Listen to the coach

July 1, 2003 By    

The hotel ballroom roared to life with the applause of 375 propane professionals anxious to hear a national sports icon and one of America’s most inspiring speakers at the NPGA 2003 Pinnacle Conference June 3 in New Orleans.

Necks craned and the big room fell silent as the little wisp of a man zipped to the podium with the energy and charm that only Lou Holtz can deliver. He took the microphone and comfortably launched into a breathless run of anecdotes, insights and jokes flavored by a slight drawl and lisp that belie the wisdom and prominence of one of the most successful and respected college football coaches of all time.

The 65-year-old West Virginia native carried no notes and used no script. He routinely poked fun at himself and downplayed his remarkable track record of guiding six different teams to bowl games and winning five bowl games with different teams. In fact, he was quick to point out that his lone season as a professional coach was a dud. His “dream job” with New York Jets in 1976 ended with a 3-10 record and his resignation after the final game.

Holtz told the audience that his 42-year marriage and 26 years at the helm of William and Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina football teams have taught him that it’s the people and your values that make relationships and organizations excel. Learning to assess your strengths and embrace those values are essential to transform a good team into a great one, he professed with a sincerity that commanded the full attention of the pre-lunch audience.

Despite his reputation as a motivator, a demanding disciplinarian and someone who relishes challenges and hard work, Holtz insists that those are not the traits that made him the sixth winningest active college coach. Meaningful success comes in how you – as coach, businessman, spouse or parent – treat those around you.

Among his golden rules:

  • Raise people up; don’t pull them down. It’s easy to find fault in others and provide obstacles that keep them from challenging your authority or comfort zone. The challenge is to set aside your personal agenda and reach out in a way that enables the team to succeed individually and collectively. That takes sacrifice and risk.
  • Do others trust you? You can’t expect the best from others if you have failed at the fundamental step of earning their trust. Do the players on your team – your employees, customers and business colleagues – believe that you are worthy of their confidence? If not, your operation has some serious holes that can’t be filled with empty talk.
  • Don’t settle for less than your best. There always will be warm winters, supply shortages, bobtail breakdowns and other challenges beyond your control. But are those realities becoming an excuse for not committing to be all that you can? Are you cheating yourself out of the satisfaction of reaching your potential as a boss, employer or spouse because it’s too hard to maintain the necessary discipline and drive?
  • Dream. Somewhere along the way, far too many of us lose sight of the stars to which we had once hitched our hopes. We get content just surviving the daily routine. We avoid risk. We forget how to dream and lose sight of the need to help others dream.Put me in, coach. I’m ready to play.

Comments are currently closed.