Winning Every Day: The Game Plan for Success

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Overview

"Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it."
— Lou Holtz

Meet Lou Holtz, the motivational miracle worker who revitalized the Notre Dame football program by leading the legendary Fighting Irish to nine bowl games and a national championship. During his twenty-seven years as a head football coach, Holtz garnered a 216-95-7 career record. Each new assignment brought a different team with different players, but, ...

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Overview

"Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it."
— Lou Holtz

Meet Lou Holtz, the motivational miracle worker who revitalized the Notre Dame football program by leading the legendary Fighting Irish to nine bowl games and a national championship. During his twenty-seven years as a head football coach, Holtz garnered a 216-95-7 career record. Each new assignment brought a different team with different players, but, invariably, the same result—success. How did he do it? By designing a game plan for his players that minimized obstacles while maximizing opportunities.

Now he wants to pass his game plan on to you. In Winning Every Day, you'll discover ten strategies that will drive you to the top of your professional and personal life. Coach Holtz will reveal how you can acquire the focus and commitment it takes to be a champion. It won't be easy; it takes sacrifice to be the best. But now you'll have a proven winner alongside you in the trenches. Winning Every Day demonstrates how you can elevate your performance while raising the standards of everyone around you. Follow Coach's strategies and winning becomes habitual. You will learn to welcome sacrifice as you dedicate yourself to excellence. He will show you how to clearly define your short-term and long-term goals, to develop an unwavering sense of purpose without compromising flexibility.

Through it all, Coach Holtz will help you discover the courage you need to live a life of unremitting triumph. You couldn't have a better guide. He will provide you with the strategies he has shared with Fortune 500 companies, groups, and organizations. Voted the top motivational speaker two years running by a survey of speakers' bureaus, Coach is going to present you with all the Xs and Os, the basics of his game plan for success in life and business.

 
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After turning around the fortunes of college football programs at several universities, Holtz landed the top job in his profession in 1986 when he was named head coach at Notre Dame. His 1988 Notre Dame team won the college national championship (a story chronicled in his book, The Fighting Spirit), and Holtz posted winning seasons until he retired at the end of the 1996 campaign. During his coaching career, Holtz was known as an exceptional motivator, and he translated that skill from coaching to professional speaking after his retirement. In this book, Holtz outlines the principles that he believes helped him achieve success, such as a positive attitude, dealing with adversity, adapting to new situations and making a commitment to excellence. Holtz illustrates his points with numerous anecdotes drawn from his coaching days and also includes a fair number of jokes. In the end, however, what Holtz has produced is a work no better or worse than most other motivational business books. Improvement-minded Notre Dame fans are the ones most likely to be motivated to buy the ex-coach's efforts. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887309533
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/1/1999
  • Edition description: 1 HARPER
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 160,084
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

After nearly three decades on the sidelines, Lou Holtz retired from coaching and now shares his strategies for success with Fortune 500 companies, groups, and organizations. He is the author of two bestsellers, The Fighting Spirit and Winning Every Day. He lives in Florida.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Every Victory Is Won Before the Game Is Played: The Power of Attitude

I left the collegiate ranks in 1976 to sign a five-year contract to coach the New York Jets of the National Football League. This was one of the two or three most coveted coaching positions in pro football, with an organization known for its professionalism. Owner Leon Hess, an NFL pioneer, was a great leader who gave his employees maximum support. New York's football fans were knowledgeable and second to none in their enthusiasm. It was an ideal situation for any coach. Yet I was unhappy almost from the moment I took the job. Every time a problem surfaced—and no pro football team can go through an entire season without its share of travails—I immediately thought, "This isn't working out." When the Jets went an abysmal 3-10 during my first season, I resigned—only eight months into my contract.
Now let's look at the flip side of that experience. In 1983, the University of Minnesota hired me to coach their football team. Five coaches—and three assistant coaches—had refused this position. The reason? Minnesota's football program had been in shambles for some time. The team, known as the Gophers, had just compiled an ignominious 17-game losing streak in which they were outscored by an average of 34 points per game. No one believed the school could quickly reverse its fortunes.
I declined the job when Minnesota's administration initially offered it to me. Besides having the same doubts as my colleagues, I couldn't see myself living in the tundra that was Minnesota. Harvey Mackay—the world-famed entrepreneur and best-selling author ofHow to Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive—had to use all his considerable persuasive powers to convince me to accept the position. Am I glad he did. Minnesota proved to be a great place to live. The people were friendly, the fans exuberant, and the climate not quite arctic.
I made up my mind early on that we were going to create a winning atmosphere. Fan morale was low when I took over the team. Attendance had declined for years; Minnesota often played its games before a half-filled house. However, only one year after I joined the Gophers, we sold 54,000 more season tickets—11,000 more than had been sold at any time during the school's 103-year history. Our winning record earned us an invitation to play Clemson in the Independence Bowl. You couldn't have asked for a more rousing success.
What made the difference between my experiences with the Jets and Gophers? Attitude. I joined the Jets suspecting I might fail; I came to Minnesota determined to win. With this positive outlook, I wasn't flustered when obstacles appeared. I knew we would overcome them. All that had changed was my perspective and, with that, my results. If I ever coach pro ball again, I promise you I'm going to bring that same "can-do" attitude with me.
Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it. For example, imagine you're a high jumper with the musculature to leap 6 feet 10 inches. Your pride of performance motivates you to practice and enter events. But if, on the day of the event, you don't believe you can hit 6 feet 10 inches, you're going to fall short of the mark. Your negative attitude will cut inches from your performance. However, compete with a certitude that you will clear 6 feet 10 inches and you will consistently match or better your expectations. A positive attitude is the key to attaining superior altitude.

