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What Sports Coaches Can Teach Businessmen

Updated: Apr 3

The following is an article “What Sports Coaches Can Teach Businessmen” by Marc Primo.


We’ve all heard Michael Jordan’s famous quote, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” which can be helpful in business. However, not every good advice we hear can be applied to just any type of work. Entrepreneurs who take a shot at seemingly bright ideas for innovations sometimes end up having negative numbers when the idea proves to be a dud (you may now Google New Coke, Ford Edsel, and E.T. Atari Game here). But some good business advice does come from great sports coaches. After all, good business, like sports, requires teamwork, rules to follow, and a good game plan to score goals and win trophies.


How often do we use sports lingo in our own business transactions? Such phrases as “make the pitch”, “don’t drop the ball”, and “take one for the team” are all coined into phrases for good reason. Here, we find out what best practices and advice three of the best sports coaches of all-time can really teach the rookies.


“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi


Vince Lombardi is considered to be one of the most prolific sports coaches of all-time. A Jedi master, if you will, when it came to motivating the Green Bay Packers during the ‘60s and leading the team to three straight National Football League (NFL) championships, and a total of five during his career. For non-football fans, that’s no easy feat. Lombardi devised training routines and set plays for his players that revolutionized not only the franchise, but the entire sport as well. The same can be adapted into any business venture. Searching for solutions that develop cohesion among employees, partners, and even the whole industry through trainings, marketing, and operational practices are necessities for success. Lombardi certainly had great sense when he defined what “teamwork” means, no matter what group endeavor you are into.


“You can never make up for a lost day. Don’t think you can make up for it by working twice as hard tomorrow. If you have it within your power to work twice as hard, why aren’t you doing it now?” – John Wooden


You can tell yourself this quote under your breath as an affirmation practice every time you enter the office premises and find your productivity increase because you can really do more than you’d like to think. John Wooden made lifetime achievements in his campaign as head coach of the University of California basketball team from 1948 to 1975, where he set records by winning 10 championships, including seven straight championships. While believing that there is no such thing as 100%, Wooden pushed his players to come as close as possible to giving their all in every game. But this doesn’t mean that he applies a great deal of pressure to the entire team. He cancels practice when everybody is not up for it to give time for recovery and not accept a lesser output from them. In business, you can do well if you apply a good balance between work and rest because as Wooden has taught us, we can never be 100% all the time.


“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.” – Alex Ferguson


This quote when applied in business is especially true today as more and more young entrepreneurs are entering startups with new technological knowledge and business sense. Premier League manager Sir Alex Ferguson thought the same way about the abilities and ideas of his younger players in the team. For over 38 years, Ferguson won 49 trophies and has helped Manchester United become one of the best clubs the league has ever seen. How did Ferguson build a champion team? Credit mostly goes out to his staff from the shipyards of Glasgow who had taught him the value of teamwork as he was growing up. Take Ferguson’s word for it when he says that young professionals have a better grasp of present and future trends, without taking away credit from the veterans. For this coach, the role of the elders is much needed when mentoring the younger ones with discipline and love for their work, just as how he dealt with one of football’s brightest stars, David Beckham, by booting him out of the team when he felt that the star had become bigger than the entire ball club.

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