31 Quotes and Lessons From Football Coaches

Wisdom from Coaches

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of American football, or even of sports at all, you likely have seen various words of football wisdom appear in various business articles or business books. Coaches inspire players with words of encouragement and motivation that often have equally compelling application in corporate boardrooms as they do in team locker rooms.

As football season starts, it’s appropriate to learn from the coaches. Here are a few inspiring quotes from some of those coaches to inspire you today:

 

“If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.” –Lou Holtz

 

“Doing something the right way is something I take pride in.” –Frank Thomas

 

“To defeat a weak opponent is not the problem: The problem is to win when he is as good or better than you.” –Robert Neyland

 

“Good fellows are a dime a dozen, but an aggressive leader is priceless.” –Red Blaik

 

“Whether the light switch is on in every room or not, I’m not certain. But I can tell you that most of the house is lit.” –Les Miles

 

“Either love your players or get out of coaching.” –Bobby Dodd

 

“I don’t expect to win enough games to be put on NCAA probation. I just want to win enough to warrant an investigation.” –Bob Devaney

 

“Nothing that comes easy is worth a dime.” –Woody Hayes

Great Basketball Quotes to Up Your Game

March Madness Inspiration

 

It’s March.

In the United States, that means basketball.

March Madness was born on March 27, 1939. The record for the most successful team ever is still held by UCLA with eleven championships. How many of those were directly under the leadership of legendary basketball coach John Wooden? An astounding ten. Still amazing. Pat Summit’s record is also one for the history books with six championships for Tennessee (and 1,098 career wins!).

As someone who collects inspiring quotes, there is an unending supply of great ones from outstanding players and coaches.

 

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Quotes from Basketball Greats

 

“Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.” –Pat Summitt

 

“Those who work the hardest are the last to surrender.” –Rick Pitino

 

“What to do with a mistake: 1. Recognize it. 2. Admit it. 3. Learn from it. 4. Forget it.” –Dean Smith

 

“Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” –John Wooden

 

“In order to achieve positive results, one must work for them, not hope for them.” –Bobby Knight

 

“Commitment separates those who live their dreams from those who live their lives regretting the opportunities they have squandered.” –Bill Russell

 

“Overcoaching is the worst thing you can do to a player.” –Dean Smith

 

“Coaches win practices, players win games.” –Pete Carril

 

“Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.” –Doc Rivers

 

“Shout praise and whisper criticism.” –Don Meyer

The Innovative Thinking Behind the Reinvention of Football

Reinventing American Football

Almost anything is ripe for innovation. We’ve all seen startups wipe out the established players. We’ve seen whole industries upended as new technologies create new possibilities.

I love to collect these stories. It’s also fun to collect quotes from the naysayers who laughed at the disrupters, but are later proven wrong.

Aspiring leaders always benefit from studying disruption whether in your own industry or even in a distant field. Because often the principles and lessons are applicable elsewhere.

That’s why I have to share this story with you. It’s the reinvention of American football.

Don’t care about football?

Just wait.

You may learn a few lessons from this story that may inspire you. And even if you don’t, you may find yourself at a cocktail party one day, looking for conversation. Read this and you’ll have another story guaranteed to fascinate everyone.

S.C. Gwynne is a first-rate author. Sam was a finalist for the Pulitzer and worked at Time as bureau chief, national correspondent and senior editor. Mix his superb writing with a compelling story and you have The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football. I recently had the opportunity to ask him about his research into the reinvention of the game.

 

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” –Steve Jobs

 

A Passing Innovation

Hal Mumme transformed football from a running game to a passing game. Who knew!? Your book tells the untold story of how this transformation happened, and it does it in a compelling way. Would you briefly share how this happened?

In the NFL, the middle 1970s came to be known as the “dead ball era.” Fewer points were scored than at any time since 1942. Fewer passes were thrown than at any time since the 1950s. The game was heading back to its ground-and-pound origins, which is what many players and coaches really wanted anyway: a bloody scrum in the middle of the field featuring halfback dives and snarling middle linebackers. Things got so bad—and so boring (it was just as bad in the college game)—that the NFL made radical changes to its blocking rules in 1978, allowing offensive linemen to use their hands, and limiting how many times a receiver could be bumped.The Perfect Pass by S.C. Gwynne

It was, coincidentally, precisely at that time that the coaches who would change the game arrived on the scene. Bill Walsh was experimenting with what would become the West Coast offense; Don Coryell’s receivers were running routes in new ways; Mouse Davis was setting records at Portland State; LaVell Edwards was starting his long run of offensive dominance at BYU, and a young Hal Mumme was studying the passing tactics of all the above. Fast forward to the present day, where a few quick statistics will illustrate the impact those coaches collectively had on the game. Prior to 1991 (the year Hal arguably changed the game), five NCAA D-1 quarterbacks had passed for 10,000 yards or more in their college careers. Since then, 90 more have done it. Of the 92 quarterbacks to date who have thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a single season, 78 have done it since the year 2000. And so on. The game has changed.