Sweeter Than Any Bowl of Cereal
No one can control your attitude but you. Yet too often we let other people or external circumstances determine how we feel. In 1991, our team, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, was selected to play the University of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Florida's Gators were formidable opponents. Their coach, Steve Spurrier, was (and is) a brilliant leader and tactician. Gator quarterback Shane Matthews was a superior talent blessed with a strong arm and a field commander's presence.
No one thought we could win this game. In fact, we were such a decided underdog that many people wondered if we could even hold the score close. But I believed we were poised to upset the Gators. Our team couldn't have been better prepared, and I knew our players were brimming with confidence.
A few days before the Bowl, I took my family to dinner in Orlando. We were talking about the upcoming game and my family could see how optimistic I was about our chances. I felt like I was on top of the world. While taking our order, the waiter scrutinized me a bit before asking, "Aren't you Lou Holtz, the Notre Dame coach?" When I told him I was, he said, "Let me ask you a question. What's the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios?" I didn't know. He answered, "Cheerios belong in a bowl, Notre Dame doesn't." It was meant to be a joke, but I couldn't find any humor in it. You want to talk about a radical change in attitude! I am here to tell you I was upset.
However, I remained outwardly calm. I said to the waiter, "It's my turn to ask you a question. What's the difference between Lou Holtz and a golf pro?" He said, "I don't know." I replied, "Golf pros give tips, Lou Holtz won't." Now if I didn't believe with all my heart that we were going to win that game, I would have left that dining room in a permanent funk. Those pesky gremlins of self-doubt would been working at my ear. I may have started to question our ability and, believe me, that would have adversely affected our performance.
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First Chapter

Chapter 1
Every Victory is Won Before the Game is Played: The Power of Attitude

I left the collegiate ranks in 1976 to sign a five-year contract to coach the New York Jets of the National Football League. This was one of the two or three most coveted coaching positions in pro football, with an organization known for its professionalism. Owner Leon Hess, an NFL pioneer, was a great leader who gave his employees maximum support. New York's football fans were knowledgeable and second to none in their enthusiasm. It was an ideal situation for any coach. Yet I was unhappy almost from the moment I took the job. Every time a problem surfaced -- and no pro football team can go through an entire season without its share of travails -- I immediately thought, "This isn't working out." When the Jets went an abysmal 3-10 during my first season, I resigned -- only eight months into my contract.

Now let's look at the flip side of that experience. In 1983, the University of Minnesota hired me to coach their football team. Five coaches -- and three assistant coaches -- had refused this position. The reason? Minnesota's football program had been in shambles for some time. The team, known as the Gophers, had just compiled an ignominious 17-game losing streak in which they were outscored by an average of 34 points per game. No one believed the school could quickly reverse its fortunes.

I declined the job when Minnesota's administration initially offered it to me. Besides having the same doubts as my colleagues, I couldn't see myself living in the tundra that was Minnesota. Harvey Mackay -- the world-famed entrepreneur and best-selling author of HOW TO SWIM WITH THE SHARKS WITHOUT BEING EATEN ALIVE -- had to use all his considerable persuasive powers to convince me to accept the position. Am I glad he did. Minnesota proved to be a great place to live. The people were friendly, the fans exuberant, and the climate not quite arctic.

I made up my mind early on that we were going to create a winning atmosphere. Fan morale was low when I took over the team. Attendance had declined for years; Minnesota often played its games before a half-filled house. However, only one year after I joined the Gophers, we sold 54,000 more season tickets -- 11,000 more than had been sold at any time during the school's 103-year history. Our winning record earned us an invitation to play Clemson in the Independence Bowl. You couldn't have asked for a more rousing success.

