Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“The Art of War” and Coaching Football

Posted by admin January - 19 - 2010 - Tuesday

I watched a show on the History channel the other night about the Chinese military strategist Sun Tsu and his book, The Art of War. I was fascinated by the analogies made that apply to football. I read the book years ago and applied some of Sun Tsu’s concepts to my coaching strategy at that time, but this program took it to another whole level.

I was so intrigued that, when it was over, I went to the internet to see if anyone has written anything about coaching football by applying Sun Tsu’ strategies. I found several but one in particular raised my eyebrows. It was a blog report by Coach John Reed. I have purchased a number of his books on football over the years so I was interested to see what he had to say. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the paradymn shift that occurred as I read his entry!

Coach Reed’s take is that… rather than football coaches taking a page out of the book of military generals and strategists, that military generals should be following some of the concepts that we utilize as coaches!!! The main one being: the use of filming practices and games to help us evaluate our talent, the opposing team and to set our plan of attack! Generals, according to Coach Reed, do not use film to the extent that we coaches do… and that is a mistake!

This led me to the Message Board on this morning and a discussion about game planning that a young coach started. That was the confirmation that I needed to jot down some thoughts about the use of strategy and planning that is a Little Thing that can make a BIG difference in your team’s success on Friday night.

I go back to my 5 P’s of Success: PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Proper is the key word; for without proper preparation, your chances for success diminish greatly.

I refer back to The Art of War and again recommend that you read this book… or at least find a website that will cover the key points. This guy Sun Tsu reallllllllllly understood people and that the intellectual and emotional side of preparing men for combat/competition is a key to successfully overcoming your adversary. If you are interested in improving your ability to strategize and plan, you should read this little book.

I would also refer you to my book, 101 Little Things, for I have a whole section on Game Planning and preparing your players. One of Sun Tsu’s main axioms is that “the little guy” can defeat the “Big Guy” by outsmarting him. Talent helps… no doubt! But your ability to plan and execute your plan is a key to success.

To paraphrase a verse in the Bible from Proverbs: “the people perish for lack of a vision by their leader.” You as the Head Coach need to learn all you can about strategy and planning and executing that plan so your team does not “perish” on Friday nights.

God bless you!

One Response to ““The Art of War” and Coaching Football”

  1. Metz says:

    1st of all, let me tell you that I loved the analogies I find in coaching with the Art of War. Richard Marcinko, a former Navy Seal Team Commnanding Officer makes references to the Art of War in his leadership series of books.
    One of my favorite stories is about how Sun Tzu was clearly outmatched in one particular battle. He fled to the mountains. The enemy came to the village and upon realizing there was no battle to fight, set up camp. The village women attended to them. After much time, the enemy soldiers got fat and lazy. Sun Tzu’s soldiers were infruriated by the enemies’ friendliness with their women and seeing them live in their homes as they themselves were freezing in the mountains. That’s when Sun Tzu launched the attack … and was victorious.
    This is a story I tell when we’re facing a team that’s inferior to us, to remind them that we have something to lose and the opponent something to gain, and that we shouldn’t be taking them lightly.
    Great post, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. I hope to have a chat with you next weekend at the NWTC!