Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Lessons From an American Warrior

Posted by admin March - 31 - 2020 - Tuesday

I have continued to read and make notes as I read Mike Leach’s book, Geronimo- Leadership Strategies of an American Warrior. To reiterate what I said last week, this is a book that anyone in a leadership role should read!

The story itself is a biographical account of Geronimo’s life. It is amazing to me that even early in his life, the elders in Geronimo’s tribe had him earmarked for leadership. He was being trained and mentored by 2 of the greatest Apache Chiefs: Mangas Coloradas and Cochise. They taught him the art of guerrilla warfare— which was the mode of fighting that the Apaches used. At an early age, Geronimo was leading raiding parties across the border to Mexico. He showed tremendous heroism— which earned him a tremendous amount of respect among his people.

Once in 1861 during a raid on a Mexican mule train, the tide of battle turned against the Apaches. Geronimo got shot in the face; yet, he continued to fight and lead his band of Apache warriors. The LESSON that Coach Leach emphasized in this account is an important one: “Stay calm under pressure at all time… and those around you will be calm too.” The leader who possesses this ability is going to be very successful!

A former player called me recently. He’d been watching one of our games on YouTube. It was a nailbiter against a tough opponent. The video was actually a rebroadcast of the local tv station that carried our games… so there were camera’s and sideline reporters involved that you wouldn’t normally have if it was simply a game video taken from the pressbox. At one crucial point late in the game, our opponent called a time out. The announcer said, “Let’s go down to the sideline and listen in as Lew Johnston talks to his players.” The roving cameraman stuck the camera right in the middle of our huddle and captured the moment. What my player who’d called wanted to know was… “Coach J- how come you were able to stay so composed during that time out and the rest of the game?!” Note: we pulled out the victory with a TD pass with 40 seconds left in the game!

My reply to him was simple, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. I can do everything through the strength that the Lord gives me.” Someone else might say that I have trained myself. I would say that I let God train me! At any rate, it is something called SELF-DISCIPLINE. It comes only to a person who has been trained to remain calm in the face of adversity.

For me, it took a long time. When I played, it was easy to get “wild and crazy!” I loved the contact of football and my adrenaline was always flowing during a game. There were times when I was on the verge of losing control. Fortunately for me, my high school head coach (his whole staff) exhibited a quiet and calm demeanor. It filtered down to me and my teammates. It was a trait that I knew as a Head Coach that I wanted to be a hallmark of my program too.

As a coach, I recognized that I was a role model. If I didn’t allow my players to lose control, then I had to set the example for them. What I learned to do was: STAY IN THE MOMENT. Instead of letting my circumstances or surrounding environment affect me, I looked within and stayed focused on what was happening right then. It’s something that you can learn to develop too.

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