What made the difference between my experiences with the Jets and Gophers? Attitude. I joined the Jets suspecting I might fail; I came to Minnesota determined to win. With this positive outlook, I wasn't flustered when obstacles appeared. I knew we would overcome them. All that had changed was my perspective and, with that, my results. If I ever coach pro ball again, I promise you I'm going to bring that same "can do" attitude with me.

Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it. For example, imagine you're a high jumper with the musculature to leap 6'10". Your pride of performance motivates you to practice and enter events. But if, on the day of the event, you don't believe you can hit 6'10", you're going to fall short of the mark. Your negative attitude will cut inches from your performance. However, compete with a certitude that you will clear 6'10" and you will consistently match or better your expectations. A positive attitude is the key to attaining superior altitude.

Sweeter Than Any Bowl of Cereal

No one can control your attitude but you. Yet too often we let other people or external circumstances determine how we feel. In 1991, our team, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, was selected to play the University of Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Florida's Gators were formidable opponents. Their coach, Steve Spurrier, was (and is) a brilliant leader and tactician. Gator quarterback Shane Matthews was a superior talent blessed with a strong arm and a field commander's presence.

No one thought we could win this game. In fact, we were such a decided underdog that many people wondered if we could even hold the score close. But I believed we were poised to upset the Gators. Our team couldn't have been better prepared, and I knew our players were brimming with confidence.

A few days before the Bowl, I took my family to dinner in Orlando. We were talking about the upcoming game and my family could see how optimistic I was about our chances. I felt like I was on top of the world. While taking our order, the waiter scrutinized me a bit before asking, "Aren't you Lou Holtz, the Notre Dame coach?" When I told him I was, he said, "Let me ask you a question. What's the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios?" I didn't know. He answered, "Cheerios belong in a bowl, Notre Dame doesn't." It was meant to be a joke, but I couldn't find any humor in it. You want to talk about a radical change in attitude! I am here to tell you I was upset.

However, I remained outwardly calm. I said to the waiter, "It's my turn to ask you a question. What's the difference between Lou Holtz and a golf pro?" He said, "I don't know." I replied, "Golf pros give tips, Lou Holtz won't." Now if I didn't believe with all my heart that we were going to win that game, I would have left that dining room in a permanent funk. Those pesky gremlins of self-doubt would been working at my ear. I may have started to question our ability and, believe me, that would have adversely affected our performance.

Instead, I shrugged off my anger and reminded myself that I knew what our team could do; it didn't matter what anybody else thought. That's the attitude you have to carry into life. You can't let the naysayers pull you down. Remember: If someone says you can't accomplish something, it is an opinion and nothing more. It only becomes a fact when you tell yourself that you can't do a task. (By the way, we upset the Gators in that Sugar Bowl. When they blew the game's final whistle, sealing our victory, the first person I thought of was that waiter. I had the most satisfying image of him sitting at home, crying into his Cheerios.)

A Passion for Leadership

As a leader, your attitude has a powerful impact on others. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on the choices you make. You have an obligation to develop a positive attitude, one that inspires the people around you to achieve the impossible. Great leaders also possess a passion for their causes. If enough people care, there isn't any problem in this world we can't solve. Sexism, racism, spousal abuse, poverty, all the great ills afflicting our society would evaporate. However, most of us are too unconcerned to act on our own; we need leaders to stoke our passions. If you want to lead, that is the responsibility you must accept. And it starts with your own fervor. You can't fake it. If you don't have a genuine hunger to accomplish something, you won't be able to lead anyone effectively. But if you have a passion, you'll find it's an infectious thing. You'll transmit it to others who will pledge heart and soul to your principle.

Cotton Bowl 1988: A Turning Point

In 1987, my second year at Notre Dame, our football team took an 8-1 record into our season's final two games. Unfortunately, the first of those contests came against a tough Penn State squad on one of the coldest days I have ever experienced as a coach. We lost 21-20 when our two-point conversion failed in the game's last minute. Talk about disappointing losses. We never fully recovered from it. One week later, we traveled down to play Miami, another powerful opponent, in our season finale. We didn't play well that day, so we finished our season at 8-3.

