Wise Words From Top Coaches

Bart Keeler

30 October 2018

Coaches are often known for their one-line snark and sideline tantrums, but on a day-to-day basis, they work tirelessly to help teams of highly-talented people perform at their best. Maybe even more than in the corporate world, coaches are heavily involved in the daily lives of their followers.

Though we love to listen to their post-game interviews, the coaches who have reached success in their field took each day as an opportunity to exercise their vision and life philosophy. Their insights into management, inspiration and preparation are useful in any business arena. Here are key insights from the careers of four top coaches.

John Wooden: Preparation is Everything

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

The 10-time NCAA basketball champion is an icon for coaches of all sports. As a man of high moral standing and commitment to doing things the right way, John Wooden’s philosophy has reached outside the court and into any practice.

Coach Wooden believed first and foremost in preparation; his entire coaching philosophy hinges on it. He was always more focused on what his team was going to do than what the other team would potentially do. He knew that if his guys did their jobs to the best of their abilities, no one could beat them. For Wooden, this meant making sure his team was prepared. This entailed doing everything right from putting on socks to setting screens, and how the team readied for each game.

Preparation is required in just about every facet of business development. From five-year strategies to daily meetings, you must be prepared, but you must also stick to your overall vision.


Vince Lombardi: Stay on Task

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”

The trophy given to the NFL champion is named after Vince Lombardi. In total, he won eight league championships (two Super Bowls and six NFL championships) and was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year. His brilliance wasn’t just having a better strategy than the opposition, but having a stronger team and more disciplined players.

Lombardi believed in commitment to the task and the team. He required a commitment to doing your job well and he was committed to developing healthy team chemistry. This meant loving his players and encouraging teammates to support each other on and off the field. This produced a strong team mentality that allowed the team to overcome adversity and maintain success.

Making employees focus too much on completing tasks will lead to burnout, and focusing too much on harboring good relationships will not push employees to better. You must keep your team focused on the task in front of them and the person beside them. 

Sir Alex Ferguson: Commit to Youth Development

"If I were running a company, I would always want to listen to the thoughts of its most talented youngsters, because they are the people most in touch with the realities of today and the prospects for tomorrow.”

One man can’t build the most recognizable soccer club in the world, but Sir Alex Ferguson put Manchester United at the top of everyone’s mind during his 27 years managing the team. He won the English Premier League 13 times and the UEFA Champions League twice. One of the not-very secrets to his success was building up and believing in his younger players.

“Fergie’s Fledglings,” as they were called, came to Manchester United as youth prospects and became stalwarts. Not only did they become hugely successful players for the team, but several became bigger than the sport themselves. David Beckham emerged as a young players under Ferguson, playing for United from 1992 to 2003. He became a household name for his free-kick abilities and flashy style on and off the soccer field.

Ferguson’s reliance on young players allowed him to constantly evolve his style throughout his career. As a business leader, it’s important to listen to new and young employees will expand your vision to see new trends in your industry. 

Joe Torre: Be Loyal to the Team

“I was loyal to everyone of my players. But, in being loyal in to everyone of my players, I was loyal to the 25 first.”

Joe Torre is one of the most successful managers in baseball, guiding the New York Yankees to World Series championships four times. He was able to manage rosters of players from superstar-millionaires to rookies. Joe understood how to make each player feel special while also keeping the team first.

His player-first mentality paired with his penchant for finding players committed to the game yielded one of the most victorious stints of a MLB manager. Though Joe wanted to get the best out of each of his players, he remained focused on what would be most beneficial to the team. This wasn’t popular with some players, but he was able to cultivates rosters with professionals who understood that winning required self-sacrifice and teamwork.

Remember that showing loyalty to your team is two-fold: you need to make sure each individual feels valued, but you must keep the entire team’s sights set on the goals, mission and ethics of the company.

Check out the Leadercast Now library for more lessons on team building.

Bart Keeler

Bart Keeler is a content marketer, blogger and podcaster who discusses leadership, workplace culture and sports. He is also editor of The Smoking Musket, a West Virginia Mountaineers community. A retired athlete, Bart draws on his competitive background to connect find the driving force behind leadership icons. Bart lives in Atlanta and is an avid fan of all Atlanta sports teams, as well as his WVU Mountaineers.

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