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How Good Do You Want to Be?: A Champion's Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 23. Januar 2007

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

The winner of numerous National Coach of the Year honors, Nick Saban is the head football coach at Louisiana State University. In 2004, he coached the Tigers to a 13 —1 season and the BCS College Football national championship. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife and two children.

Brian Curtis is the author of Every Week a Season: A Journey Inside Big-Time College Football and The Men of March: A Season Inside the Lives of College Basketball Coaches. A former reporter for Fox Sports Net, he is now a host and analyst on College Sports Television. He and his wife, Tamara, live in New York City. Visit his website at www.briancurtis.us.

From the Hardcover edition.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

Part 1

The Making of Champions

The 2003 Season

Becoming a champion is not an easy process, and the 2003 season is a great example of how it is done. By focusing on what it takes to get there, and not on getting there, our LSU team was able to win the BCS national title. All along the way, we as coaches imparted ideas, philosophies, and practices that helped shape the team. The story of our championship is exciting, but just as important are the lessons we learned and taught along the way. To make sure these stand out, I’ve highlighted them for you.

Most people think that the Louisiana State University football team won the national championship on the night of January 4, 2004, at the Nokia Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. They believe that because we were the better team that night against Oklahoma—because we had better players making bigger plays and coaches making better moves—we won the championship. But I tend to disagree. I think we actually won the national title almost four hundred days earlier in Little Rock, Arkansas.

After we captured the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship in 2001, expectations were obviously quite high in Baton Rouge for our 2002 squad. We were led by strong seniors, including Bradie James, and gifted underclassmen, including quarterbacks Matt Mauck and Marcus Randall and receivers Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson. We certainly were going to miss the seniors’ abilities and leadership, but I thought we had a solid team, particularly on defense. I’ve been coaching the game long enough to know that, as defending SEC champions, we had a big red target on our back. We knew that every SEC game would be a war. And, boy, were we right.

Ranked #14 in the nation, we started off the season against #16 Virginia Tech in a nationally televised game in Blacksburg, in front of sixty-five thousand screaming fans. It was a difficult environment to play in, and we did nothing to help our cause. With eight first-time starters in the game, our inexperience showed early and often. Fumbles, interceptions, blocked punts, and penalties gave us little chance, and we trailed 24–0 before scoring in the fourth quarter. It was not a great start to the season. But we rebounded and defeated The Citadel and Miami of Ohio at home before winning our SEC opener against Mississippi State, 31–13. Our confidence was high and, after routing University of Louisiana—Lafayette the following week and dominating Florida 36–7 at Gainesville, we were a team to be reckoned with. Except for one thing. We had lost starting quarterback Matt Mauck to a broken foot in the Florida game. We managed to keep the winning streak going with a win over South Carolina. We were 6–1, atop the SEC and ranked #10 in the nation. But then we headed to Auburn.

We fumbled on our first play from scrimmage, and it didn’t get much better from there. We turned the ball over five times and lost 31–7. The following week against Kentucky, we won only by virtue of the “Bluegrass Miracle,” when Marcus Randall connected on a 75-yard Hail Mary to Devery Henderson on the last play of the game. Truth told, we probably should not have won. Alabama made sure there was no miracle the next week, soundly trouncing us at home, 31–0. After a fourth-quarter comeback against Ole Miss the following week, we were in a position to win the SEC West again and make a return trip to the SEC title game—if we could get past Arkansas in the season finale. With forty seconds left in the game, we led 20–14. The game was ours if we could simply stop Arkansas from a full-field drive. We couldn’t. Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones threw the ball over the top of our prevent defense to Richard Smith for a 50-yard gain. A few plays later, he connected with receiver DeCori Birmingham on a 30-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds left. The extra point was good, and the wind was officially kicked out of us.

In my opinion, that’s when we began our march toward the national championship.

After the crushing loss to Arkansas, we all rededicated ourselves to the little things. The awful feeling of that last-second loss had an indelible impact on everyone in the LSU program. Never again would we squander a lead; never again would we be outplayed in the fourth quarter; never again would we be outworked any day of the year. It was then that the championship team was born.

Immediately after the Cotton Bowl loss to Texas, the coaches hit the road—recruiting like never before—and the players hit the weight room. They voluntarily worked out almost every day, often in large groups, well before the official off-season conditioning began. In February, in the first official team meeting before off-season conditioning began, I asked everyone in the room—players, coaches, managers—to close their eyes and think about how they’d felt just months earlier, in the moments after the Arkansas loss. I didn’t want them to forget it. When team workouts began in earnest, there was a renewed optimism and a clear sense of commitment on the part of the players. They arrived early for workouts and stayed late. They encouraged one another and kept each other in line. In the winter of 2003, we enjoyed the highest attendance rate of any off-season. The work ethic and positive attitude apparent in the strength and conditioning workouts continued into the spring, and the spring practices were more impressive than I could have hoped. Every single man played as if each down was his last. There was no letup.

In the late spring, the seniors on the team gathered to set out the goals for the 2003 LSU program. We had no outspoken or easily identifiable leader on our team—there were even some worries that there was an absence of the kind of strong, recognizable leader we’d had in the past. Our concerns about a vacuum of leadership vanished when the seniors presented me with the team goals.

1. Be a Team—Together Everyone Accomplishes More.

2. Work to Dominate Your Opponent.

3. Positively Affect Our Teammates.

4. Individual Responsibility for Self-Determination.

5. Be Champions On and Off the Field.

None of the five goals says anything about how many games we wanted to win or what titles we were striving for. No, these goals were about performance—on and off the field—and they set the tone for the 2003 season. We did indeed have some true leaders—and we were proud of them.

Come summertime, we had more players pass our summer conditioning tests than ever before. The players hung out together away from the field and stayed out of trouble. They attended summer school classes, did their work, and got along great. The older guys welcomed the newcomers with open arms. When camp began in August, everyone involved—coaches, players, managers, and trainers—was as focused as in any program I’ve been a part of. There was simply no selfishness on this team. The upperclassmen helped teach the freshmen, competitors for starting positions respected one another, and both sides of the ball took pride in their effort. Players didn’t complain of the heat, and the coaches didn’t talk about the long hours. We shared a purpose; we all knew what we wanted to accomplish. And there was some additional inspiration. Our longtime equipment manager and friend, Jeff Boss, had been suffering from cancer, and his condition was not good. It affected all of us.

As a coach, you are often more optimistic than realistic before the first kickoff, but we had a lot of faith in the personality of this team. Still, to be successful, you also have to...


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