That was a respectable record -- though not by Notre Dame standards. Under normal circumstances, we might not have played any more football that season. However, the Bowl bids that year had gone out earlier than usual. When we were still 8-1, we had been invited to play Texas A&M, coached by Jackie Sherrill, in the Cotton Bowl. I must tell you that the Bowl officials weren't too delighted when we dropped those last two games, but we thought we belonged there. For the first portion of the Cotton Bowl, so did everyone else. Our defense played tough, and by second quarter's midpoint, we led Texas A&M 10-0. Unfortunately, we played poorly the rest of the afternoon; Sherrill's team beat us decisively. I couldn't have been more dejected when I walked into the locker room after that game. But most of our players appeared unfazed.

Only one of them seemed as distraught as I. Chris Zorich, a sub who hadn't even played that day, was crying deep, gut-heaving sobs. There was the passion I wanted to see! As I looked around the locker room, I decided that next year's team would be composed of players who loved this game as much as he did. Chris would be in our starting lineup for the 1988 season; we would see to it that he was joined by a band of fire-eaters, guys who believed in themselves and what we were trying to accomplish.

We were going to need them. Notre Dame was about to lose a group of talented seniors such as receiver Tim Brown, our Heisman Trophy winner. The next season didn't look too promising on paper, but fortunately paper doesn't count for much; you still have to play the games. And besides, I had an agenda that went beyond our on-field performance. Win or lose, I wanted to coach the team with the best attitude in the entire country.

There was one senior on our team by the name of Flash Gordon who wanted to return for his fifth year of ball. He had been a starting defensive end in '87, but due to an injury he had sustained earlier in his college career, he still had another year of eligibility remaining. Knowing the kind of players I was looking for, I advised Flash to forget football; I doubted he would start for us and felt he would regret any decision to return to our team.

I wanted a particular attitude to permeate our 1988 squad. What I envisioned was probably best summed up by a poster I had seen that depicted a buzzard sitting on a tree limb while saying, "Patience, my ass. I'm going to kill somebody."

I expected everyone on our team to think that way; Flash had never demonstrated that kind of makeup. Now understand, Flash is one of the finest young gentleman I have ever known. He was hard-working, loyal, and popular with the other players and students. His attitude couldn't have been more positive. But he didn't have any predator in him; he wasn't like that big, bad buzzard on the poster.

When the two of us met to discuss his future, Flash did everything he could to persuade me to accept his return. I finally relented with this caveat: "If you present the first bit of a problem for us, I will not hesitate to suspend you." I actually had no real justification for taking such a harsh tone; Flash was a class act. However, I wanted him to understand how integral a proper attitude was to our future success.

Flash started the first couple of games on our 1988 schedule, but was soon replaced by freshman defensive end Arnold Alle. Gordon had played decently, but we wanted to give Arnold a chance to earn the starting position. During the middle of the season, we met the University of Pittsburgh on their home field; Flash barely played that day. It had to be a bitter afternoon for him; Pittsburgh was his hometown.

The following week we met the University of Miami, a classic confrontation between two outstanding teams. Flash Gordon again played a minimal role in the game and had few opportunities to make a substantial contribution. Throughout all this, Flash's attitude remained positive and team-oriented. However, on the Monday afternoon following the Miami contest, Flash revealed his unhappiness. He entered my office and said, "Coach, I don't think I'm being treated fairly." Flash pointed out that he had done everything he could possibly do to help the football team even though he hardly ever played. Now he was asking for a square deal. He said, "I don't believe I'm being appraised by the same standard as the other players at my position."

I allowed him to make his case, which he did eloquently. Then I replied, "Flash, I really appreciate the wonderful attitude you have displayed this entire season. Let me get the defensive coordinator and your position coach and we'll review your situation." I brought in both coaches. We studied his grades and production as compared to the other defensive ends. The facts were clear: Flash was right. He had performed as well if not better than anybody at his position. I said, Flash, we will see that you get back on the field. How much you play after that will be entirely up to you."

You know what? Over the final five games of the season, Flash Gordon wasn't good, he was phenomenal. When we played for the National Championship, he turned his game up several notches; he may have been our most outstanding defensive player. I am not sure we could have won that championship without Flash's on-field contribution, but it was his attitude off the field that was even more important to our success. And, of course, we couldn't have won without Chris Zurich, the young man whose cloudburst after the Cotton Bowl helped convince me we needed to alter the chemistry on our team. Chris went from sub to starter to team captain. He was one of our primary leaders when we won the National Championship, which was fitting, since he helped start our turnaround.

Talking Ain't Doing

I don't believe you can change anybody's attitude with even the most inspiring pep talk unless it is supported by results. I remember when I was in high school my coach gave us the greatest pep talk I have ever heard; Knute Rockne would have envied him. I don't think I have ever been as fired up for a football game as I was that night. I ran down under the opening kickoff filled with spit and fire. Then some guy hit me in the jugular vein with his helmet, knocking me flat. Suddenly, I couldn't remember a word the coach had said. I just lay there making little whimpering sounds. As my teammates helped me up, I left my positive attitude lying somewhere on that field.