Of these passing innovations, by far the two most extreme were the Run and Shoot—invented by Ohio high school coach Tiger Ellison in the 1970s and brought into the modern age by Mouse Davis at Portland State in the 1970s—and the Air Raid. No one else was even close. As I describe in my book, the Run and Shoot did not really survive the 1990s, while the Air Raid was just starting to take off.

Hal’s approach began with the fact that he simply threw the ball more than anyone else. At Iowa Wesleyan, his quarterback Dustin Dewald once completed 61 of 86 passes, both all-time records. He passed on first down and fourth. Hal also messed with the basic assumptions, goals, objectives, and premises of the game. If most football teams ran 60 offensive plays in a game, he ran 85 to 90 and sometimes 100. If most teams believed that controlling the ball—time of possession—was the most important single statistic of the game (other than the score), Hal’s players behaved as though that number was utterly meaningless. He put five feet of space between his offensive linemen, shifting the basic geometry of the line of scrimmage. In a world of exceedingly complex playbooks and ever-multiplying plays, Hal had no playbook and only a handful of plays. His players saw a dead simple game, while opposing defenses saw what looked like wild complexity. Because Hal usually went for it on fourth down, his teams had four downs to make a first down, while his opponents had three, thus altering the assumptions one might make about what sort of play Hal would call on third and 9. (Hint: in his relativistic universe, he does not have to make 9 yards.) And so on. It was as though Hal’s team was playing an entirely different game.

 

Hal Mumme coaching on the sidelines, Used by Permission Hal Mumme coaching on the sidelines, Used by Permission


You point out that before Hal Mumme introduced his technique, only five NCAA Quarterbacks had ever thrown for more than 10,000 yards and since then 90 have done it. That’s amazing. When did his technique catch on with others?

Though one can argue—as I do, in my book—that Hal definitively changed the game of football in the Iowa Wesleyan-Northeast Missouri State game on August 31, 1991, the rest of the world did not know that. The football world would not truly understand what he had done until the late 1990s. That was when he took his video game offenses to the game’s motherland—the SEC—when he became head coach at the University of Kentucky and did what everyone said he could not possibly do: in 1997 he beat Alabama. After the Alabama game, American football started making pilgrimages to his doorstep.

 

Leadership Characteristics Designed to Challenge

John Wooden on the Difference Between Winning and Succeeding

Timeless Success Advice

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden shared some timeless advice for his players that not only applied to his team, but to all of us.

Though this legend has passed on, his many lessons and many quotes remain as timeless reminders of what success looks like. Some of his timeless advice:

  • Always be on time.
  • Be neat and clean.
  • Don’t use profanity.
  • Never criticize a teammate.
  • Have patience.
  • Have faith that things will work out if we do what we are suppose to do.
  • Don’t whine, complain or make excuses.
  • Do your best.

John Wooden didn’t cut corners, and he didn’t let his values slide in order to win. His consistency was legendary. I often read his inspiring quotes. He is known for winning ten NCAA national championships in twelve years. With his attitude and wisdom, I am certain he would have been successful at nearly any endeavor.

His many quotes continue to inspire. Here are a few of my favorite John Wooden quotes:

 

John Wooden Quotes

 

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” -John Wooden

 

“Never mistake activity for achievement. -John Wooden

Make A Decision To Win

Fast Forward Winner

He’s an Emmy Award winning broadcaster, a motivational speaker, and the author of Fast Forward Winner. He’s also the voice of the Atlanta Hawks. His whole professional life has been spent watching teams compete.

Who better than to ask about winning teams, about team leadership, and about winning?

 

“Every day your work is your performance review.” –Bob Rathbun

 

Bob Rathbun started broadcasting at 12. His first opportunity at the microphone started with him calling a homerun at the bottom of the seventh inning. Since that first call, Bob has crisscrossed the country, won numerous awards, and risen to the top of his profession.

And yet he humbly says that, if he could do it, you can, too. Bob wants everyone from corporate leaders to the youth groups he encourages to learn from his journey and find success.

 

“Make the decision to be at your best so you can give those around you your best.” –Bob Rathbun

 

Go For Your Dreams

In his book, Fast Forward Winner, and in his public appearances, Bob is always encouraging others to go for their dreams.

“It’s ok to dream. Ok to put yourself out there and see where it can take you.”

If you don’t dream about it, think about it, put yourself out there and ask some people for help, you never know what may be out there for you.

What’s the #1 lesson for those aspiring to go to the top? Bob’s answer: Belief.

How many of us give up because we don’t believe in ourselves enough?

 

“When you make a decision, be ready for what comes with it.” –Bob Rathbun

 

Formula for a Winning Team

Bob has seen teams fall apart and seen teams win championship games. His formula for success is:

Talent + Lockstep Thought, Spirit, and Execution