Taking a Page From NFL Players
WOW! 2020 was some year; it is definitely one we will never forget. If you’re reading this, I’m so happy you made it. The new year gives official permission to reset and revitalize our weary psyches. My inspiration this month comes from, of all places, the NFL.
I’ve been a football fan for most of my adult life. I don’t have particular team loyalties. I follow the teams of players I admire. More accurately, quarterbacks, I admire. To distract me from the mayhem of 2020, I followed no less than eight quarterbacks and their respective teams. Here’s what I learned from watching grown men chasing a ball up and down the field. Every week, for 17 weeks, individual players and teams as a whole follow these five steps to revitalize their resilience.
After every game and before the next one, teams study their opponents and their own performance. They are reviewing film and analyzing mistakes to determine how to correct for missed opportunities. Based on what is learned, coaches scheme up scenarios that could help the team out-match their opponents. Those schemes are then practiced during the week.
When the execution of well-thought-out schemes doesn’t quite go according to plan, coaches make needed adjustments on the fly.
The lesson here is to prepare as best you can and make a plan, but don’t be afraid to adjust as you go.
What did you do differently that you might not have ever considered under normal circumstances? Whatever it was, good for you. It is now a part of your new normal.
Professional football players work with position coaches to receive objective input and feedback. Working with their respective coaches is crucial for achieving and maintaining a winning mindset. Players also work with strength and conditioning coaches so that they are also prepared physically.
As the pandemic raged on, and the hope of the temporariness of things faded, the effects of being locked down and isolated began to show up in increased stress levels and other mental health challenges. Self-care became a significant point of emphasis. Home exercise equipment and board games sold out. Online chess exploded, and streaming services struggled to keep up with demand. And it didn’t help that parents discovered that their children were learning math in a wh language that was not of earth origins. Without question, the stress was extraordinary for everyone.
If you are reading this, then you found a way to cope with some of this. And again, I say, good for you because no part of this was or is easy. I don’t mind sharing that one of my coping mechanisms was occasionally having my favorite childhood cereal for breakfast; Cocoa Puffs.
The lesson here is that all of us need support of some type, ranging from a good hearty laugh to clinical support to help battle the effects of isolation. If we learned nothing else, it is going it alone presented real challenges.
How did you practice self-care? Did you check in with friends and family members who were isolated? Did you take up a new interest or revive an old one? I made butternut squash soup with a friend over a video call, but I purposely did not learn how to make bread or chocolate. Those just seemed like rabbit holes too challenging from which to re-emerge easily.
3. Play to Your Strength
The teams that experienced the most success had at least two things in common. One was key players played to their strength. Successful coaches developed specific scenarios that played to key players on the team. They also developed strategies that maximized the team’s strength, meaning that if the team’s strength is running, then that should be the focal point of offensive strategies and not passing or throwing the ball. It also means that every player’s skill and talent must be accounted for so that everyone gets to contribute effectively.
Why is this important? Because it is easier to stay with what you know, rather than try something new and different. The coaches who were not flexible in managing the talent and skill of their players found themselves struggling. I watched with interest as a few coaches resisted designing strategies that maximized players’ talents and strengths. Instead, they insisted on forcing players to operate within a pre-determined system that did not work. As a result, more than one coach and general manager found themselves unemployed before the season was over. By the time you read this, a few more are likely to have lost their good-paying jobs. Recognizing natural ability and working to develop it for the good of the player and the team is the mark of excellent leadership.
4. The team played as a team.
The second thing that teams that experience the most success had in common was they play like a team. Playing like a team means everyone is paying attention to what is taking place on the field and making sure they are in the right position to carry out their assignment. When everyone carries out their assignment, the team has a better chance of winning. For the successful teams, you could see the philosophy of kaizen playing out. Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement; Learn from everything and build on what is working.
An excellent example of this is the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. Companies in different countries came together to leverage their unique research and development strengths to build on the extensive work previously done on other vaccines and new learnings and technologies. The collaborations resulted in the development of a vaccine in record time.
Lesson: Collaboration is critical to success. It is impossible to learn or know everything you need to know all on your own. Besides, it’s more comfortable with a team, no matter the sport or project.
5. Patience and poise.
Time and again, when things looked uncertain or doubtful, it was the patient and poised pass or reception that made the difference. It takes discipline to be patient and poised when facing difficulty. Moves made out of frustration on the football field almost always have negative results, including interceptions, penalties that cost the team yardage, or, in extreme cases, ejection from the game.
Lesson: It is in the quiet space of patience where you can get a better perspective and make better decisions. Being patient doesn’t mean you can take all day to make a decision. It means to take a moment to ensure all things are being considered before making a decision.
The football season will be over soon, and I’ll have to find another distraction from the mayhem. In the meantime, remembering these five lessons will help to keep my resilience revitalized until next season.
Here’s wishing you good health, adaptability, patience and poise, and a manageable new normal.
Until next time,
© 2020 Deborah Gray Young, All rights reserved.
Deborah Gray-Young is the managing partner of D. Gray-Young, Inc. a sales marketing consulting and coaching firm providing strategic communications planning and training for marketers, agencies and media companies.
An ICF accredited coach, Deborah is the author of three books:
What Do They Mean When They Say…?”, Decoding Performance Evaluation Speak, YOU 3.0: A Guide to Overcoming Roadblocks for Professional Women of Color and The Young Professional’s Handbook, a primer for young people entering the professional workforce. All are available on Amazon and Kindle
Deborah is based in Chicago.
Follow her on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/dgrayyoung/