An Unstoppable Force

I love to tell the story about the army private who had pulled KP duty. After twelve hours of peeling potatoes, he came back to the barracks exhausted. He was so bone-tired he could barely manage to drop his worn body on the bed. Didn't even bother to take off his clothes. As he rolled over to catch some much needed Z's, he noticed there was a letter from his girl on his pillow. He quickly opened it and read, "Dear John: If I could feel your strong masculine arms embrace me one more time, if I could gaze into those big crystal blue eyes of yours one more time, or if I could taste your sweet, tender lips just one more time, I know I could continue to be true, but . . ." John didn't bother to read anymore. He jumped from the bed and took off. Forget how fatigued he was, this was a man on a mission.

John was running off the military post -- doing the 100 in about 9.5 -- when he approached the guardhouse. The guard on duty saw him coming, took out his M-14 rifle, and aimed it at John's heart. Halt or I'll shoot," he shouted. John never broke stride. He left the guard no option. The very last words John uttered were these: "My mother is in heaven, my father is in hell, my girl is in Chicago, and I'm going to see one of them tonight." That's what I call a determined attitude. This boy could have played for one of my teams anytime.

People Can't Change, Huh? Ask Mr. Bettis

When Jerome Bettis left the University of Notre Dame to enter the NFL, he was a great football player, an unyielding competitor with a true warrior's attitude. No one who knew what he was made of was surprised when the media named him the NFL's Rookie of the Year. While playing for the Los Angeles Rams during that first season, he had been a human wrecking ball, the talk of the league.

Unfortunately, he regressed somewhat the following year; his decline continued throughout his third year. If you are going to understand Jerome, you have to know that most players would have been delighted with the stats Jerome compiled during those three years. But the numbers weren't up to his standards. He knew he was capable of doing more.

During our football season, I didn't have a chance to see a lot of pro games. However, an open date in November gave me an opportunity to catch a Rams contest. I was eager to watch Jerome and Todd Lyght, Los Angeles's gifted cornerback, compete. Jerome's performance disappointed me.

When you are a leader and you know someone is underachieving, you must know how to push his or her buttons. I had an idea how to get through to Mr. Bettis. I phoned him the following day and said, "Jerome, I would like you to know that there is some idiot wearing a jersey with your name and number on it. This pretense is damaging your reputation. This guy is not picking up linebackers, is not running hard enough, and is not competing with enthusiasm, so I know it's not you, because you have never played like this before. I just thought I ought to let you know that this idiot is doing this. See if you can't put a stop to it, because he's giving you a bad name." Then I hung up.

On the first day of classes for the following semester -- January 17 on my calendar -- Jerome came to my office to say, "Coach, you were right. When I left here I had a great attitude and now I don't. I've returned to Notre Dame to get it back." And you know what? That's exactly what he did. When Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired him during the off-season, I knew Jerome was going to resurrect his career. Cowher was the perfect match for him. I had recruited and coached Bill at North Carolina State. Since then, he had become one of the NFL's best coaches; I knew he had a knack for developing a player's attitude. Jerome has thrived under him. He has made All-Pro for the past two years and is going to be a force in the NFL for many seasons to come. His career revival demonstrates how you can change your attitude for the better if you're willing to make the commitment.

A Missed Punt of My Own

Before every home football game at Notre Dame, we hold a sitdown luncheon in the Joyce Athletic Center. Nearly 3,000 people attend. This luncheon was always a sellout; the demand for tickets was so high, some folks sold them at scalper prices. The people who couldn't get in -- about 1,000 to 1,500 of them -- would commandeer seats in the hockey arena located at the end of the Center just so they could hear the program.

As part of our presentation, I would introduce three football players, who would stand before the audience and discuss their most memorable Notre Dame experiences. An assistant coach would follow with a short talk. Then I would rise to answer audience questions. This was always an upbeat affair; the players usually thanked their parents and various other people before relating their stories. You couldn't help but be impressed by the eloquence of these fine young men. I cannot remember listening to a single athlete who didn't make me proud to be his coach. However, there was one speaker who genuinely shocked me: Craig Hendricks, probably the best punter in Notre Dame history. Craig rose after I had given him a lavish introduction. I expected Craig to follow tradition and regale us with warm stories about all the wonderful times he had enjoyed at South Bend.

