Tony DeMeo

Applying Good to Great Principles to Coaching

Applying Good to Great Principles to Coaching

By: Tony DeMeo

Good to Great by Jim Collins is one of the great business books ever penned. It’s been on the best seller list for what seems like forever. But I believe it should also be recognized as one of the best football books ever written. That’s right – football! If you are trying to raise the level of play of your football team, then you should definitely study this book. The following are some key principles:

  1. Be a Level 5 Leader – It starts with you. You must be a leader that uses the window/mirror rule. When things go well look through the window to give credit to those responsible. But when things go wrong, look in the mirror to see how you can do better. As Bear Bryant preached “ Give credit and take blame”
  2. The Stocksdale Principle – named after a war hero. Face the brutal facts and have faith that you can overcome them. When we took over the University of Charleston Football program in 2005, we had to assess where the program stood. We were faced with a team GPA of 1.6 and a losing record on the field. The common denominator was a lack of discipline. So that meant we had to instill discipline in the off season.
  3. First who then what – get the right people on the bus and get the wrong people off the bus. Surround yourself with good people. The first step at UC was to hire a good staff and then have that staff recruit quality players. Every year we increased our talent pool. Of course we had to get some people off the bus as well.
  4. The Hedgehog Concept – focus in on one idea and be great at that. In 2005, we developed a formula for immediate results. We could run The Triple Gun Offense to control the ball, score points when given the opportunity, play great defense, and be sound in the kicking game. By slowing the tempo down we shortened the game and gave ourselves a chance to win. The result was the biggest turnaround in conference history.
  5. The Flywheel – Build up and Breakthrough. This concept is the idea of putting in the work without seeing immediate results but building momentum that will eventually take off. For example at UC we had great success our first year in 2005 finishing 8-3, but it took us 5 years to 2009 before we cracked the top 20 in the nation (we finished 19th). But we stayed the course. There was no leaping and lurching – changing strategies every time we lost a game. This is the biggest mistake I see coaches make. They completely change offenses and defenses on a yearly basis based on their personnel or the scheme of the day. Execution is based on “banked reps” so if you are constantly changing schemes, your execution will suffer. At UC we tweaked our scheme to take advantage our personnel but still maintained the core philosophy. Our Triple Gun Offense had built in flexibility that allowed us to make best use of our players’ ability.

These are some of the principles we used at The University of Charleston to turn that program around on the field (43 – 23 record) and in the classroom (team GPA 2.92). I’m sure these principles would help you as well.