After 12 years of coaching youth sports, I have thrown out a lot of sayings to the players on my teams. Some of them have made the cut and continue from season to season. Others land flat and get thrown by the wayside. But after this long, I have some that are tried and true and really are lessons I need to tell myself from time to time.
It’s hard to say what goes into a good saying. But the recipe is something like a combination of uniqueness, simplicity and cold-hard-truth. If the saying is too bland, it will get lost with everything else that gets said in a child’s day. If it is too complex, mixing too many ideas with too many words, instead of sticking in a player’s brain, it will just ramble around it like Han Solo’s blaster against the magnetically sealed walls of the garbage compactor in the original “Star Wars.” And if it isn’t true, they’ll just know it and it will ring hollow.
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” That’s a very simple quote from one of my favorite linguists, Vince Lombardi. It’s clever, simple and the truth. And all of you have heard it. Coaches all over the planet probably still use it to this day.
He was one of the best, and in an article where I’m going to tell you some of mine, it was probably an unwise idea to even include one of his. It certainly won’t do me any favors, but when coming up with good sayings, I wanted you all to know what I am shooting for.
I coach a lot of team sports — football, baseball and basketball. One of the things I’ve noticed some of my players doing is trying too hard to do too much, making a simple job way too complicated. A second baseman, in addition to his job on the field, may also be worried about making his parents happy, gaining the respect of his coaches and teammates, making sure the concession vendors are watching his game instead of another game, and wondering why that one cloud seems to be sitting still while others move right by it.
Some of us probably have similar issues at work.
But seriously, all the player has to worry about is where he’s going with the baseball if it’s hit to him. If he does that simple job right, everything else besides the cloud and the vendor fall into place. And he can’t control the cloud or vendor anyways.
One phrase you’ll hear me say is “Everyone just needs to do their job. And if every player does his job – the team wins!”
It seems to take a lot of pressure off.
One phrase my football players hear a lot is one I’m proud of. Football is really a game of leverage in a lot of ways. It is a physical game and you are either the one getting knocked down, or the one doing the knocking (another phrase I either coined or stole from someone). So you have to get low. A player has to find a way to get lower and more under control than the other guy. So the saying is “You have to get low and in control. It’s how the little guys beat the big guys, and how the big guys beat everyone else.” There’s probably a lot of truth to that in work life also.
One of my favorites from one of my high school coaches came from Wade Alexander. If he saw us doing something he didn’t like, he would say “if I see those footballs hit the ground one more time, you all are running banks until I get tired!” We all knew that he wasn’t going to be running banks with us. So it would probably be a good, long time before he actually got tired. It was an effective phrase because Chattahoochee High School has some pretty steep and tall banks.
I am a huge fan of good sayings and could go on all day. For now, I’ll just have to say goodbye.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group