Instead, he launched into a tirade about how unfairly I had treated him. Craig claimed that I lacked a genuine appreciation for his talents. As evidence of this, he pointed out that I was the only coach in America who traveled with one kicker and two priests. Every other school had two or three kickers on their teams, but, according to Craig, bringing an extra priest meant one less kicker. He went on to lament how he never had anybody to talk to during pre-game warm-ups.

Craig continued in this vein for what felt to me like a small eternity before finally sitting down. I got up, looked at him, and ad-libbed, "If you kicked a little better, we would only need one priest." The audience laughed uncontrollably but, believe me, I got Craig's message. I didn't agree with all of it. I did realize how important the kicking game was; we always worked hard on this singular phase of our game. If you check the stats, you'll discover that year in and year out, we had one of the best kicking games in the country. But I must admit that I could have been more demonstrative of my appreciation for his efforts.

Leaders must know what motivates their people. Some will not do their best until you kick them in the butt; others need continual pats on the back. Craig obviously needed some stroking. I should have gone out of my way to let him know how integral he was to Notre Dame's success. I respected his dedication and commitment to excellence. I should have told him that. Had I taken the time, Craig's attitude would have been better; he probably would have been even more productive than he was. Which would have been something to see, since Craig still holds most of Notre Dame's kicking records and was one of the fiercest competitors I have coached. He went on to punt for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers and just recently signed a $5 million dollar contract to play with the Oilers.

You Have to Identify the Problem Before You Can Solve It

I have also seen how events can adversely affect the attitude of an individual or a team and consequently hurt their performance. During my final year at Notre Dame, we started the season 3-0. After beating the University of Texas in Austin with an inspired effort, I came home eager to prepare the team for our next opponent -- mighty Ohio State. The game was scheduled for our own turf, and I knew it was going to be a war.

There is no greater feeling for a coach than the one he gets when he walks onto the practice field the Monday before a big football game. Your adrenaline is racing. Team morale is soaring and the camaraderie between your players is palpable. Everyone is focused on the same goal. The energy is so high you would swear the playing field was radioactive.

At least, that's how it's supposed to be. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I encountered an entire team of unmotivated players at our first practice. When they took the field it looked as if they were just going through the motions. We could have not been flatter. And it wasn't as if we were simply having a bad day. The team's nonchalance continued throughout the week. This concerned me. However, instead of doing something about it, I rationalized that the players were probably preoccupied with their academics. Looking back, though, that would not have explained why the team seemed so out-of-character. They weren't merely listless; they seemed divided. I started getting paranoid. I even entertained the notion that someone was deliberately sowing the seeds of disloyalty among us. I'd never seen anything like this.

Of course, it never occurred to me that the team might be suffering a collective crisis of confidence. We were the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Our script called for us to make the other team apprehensive, not the other way around. Whatever was dogging us, neither I nor the team could shake it. When we played Ohio State, we were as flat in the game as we had been all week during practice. They soundly whipped us in a game I thought we would win.

Oh, did that loss give my confidence a bruising. I returned home disappointed after that game -- in myself, not the players. I wondered if the problem was me. Had I lost my ability to inspire our players? For the first time, I considered quitting. I later discovered that a variety of factors had contributed to our poor attitude and subsequent loss. It had nothing to do with my motivational skills. The root cause was an incident that occurred the night of our victory over Texas A&M. It would serve no useful purpose to recount what happened in detail; none of our players were directly involved in the incident, but it affected everyone on the squad. I didn't learn all of the facts until much later in the season.

I have to take some blame for that. When I saw our team's incohesiveness, I should have done everything I could to discover the cause. Rationalization and speculation did not get the job done. I should have called a team meeting, locked the doors, and announced that no one was leaving until we uncovered our problem. As a leader, you are responsible for everything that occurs on your watch. If you notice morale drooping, you must take decisive action before the situation becomes chronic and jeopardizes your entire organization.

Communication Erases Obfuscation

As you can see, leaders must be able to instinctively evaluate their organization's mind-set. Experience plays a big hand in this. When you work with someone for a year or more, you should know them well enough to understand what moves them. You will work with some people who aren't afraid to show their emotions. When they have problems, everyone knows it. They are easy to measure and anticipate.

More difficult to read are those people who shield their feelings. You'll need keen communication skills to reach them. You can read many books on the subject, but I think mastering communication is a cinch. All you have to do is remember that the Lord gave you two ears and one mouth because he wants you to listen twice as much as you speak. Communication also means availability. You can't be an absentee leader. If people see you often, they are more likely to feel comfortable in your presence and you'll have more opportunities to learn who they are through observation. Don't be aloof. I think every leader should mingle with his or her troops. You should also schedule regular, informed confabs where everyone can speak their minds freely, air gripes, and make useful suggestions. It's an excellent way to let everyone know your communication lines are open.

