What My High School Football Coach Taught Me About Learning

My high school football coach asked, "Why did we win so many games?"  But it wasn't the answer to that question that was so enlightening, but the way he asked it...and the conversation that followed.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had the special opportunity to re-unite with scores of high school football teammates to honor our esteemed coach, now in his 80"s. I never thought about it then... but getting 60 or so teenage boys to function together as a well-oiled machine in a complex sport such as football to win against new opponents each week is a great project management challenge, to say the least.

But the key to it is not so much in the functional aspect...but in the character, the passion, emotion of it all...

What impressed me about our coach - Joe Scully, Pittsburgh Central Catholic - was that, now in his 80's, he is still as deeply interested, mindful, passionate, fascinated, and inquiring about the game as he ever was!

It hit me when, in his talk, he posed the question to us: "So, why do you think we won so many games?"

He genuinely wanted to know what everyone thought. It was not at all that he thought he knew the answer...and wanted to see if we had discovered it, too.  Or that he had the anser and simply wanted to tell us the secret.

It was a true inquiry...and he really wanted to know what we thought...and wanted to explore this topic in his own mind.

The piece of wisdom from this experience, decades after actually playing the game of football, is that...

No matter how old we are or how experienced we are, or even how successful we have been, we never have all the answers.  Only better and wiser ones.

And...the best kind of leadership, which Coach Scully provided, as "inquiring" leadership. He asked questions...and did not give answers. He realized that life is a journey...of continuing, never-ending discovery.

So, back to project management... Rating scales, tools, techniques, and more are great, but they can potentially mislead us into thinking we have reached the pinnacle and have finally discovered the answers - the secrets to project success.

The real measuring stick at some point is how often we win.  But we when we don't...as coach stated in such a seasoned, humbled way that "you learn way more when you lose." (I've heard that a thousand times, but it somehow was much more profound, more meaningful coming from him...with the backdrop of lessons learned the hard and sometimes painful way.).

So we need not fret when we don't win, but only fret not learning from it...and not trying enough times...or worse yet, not trying at all.  And we are NEVER too old to learn and inquire and be fascinated by it all...unless we simply become old by losing our passion.

And so the key, I think is to take more action more often...to be less conservative...to worry less about having a full understanding (within reason, and having done homework, of course).  These things were stumbling blocks for me in 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>