrior to answer the call.
Will your effort to battle for as long as the battle ensues and you will slowly win the game. A game where our actions reflect our heart and team spirit prevails!!
As leaders, our challenge is to ensure on game day that our teams are ready. That they have prepared mentally for the challenges that lay ahead and they carry with the the will to succeed.
It all begins in preparation leading up to your battle or competition.
You've done everything mentally and physically to hone your skills
and absorb the plan for battle.
Now becomes what is at times, the most difficult part of competition.
Now is the time to prepare your heart and soul for what lies ahead.
It begins well before the game with a thought. I have heard so often that the team that wants it the most will be the victor.
There are many times I really want something, but I am not willing to buy it because it will cost more than I want to pay.
Competition is similar.
It begins with a thought, which then becomes a calculation of what you are willing to pay, and why you will pay.
That calculation brews in the secret place of your mind. There it brews as it morphs into a resolve that resembles a quiet thunder.
It stirs your mind in that secret place called the Will.
It finally explodes with passion, focus, and effort:
An effort that is selfless
An effort that cares
An effort of childlike passion
An effort that demands a state of mind that penetrates the soul
An effort based on love
“For there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.”
Love Always Conquers!
The ultimate team sport.
Football is a game that is no fun when you try playing it in your own world. It's a tough, violent, unforgiving world on the field. All of you may not be friends. You've come from different parts of the country, different schools, different backgrounds, different interests.
Some of you may not even like one another.
But every one of you belongs to a team. And every one of you belongs, more specifically, to a unit. A defensive unit for example. A linebacker unit another example.
Just like a family that has fights and some squabbles and difficulties, families and teams survive when things get tough by pulling together.
When you are on the field in this game you are a part of your team. Once you are on the field there's nowhere to hide. There's only you and your teammates. You're on the field for the same reason: to play, to perform, to produce, to win.
Put all your differences aside when you step on the field. No matter how difficult, impossible or comfortable the circumstance, keep moving, running, and competing. This game is to be played with Heart not muscle and hustle not speed!
For more information on how to get the most out of your team from many disparate skills, personalities and backgrounds enroll in my leadership course.
Motivate a team to win by becoming one.
No matter the team, to be successful, the team must come together and become one in spirit and focus. Some by choice, some by engineered circumstances, somehow we are all together.
To get to where we want to go we must travel light. “Any man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for service.”
Keep getting better and keep believing. We all have the same dream. You’ve honed your skills. This is your life for a short time. Make the best of this opportunity by giving your best effort. Mother Theresa said, “Life is life, fight for it.”
More than talent or intellect, have a passion for good and do good with a passion and you will win!
For more insight on how to build a team, read my book on "Lessons I've learned about life and football".
The Opponent has seen what we have been. They know not what we will become.
Regardless of past performance, experience, and emotions, what WILL be WILL be.
What will be is not determined by the past. Yesterday is gone.
What will be is not controlled by the future. Tomorrow is a mystery.
What will be is determined by today. Today is the gift we call the present.
What will be begins in this moment.
What will be comes from our thoughts. It comes from your hearts and minds in that secret place called the WILL.
Tomorrow’s outcome will largely be decided tonight in your hearts and minds.
The battle first takes place away from the crowds. Out on the road and in the gym, in that secret place of the mind called the will. That is where I have already won long before I dance under those lights.
-- Muhammad Ali.
What will be is demonstrated on the field by your actions. Reflected by your discipline, passion, and commitment.
What will be is far more powerful than memory of what has been. Now is the time to take the best of what will be and turn it into what IS on the field of competition.
Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together.
There's a business side of the game where you are paid to play, perform and produce. That is business, not football.
Football is a calling. A scripture passage from Isaiah 6:8 says, “I heard a voice saying, whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
How does that relate? That call is for everyone, not just a select few. The opponent is being called just as we are. Some do not hear the call. Others will not heed it. Still others respond, then turn back.
Scripture also says many are called but few are chosen because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life. You have another opportunity to demonstrate you have chosen to continue. There is something within each of us that determines whether we are going to hear the call. Whether I hear the call and how I respond is based on one thing: Love.
Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together. When the voice asks “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Here I am! Send ME! “For there is no greater love than to lie down one’s life for a friend.”
Love is the catalyst of this small brotherhood where the ties that bind are confidence, mutual respect, shared hazard, shared fear, and shared triumph. A willingness to obey and a determination to lead. The call is for everyone not just a select few. “Whom Shall I send? Who will go for us?” Here I am, send me. You are one but not alone, where we go, we go together.
When adversity strikes over and over, it is easy to close the door and drown in self-pity.
In those difficult times, remember life does not impose itself on you. You select which of life’s many offerings you choose to accept.
You can choose between pitiful or powerful. Success is not instant. Success is not even a destination. Success is a choice. A choice that is made over and over again in the secret place of mind called “the will”.
When the shadow of defeat lingers, we have all heard the saying playing for pride. That the goal or destination is no longer in sight. I beg to differ.
Your goal and what you're playing for is the same goal you started with. Win and loss record is not relevant to motivation or inspiration if you possess the heart of a champion.
A well-known clergyman said that someday in the next year or years you will be wrestling with a great challenge. A bigger battle. But the real struggle is here, now in these quiet times.
Now it is being decided whether on the day of your supreme challenge, battle, sorrow, temptation, or game you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer.