I maintained an open-door policy wherever I coached and so should you. My athletes, particularly the seniors, usually had no compunction about visiting me if they had a problem or disagreed with one of my decisions. (This is what made the Ohio State affair such a mystery. No one had offered me even a hint of what was behind it.) When someone brings you a problem or gripe, show them respect and concern. Let them make their points while you listen dispassionately. Make no judgments until they are finished. Even if you eventually reject what they have to say, they should leave knowing they received a fair hearing. Otherwise, you'll discourage future communication. If you manage a large group, communicating with all of them regularly may be difficult. Appoint people you trust to act as liaisons. They should function like team captains who let the head coach know about problems before they become catastrophes.

I also kept communication lines open on our teams by appointing advisory committees. These were usually composed of eight to ten seniors, five or six juniors, and two or three sophomores, not necessarily starters, but people who cared deeply about our team. I knew each of them wouldn't hesitate to voice any disagreements they had with me.

When You're Loaded with Criticism, Don't Pull the Trigger

Never be overly critical of an individual's performance. First, find out why he or she failed. You might be unaware of some physical or emotional factors. I've seen athletes who looked as if they weren't hustling. It was only when I questioned their commitment that I discovered they were hiding an injury. They were actually too dedicated. You can feel like an ass when something like that happens.

When people on your team perform poorly, you must also make sure they understand their objectives. Have they been trained appropriately to meet these objectives? Do they understand their roles in your overall scheme? Are there any personal problems hampering their performances? Look at these elements before questioning their attitude or ability.

I Know We're the Fighting Irish, But...

In 1989, we were playing Southern Cal at home. Just as our pre-game warm-up ended, a fight erupted in the end zone between some SC and Notre Dame players. I was so upset in the locker room after the melee, I didn't care whether we won the game. What made this so frustrating was that I had warned our players before they took the field that something like this might happen. I had exhorted them to control their tempers. Under no circumstances were they to engage in a fight. The typical pre-game brawl usually involves athletes who know they won't see much playing time that day. They have all this energy built up and they have to release it. Sometimes all it takes is a dirty look, or what a player interprets to be a dirty look, and the nonsense begins. After the game, the perpetrators go back to the dorm, do a little male bonding, and congratulate themselves for kicking someone's tail.

That kind of thuggish behavior has no place in football. I let my team know how disappointed I was in their lack of restraint. My dressing down sapped much of the squad's spirit. I've rarely seen any team of mine play a worse two quarters. By the end of the first half, we were down 21-7. Southern Cal had a fine football team, but we were beating ourselves. As we hit the locker room, I knew it was time for an attitude adjustment.

I had made a mistake with my pre-game speech. At the time, my players were still seething over that end-zone altercation. They had wanted at SC in the worst way, and I had taken all the fight out of them. My browbeating had pushed the wrong buttons. Now I had to constructively re-stir their rage. I had plenty of ammunition. Though no longer upset over the fisticuffs, I was now thoroughly embarrassed by our inept play. I vented my feelings to the team during my half-time talk. When we took the field for the third quarter, our attitudes had done a 180. It was a completely different team that went on to win the game, 28-24. I doubt any Notre Dame team ever played a finer half of football during my tenure with the school.

Downsizing the Big Mo

People discuss momentum in sports all the time, but have you every heard anybody adequately define what it is? Momentum is nothing more than a state of mind. Again, an attitude. For example, you are winning a football game 14-0. Your opponent scores just before the half to make it 14-7. Up in the broadcast booth, the announcers proclaim that momentum has just swung in favor of the other team, even though you're still ahead 14-7. Now let's look at another game. This time your team is tied at 7-7. You score a touchdown and make the extra point just before the half to go ahead 14-7. As you enter the locker room, everyone now claims the momentum is with you. Ridiculous. The score is 14-7 in both instances. In other words, momentum is whatever your attitude determines it to be.

Dare to Make Your Own Miracles

In the early 1980s, I was coaching for the University of Arkansas. We were undefeated entering our sixth game of the season against Baylor. That was a fine football team with two outstanding running backs, Dennis Gentry and Walter Abercrombie, who both went on to play several years in the NFL, In addition, they had Mike Singletary, a middle line-backer who was awfully good.

