There are lessons to be learned from most activities and experiences in life. And since we just completed the first critical three weeks of the college football season, (no preseason like the pros), I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some lessons I have learned from this most passionate Saturday Fall Sport from nearly four decades as a fan.
To begin with, let me say that there's an underlying reason why I became passionate about college football. As a Penn State student, I watched my college team go 37-5-1 with two 11-0 seasons while attending college. As an undergraduate, losing a single football game seemed traumatic as I watched Joe Paterno at his best. He was and still is the idle of the Happy Valley campus. For the next 34 years after graduation, I couldn't wait for September to roll around and enjoy watching my favorite teams compete every Saturday as they hunt for the prized National Championship. Miraculously, JoePa is still at the helm after all these years. He started as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950 and he's been on the sidelines every Saturday for 56 seasons. That in itself is a tribute and a lesson to be learned about COMMITMENT to one's career.
Of course it's always more exciting to watch college football when your favorite team is ranked in the top ten and kicking butt each week. It's always difficult to watch your team perform lousy and look anemic in front of a national audience! But I have learned a great deal about life, from watching the career of Joe Paterno; the teams he has coached; and the ups and downs of college football teams in general. Unlike the pros, great players graduate each year and freshmen and sophomores have to fill their shoes. The new players have to continuously earn their stripes one mistake at a time. Thus the coaches need to be extremely skillful in recruiting and then motivating their players to peak performance, in order to turn out winning teams.
One major lesson I have learned from college football is about preparedness. When individuals are well prepared for a challenge, their chances for success are exponentially increased. Keep in mind that preparedness comes in many forms. Just like in business, in college football you must study your competition intensely before taking them on. You need to know their strengths and weaknesses and prepare your strategy to compete accordingly. Along with studying your competition, you must work hard at being healthy and physically fit, so that you have the strength and endurance to outlast your competition. You must believe in your mission and practice basic fundamentals and strategies incessantly, so that when it comes time to compete, you are totally prepared to execute as planned.
Another lesson I learned from college football relates to perseverance and not giving up until the end of the game. Some of the greatest victories in college football, and life at large, occur in the last seconds of the game. The last extra effort that you and your teammates put forth, when doom and gloom seems imminent, is a powerful weapon in all of life's challenges and efforts. It's easy to throw in the towel when things get tough. But as the saying goes "when the going gets tough....the tough get going"
Along with perseverance, I have watched how PRIDE plays a major role in the success of college football teams and in our life in general. Performing with pride means doing the VERY BEST you can do at all times. It means avoiding the unethical shortcuts to success. There ARE many proven methods to follow using the highest standards of integrity and honesty, to win in football and in life. I sincerely believe that Joe Paterno's legacy will be that he instilled PRIDE in his players to go out and compete using the highest moral standards possible. The fact that he won so many games by doing so proves that PRIDE really does count! In this day of questionable ethics, we need more leaders and role models to teach both young and mature individuals that winning at any cost is UGLY and unacceptable!
One last lesson to be learned from college football might be about passion and creativity. We all need passion in our life to move forward toward our goals. Whether it's winning a football game, landing a new job or obtaining a new customer - PASSION counts. Just look around at the 50 to 110 thousand people filling the stadiums and you will witness true passion. If individuals could transfer that passion into other areas of their lives, their results would be amazing. Add a dash of creativity similar to what you see added to every college game plan and you have the recipe for great things to come. It's just a shame that college football season is so short. We could use more of the adrenaline it creates, for more than just a handful of Saturdays. Enjoy the rest of the season!