Before and After The Snap: What Can Business Learn From Football?

Nonetheless, I am impressed by the product NFL teams put on the field week-after-week and year-after-year.
Recently, I took some friends to The Star, which is the Cowboys' new world headquarters and training facility  (and, as a side note, cost more to build than the Cowboys' stadium).

This post seems like it is about football … but it is really a playbook of things we can do in business.

What Can Business Learn From Football Teams?

If you get a chance to watch an NFL practice … I highly recommend it.   It is an awesome experience and opportunity for a businessperson. 

Each time I've watched a practice session I've come away impressed by the amount of preparation, effort, and skill displayed.
The Cowboys' coach is Jason Garrett.  He is detail-oriented and intellectual.  His pedigree … he is a Princeton graduate who played quarterback in the NFL.


171111 HMG and Jason Garrett 2


During practice, there's a scheduled agenda. Practice is broken into chunks, and each chunk has a designed purpose and a desired intensity.  There's a rhythm, even to the breaks.

Every minute was scripted.  You could tell there was a long-term plan … but, there was also a focus on the short-term details (many details).

They alternate between individual and group drills.  Moreover, the drills run fast … but for shorter time periods than you'd guess.  It is bang-bang-bang – never longer than a millennial's attention span.  And they move from drill to drill – working not just on plays, but the skillsets as well (where are you looking, which foot do you plant, how do you best use your hands, etc.).

They use advanced technology (including advanced player monitoring, bio-metric tracking, and medical recovery devices … but also things like robotic tackling dummies and virtual reality headsets). 

They don't just film games, they film the practices … and each individual drill.  Coaches and players get a cut of the film on their tablet as soon as they leave.  It is a process of constant feedback, constant improvement, or constant renewal.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.  So, they try to do everything right. 

Pro football is one thing. College football is another. But, even in high school, the coaches have a game plan. There are team practices and individual drills. They have a depth chart, which lists the first, second, and third choice to fill certain roles.

The focus is not just internal, on the team.  They focus on the competition as well.  Before a game, the coaches prepare a game plan and have the team watch tape of their opponent in order to understand the tendencies and mentally prepare for what's going to happen.

During the game, changes in personnel groups and schemes keep competitors on their toes and allow the team to identify coverages and predict plays. Coaches from different hierarchies work in tandem to respond faster to new problems. 

After the game, the film is reviewed in detail. Each person gets a grade on each play, and the coaches make notes for each person about what they did well and what they could do better.

Think about it … everyone knows what game they are playing … and for the most part, everybody understands the rules, and how to keep score (and even where they are in the standings).

Imagine how easy that would be to do in business.  Imagine how much better things could be if you did those things.

Challenge accepted.

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