We were a touchdown favorite to win that day, but Baylor beat us every which way but loose during the first half. With barely five minutes left in the third quarter, we were losing 17-0. I thought we were lucky to be that close. Our team hadn't smelled a first down all afternoon, let alone score a touchdown. Now we faced a fourth-and-six situation at midfield. And the clock was ticking. It was obvious that we were going to lose the game unless we did something drastic. So we decided to pass instead of punt. Any chance we had of winning the game hinged on this play. If our quarterback failed to complete his pass, it would be time to call in the dogs.

On the sidelines, we decided against attempting anything for short yardage and the down. Hey, if you're sitting in a poker game without any pairs and the other guy is holding four aces, there is only one thing you can do -- kick over the table! We chose to let it all hang out with a deep bomb to Bobby Duckworth, which he caught for a touchdown. Our team was finally on the scoreboard.

We needed that big play. When you bet the entire pot and win, you can jolt your entire organization from its malaise. As soon as Bobby scored, our fans and players got psyched. Yes, we were still down by 10, but we had given our attitudes a jolt with a daring call. Now everyone on the team believed we could pull this game out. Baylor's Greg Teaff, a splendid man and great football coach, could do absolutely nothing to stop us once we scored that touchdown. We dominated his team on offense and defense for the remainder of the game to win by ten points.

I would like to tell the reader that I have lost some games which we appeared to have won. Always remember, as long as your opponent has life, don't let that sucker up until he concedes.

Standards Don't Choose You

Never take your attitude for granted. Reevaluate yourself continually to ensure you are maintaining your edge. I remember when we moved Andy Heck, a fine starting tight end for Notre Dame, to offensive tackle. The switch required Andy to make a difficult adjustment. One spring afternoon after a scrimmage, I happened by our meeting room while the offensive linesmen were viewing a film. I heard Andy complain to his offensive line coach, Joe Moore, that he had received a negative grade on a particular play which he thought he had performed adequately. Coach Moore shut off the film and said, "Andy, that would be true for an average player, but I don't think you are an average player. Do you want me to grade you as an average player so your mark will be positive? Or should I grade Andy as a great player, in which case your performance on that play was a minus. Which do you choose?"

Coach Moore didn't have to say another word. Andy chose to think of himself as a great player; he immediately elevated his personal standards. Andy went on to become team captain and has played with distinction for the past seven years in the NFL. He is presently with the Chicago Bears and one of the better offensive tackles in the entire league. Andy's obvious talent has played only a partial role in his accomplishments. I believe his career as a pro football star improved the day Coach Moore's questions forced him to make an attitude check.

I hope I've made myself clear how your attitude has the power to change your life. What should you do if you don't have a positive outlook? Find one. Instead of thinking "I can't," start saying "I can!" It takes just as much time and energy. If you are surrounded by a lot of negativists, think about putting some distance between yourself and them. Surround yourself with people who encourage rather than discourage. Read books or watch films depicting the lives of people who overcame great odds. If they could do it, so can you. Think about winning before you go to sleep and the moment you wake. Remember: Every day, some ordinary person does something extraordinary. Today, it's your turn.

Excerpted from WINNING EVERY DAY, by Lou Hotlz. Copyright © 1998 by Lou Holtz. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, HarperBusiness, a division of HarperCollins

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2000

    There was not enough stars to rate this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This book is can change you forever. This book inspired me to pursue any dreams that I could imagine. I read it for a book report just because my teacher said it was good and I couldn't find another book. After the first paragraph I was hooked, and after that I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I read this book in every class everyday. I felt as if Mr. Lou himself was talking directly to me. This book inspired me in every aspect of my life. I turned myself around and I changed for the better. This book was the first book I had ever read and I believe everyone should read this book. Since I'm an athlete, student, teammate, and Christian I applied this to my whole life, and I set goals for myself under the guidelines of this book and through Christ. If you need motivation, inspiration, and the development of self-worth, self-image, and a WINNING ATTITUDE get this book. I hope it will inspire you as much as it inspired me!!!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2002

    Outstanding

    The football coach at my school gave me this book to read. After I started it, I was hooked. I brought it to every class and read it every chance I got. This book changed my views on how to play the game of football and all other sports. I think I has made me a better athlete, teammate, and person in general. It was as if Mr. Holtz was reading the book to me. It's a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2012

    A Winning Book!

    Great stuff! Wake up every morning with one of Lou's quotes and you can't help but win!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2002

    The best book I have read to date.

    This book held my attention more than any book I have ever read. I could not put it down. I am a coach myself and this book taught me so much about how to communicate and motivate the athletes I work with. I have encourgaged everyone to read it. Lou is a great motivator and he shares a lot of good insights on how to be a better person and not just a better coach. If you are a coach you have to buy this book and if you are not you should seriously consider adding it to your library.

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