Champions are made through a long, steady continued process. Leaders cast a vision, but it is the soldier who guarantees the outcome. There are many champions who do not possess the hardware.
Play with heart for 60 minutes.
Success is not what you do for a living, success is how you live what you do. I have been a football coach for over 35 years and would hear players while watching a playoff or championship game make an interesting comment. “When I get in the playoffs or Super Bowl I will…” My immediate thought was, why wait?
Ask yourself: Will you take what you do for a living and on Game Day live what you do with no regrets? Whatever your Game Day is. Play with heart for 60 minutes. If you can do that you have the heart of a champion and someday you may be called one.
I’ve known and coached many players who do not have the Championship Ring or Trophy, but are truly champions. We have all heard the phrase play with heart. Sometimes what that actually means is taken for granted.
Webster’s defines heart two ways: Heart is the emotional aspect of one’s innermost character and courage. Another definition: Heart is the strength of mind and will in the face of difficulty.
Regardless what your Game Day is, we can all be champions if we compete in the game of life with Heart!
The challenge for all managers is to get their team members to rise to the occasion like champions each and every day! If your team prepares as a champion, they will perform like a champion when their time comes.
Paying attention to the details is how you build a high performance team.
When you have worked your way to reach the highest level of competition, the separation between the top and the bottom is not very far. The mountain top and the valley are only a short distance apart. From the most sophisticated scheme or tactic to the most tedious, boring aspect of training, the special ingredients are the details.
A great coach not only demands that the details be executed properly, but finds a way to motivate his team or position to make the details their own. When the team invests in themselves and the details that make his work special, the coach and player can reach heights they’ve never reached before.
What kind of work will you sign your name to? The simplest to the most sophisticated aspect of the game can be a Michelangelo piece of art.
To play the game to win there is only one way. Immerse yourself fully in the action.
As Bob Oates Jr. wrote: “Football is a world that demands intensity, involvement, and heightened awareness of the smallest details in an avalanche of experience. Success in this sport, even self-respect demands an intense commitment.” And as is written in the Book of Revelation, “It is better to be fiery hot or icy cold, but if you are lukewarm I will spit you out.”
Play each play in and of itself regardless of the circumstances. There are times when you will be ahead in games and have the urge to let up. If by some chance you are behind, you may have the urge to hang it up.
Fight that urge and play the game and don’t let the game play you!
The trip we are going on is to a special place. You can’t get there by car, plane or train.
There is only one way to make this trip and your heart must take you there.
I see you travel there every day. I see you in our meetings. I watch you practice and see you there. This place is REAL. You can get there in an instant. But to do so you must leave everything except your brothers sitting here in this room.
Family and friends you carry with you in heart always, but they cannot understand where you must go.
That’s because you are going to a special place between the lines into a world most people only dream of.
Between those lines is a world that demands an intensity of focus and concentration. A world where you must see the smallest details despite the violence and chaos exploding around you.
You must go into a world where words turn into action and your spirit prevails. You can get there in an instant. IT’S A SPECIAL PLACE CALLED ATTITUDE.
A state of mind where regardless of circumstance you do, as Bill Walsh said, “Keep moving, running, hitting, demonstrating your pride, dignity, and defiance.” A defiance to losing and a love for the team!
The real game reveals our soul.
My favorite time as a coach is in the sanctuary with the players; away from the rest of the world as we prepare for battle.
Rarely does the game of football have lethal consequence. But it does have serious implications for all of those who play the game.
Friends, fans, and media only know the scoreboard, they don't know the real game. The real game holds us accountable in a way that goes beyond our job security, money, and notoriety. Its implications are long-term and they echo into eternity.
The real game doesn't see the scoreboard. The real game sees our soul. In my soul as your coach, the real game finds compassion, love, empathy and a heart screaming out for success for the guys in the room!
In the real game, when you step across the line onto the field, your actions reflect your heart. In this brotherhood of shared stress, excitement, blood, sweat and tears we find camaraderie and love. Scripture states: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.
Not love in the emotional sense and not literally lay down our life. Love in the sense of doing what is right because we are part of a team that depends on us. Laying down our life in the sense of giving our best, day in and day out so as not to let our brothers down. Laying down our life as in each and every snap on game day giving all we have for a friend (the team).
When the final whistle blows may our actions reflect our heart. When we watch the video all shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. Then we will stand in judgement win or lose with no regrets!
For more insight on my life as a coach in the NFL, please read my book.
Heart of a champion.
There are those who say it can't be done and are content to leave it at that.
And there are those who find a way.
There're those who see every setback as an excuse to give up.
And there are those find the courage, the will, the commitment to persevere.
There are those who skim along life's path, and there are those who dive in deeply.
That is where meaning, purpose, vision and truth are clear and unmistakable.
There are those who have been blessed with every advantage and wind up with nothing to show for it.
Others have been saddled with an unimaginable burden, yet have risen to magnificent heights.
As the game plays out, whatever the moments may bring, make the choice to look at the positive possibilities. This day, this moment, this life is what you make of it.
Run toward your challenges and you'll be running toward true achievement. Challenges are not there to stop you. They are there to make you stronger. You are always a contender regardless of circumstance.
The goal is the championship -- whether it is this year, next year or the next.
When you take what you do for a living and live what you do and play with heart, you build the heart of a champion and someday may become one!