Tony DeMeo


David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books. They have been huge best sellers over the years. Gladwell is a thought provoking author & his David and Goliath certainly provokes a lot of thought and will be a big help to coaches.
Gladwells earlier books were also helpful to me in my coaching career:

1. The Tipping Point – a great book that shows how little things mean a lot.
2. Blink – the power of intuition & thinking without thinking
3. The Outliers – the importance of work ethic & the “10,000 hour rule”

These are a couple ides I got from Gladwell’s earlier books but they were many many other great ideas and thoughts in those books. I just wanted to throw out a couple of examples. ‘

Every coach has been faced with the prospect of taking on “Goliath:” The reigning powerhouse in the conference. As a head coach it seemed like I was usually the “David” so I always had to come up with my own “Slingshot” to overcome my “Goliath”. I’ve written about it on my blog: How to Pull Off the Big Upset.

Gladwell starts out with the David and Goliath story and how the Israelites were scared to death of The Giant Warrior Goliath. When Goliath challenged them to fight, both sides were thinking “swords and close quarters battle” all but David. David was a shepherd and had protected his flock from bears that were bigger than Goliath not with a sword but with his slingshot. Goliath, although massive suffered from poor eyesight. David was offered armor but refused it. He just took five stones and dropped Goliath to his knees and then cut his head off. Goliath didn’t prove too big to beat, he proved too big to miss.

Gladwell goes through many examples where seemingly advantages become disadvantages and disadvantages become advantages. He talks about the Fordham vs UMass basketball game in 1971. UMass had the great Dr. J and was heavy favorites but Fordham’s coach Digger Phelps used a surprise full court press the whole game to “Pull Off the Big Upset.” If facing Goliath you can’t fight Goliath’s fight. You must change the game.

Gladwell uses Martin Luther King’s battle against racism as another example of overcoming overwhelming odds to be successful. Dr. King got public opinion on his side vs Bull Conner in Birmingham, Alabama. One of King’s assistants, Wyatt Walker, created a crisis to force Bull Connor’s hand. Underdogs have to be students of nuances. Little things make the difference.

David and Goliath is an easy read and tough to put down. It is guaranteed to give ideas that can be applied in many situations, especially in underdog situations. It’s easy to coach when you are the superior program but the real test is when you’re heading to the battle against Goliath. This situation really challenges one’s coaching ability. I strongly recommend David and Goliath regardless of which role you are currently in.