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15 Ways Football Is Like Business

Advisors can learn a thing or two from college football players.

Allyson Lewis, 10/28/2010

Have you ever attended an early morning college football practice? Picture the practice field: It's 5:30 a.m. when the players arrive--it's dark as they walk through the parking lot to put on their pads and practice uniforms. As they walk out on the field, the grass is still slick with the morning dew. The weight of their frames sinks their cleats deep into the grass.

At the collegiate level, playing football is a full-time business. These young men arrive every day ready to play. From the moment they step onto the field they are expected to play as though it is a two minute drill with the ball in their own "red zone." Every play matters, execution matters, effort matters.
Here are 15 lessons football has taught me about excellence in business.

1. Show up ready to play
How did you feel when you arrived at the office this morning? Half the battle is showing up at your office every morning ready to work. It could be as simple as making sure you are rested and that you have had a nutritious breakfast.

2. Make a full-force effort
A few years ago, I had a bench pass to watch Arkansas State University play Texas A&M. I was standing about 10 feet from the field on the 35-yard line when I saw two men collide at full speed. It was a "full force" impact--I had never experienced it from a 10-foot point of view and I quickly realized that what I saw and heard from my regular seats in the stands and what I was experiencing at this moment was an entirely different game. My respect for the effort and physical strength it took increased significantly. I want to live life with this "full-force effort."

3. You need a talented coach
It is important to have a coach that believes in you, someone you trust to teach you the fundamental approach to success. Your coach should encourage, inspire, teach, and call out the best in you.

4. Develop your mindset
Success in life begins by developing the proper mindset. Clarify what you want to accomplish. Then you must believe. Positive mindset is crucial to success in business.

5. Back up your mindset with the proper skill set
Football is filled with routine daily drills. Over and over and over again each player repeats these drills. Until they create something called "muscle memory"--so they can execute each skill flawlessly. Choose to improve your skill-sets in business. How you dress, how you greet your customer, how you execute your customer service--repeat until you can execute flawlessly.

6. It takes a lot of training and preparation
On the practice field training and preparation pays off. As the weeks go by, each player's physical body becomes stronger until they are in the best shape of their life. They become mentally tougher;they thrive on the energy of knowing they are walking onto the field each week "ready" to play. It is time for each of you to decide how you will train and prepare your mind and body so you can be ready to work.

7. You need a strategic game plan
Each week teams across the country will watch hours of game tape to prepare for their upcoming games. They will watch the opponents' tape to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and they will review hours of tape of their own players to see what is working and what is not working. Only with this insight do the coaches create the strategic game plan for that week. This is a constant process of evolution. Make sure you have a strategic game plan.

8. Use a playbook
Your business plan should be current and relevant. It should be visual, valuable, understandable and repeatable. Do you have clearly defined goals and objectives that you can articulate and communicate to yourself and your team? When you arrive at work, do you have a full understanding of which tasks and activities you need to focus on first? Your written strategy will give you the proper roadmap for success.

9. Know your role
Each player on a football team has been chosen to play a specific role because of their individual skills. Many of these players have played the same positions since junior high because of their physical build and athletic aptitudes. Shouldn't you also play to your strengths? What role are you built to play?

10. Be a great teammate
In football you must trust the person in front of you, behind you, beside you and even the people on the bench in case you get hurt or tired. Are you a trusted teammate? Do your clients and coworkers know you will be there for them?

11. Be in the right place at the right time
Consider this scenario: five seconds left on the clock, your team is behind by three--your offense is on the opposing teams 27 yard line, the play clock is counting down, the crowd is going wild. The quarterback and the receiver have practiced this play thousands of times. Now each person on the offense needs to be in the right place at the right time. The quarterback throws the ball toward a designated place in the end zone that is currently empty. But, at exactly the right place and exactly the right time, the ball and the receiver meet perfectly. What will you do every day to mentally put yourself in the right place at the right time to succeed in life?

12. Play through the pain
Football hurts. Life hurts as well. The last several years have been more difficult for many people in business. Now is the time to dig down and be willing to play with the hurts of life.

13. Expect to win
Every morning when you step into your office, what are your expectations for that day? Do you walk in dressed to win? Are you mentally prepared to win? Do you know what winning looks like? Winning is not just a monetary effort--it is doing the very best with your personal talents and skill-sets and it is finding fulfillment in utilizing your abilities to serve your clients and your firm.

14. Focus on continual improvement
In football, every player and the team as a whole are expected to continually improve. Every day they become stronger, faster, and more in tune with one another. What will you do today to improve your life and the lives of those around you?

15. Football is an experience
Going to a collegiate football game is not just an event, it is an experience. We buy our season tickets months in advance. We drive sometimes 10 hours out of town to watch our team play. We dress in Arkansas State University Red Wolves sweatshirts and hats. We show up not just to watch, but to participate. We arrive at the stadium hours early to eat barbecue and visit with our fellow football fans. At the game, we yell, we "HOWL," we eat peanuts and mini-donuts. We are wrapped in our blankets and we sing the fight song. We scream when the band plays and cheer when the drum line appears. From the cheerleaders, to the flags, to our Red Wolf mascot driving a motorcycle onto the field bringing in the team, football is an experience.

It is shocking what I have learned from the discipline and effort shown every week by 18-to-22-year-old men all across the country. Can you do the same?

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