Sunday, April 25, 2010

How Good Do You Want to Be?

I recently borrowed from the local library How Good Do You Want to Be? by Nick Saban. The book was interesting for two reasons. First, Alabama just won a national championship, and therefore the team and its coach are news.

Secondly, even though the cover pictures Saban dressed in Alabama crimson, the book was clearly written just after his LSU team won the 2003 BCS National Championship. How does what Coach Saban wrote six years and two coaching stints ago relate to this year's Alabama team? How does a book written just after a national championship provide clues to how another championship team will be built?

Chapter 2, entitled "The Competitive Spirit," opens with the subheading "Don't look at the scoreboard." Saban argues that the focus should be on the process not the product. If the process is solid, the product takes care of itself. That thinking is very much in line with what we were hearing during this past season at Alabama. In the book, Saban goes on to say," It is natural to be affected by where you are in life, but looking at the score and results can only take you away from your competitive spirit. Not only should you not concern yourself with the score, you should also avoid setting the bar or establishing benchmarks for success" (p. 58).

With a strong team returning for Alabama next year, much talk is already centering around a repeat national title. In the book, Saban says, "One of the hardest things to do in sports is to repeat as a champion. It is exceedingly rare in college or pro sports these days. Part of the reason is parity, but part of it is champions lose focus because of the distractions that success brings. The championship becomes the focus--not what it takes to be a champion" (pp. 68-69). Furthermore, he says, "We don't talk about repeating as national champions and we don't spend time thinking about the targets that are on our backs" (pp.71-72).

Writing a blog whose focus is time management and organization, I am particularly interested in the three-page subheading in the "Being a Great Leader" chapter entitled "Organization." Saban says, "And to be the most effective leader, you have to be organized." Saban offers these examples of what he does to stay organized (pp.129-130):
  • Every practice plan and set of game notes, going back as far as I can remember, I organize into huge binders that I can refer to when I need to.
  • I keep a pen and paper with me at all times during practice to quickly write down items we need to correct.
  • Our pregame routine is organized down to the minute, and areas of the field are assigned for position groups. For example, no matter where we are playing, the running backs are always warming up at the 20-yard line opposite our bench.
  • I prepare an agenda and a list of items to cover the day before all daily staff meetings so nothing is left out.
Saban goes on to say, "Organization is critical to efficiency. If I have a pet peeve (and I have a few), it's wasted time..." (p. 130)
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