I read an excellent Gridiron Strategies article this week that struck a chord with my coaching soul (obsession). The article, The Military Analogy and Developing Football Leadership, was written by Coach Travis Burkett, Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Line Coach at Cornell University. Earlier in the fall, Cornell’s Athletic Department and the football program invited General John M. Paxton’s, the Assistant Commandant for the Marine Corps, to be a guest speaker on campus.

General Paxton hits the very core of what we should be doing as sport coaches and/or leaders. These three focal points are the foundation to success. They are not exciting, they don’t reach out and grab you with their flash, nor do they deliver a promise of a quick and easy road to competing successfully. In addition, these three things put into practice every, single day will not make you popular or make your players happy, but it will make them better than they were yesterday.


3 THINGS to FOCUS on in LEADING YOURSELF (or others)

  • Preparation
  • Brilliance in the Basics
  • Endurance


The single most important thing I learned about coaching from Paul Lane was one could never be over-prepared. This goes from scouting reports, to preparing your position players to do their job, to preparing them physically, mentally, and emotionally to play, to getting the backup players experience when the situation allowed.

The kids deserve your best effort. They deserve coaches who are prepared in every aspect.

Brilliance in the Basics

Fundamental and technique trump scheme. I recently told a group of players at a local high school that I could make stack after stack of football offensive and defensive schemes that would probably fill the room, but none of them are magic. None of them will work, IF you don’t execute them properly, i.e. Brilliance in the Basics


This falls first on the coach for planning and implementing a training program that best develops the total athleticism of the athletes in the program. It also falls on the athletes to make sure they push themselves through the tasks they are given to get better and better and better.

For football, the program should be a mixture of speed, explosive power, agility, and anaerobic endurance development. Once taught and implemented, then the coach must DEMAND effort and excellence at all times.

The philosophy is simple. Design and implement a training program specifically for power sports with one goal in mind, to physically beat down the opponent. Develop athletes who hit like a cannon shot and can do so each play for all four quarters. Develop athletes capable of wearing down the opponent physically, mentally, and emotionally by training at such a demanding intensity level that their own physicality, mentality and emotional state is tested on a daily basis.

I would add a fourth thing to this excellent list of General Paxton’s.


The ability to keep moving forward, to keep trying until you achieve the goal. And then setting a new goal even higher and repeating the process.

Don’t Ever Give Up.



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