alt text image of a football arena

3 Things I Learned from Coach Alvarez

Saturday night I had the opportunity watch the Wisconsin – LSU game from Athletic Director (and former head coach) Barry Alvarez’s box. I had to chance to ask Coach Alvarez about football, about leadership, and about success.

1. You Have to Make the Call

I told Coach Alvarez that at Ohio State an 11-1 season results in people calling for you to be fired (actually, losing to Michigan means calls for you to be shot, then hung, then drawn and quartered, then burned, and then having your limbs cut off and buried in the four corners of the state).

Coach Alvarez said, “You run about 75 plays in a football game. That’s 150 total. There are 70,000 people here, all of whom know how to your job better than you do. If you run, you should have passed. If you pass and it’s incomplete, you should have run. If you blitz, you should have been in zone. If you’re in zone, you should have blitzed.”

You have to make the call. You have to play your game. Ignore the Monday Morning Quarterbacks, and those that don’t play the game or who never have.

2. The Key to Success Is Consistency

I sent this one to my newsletter subscribers this morning. I asked the coach to share with me what he believed the key to success was for student athletes. He thought about it for a minute, and then he said one word: “Consistency.” I said, “Self-discipline?” He said, “That’s part of it. But it’s performing every time.”

Consistency is a great attribute. It’s not the ability to generate a great performance once, or even make the big play. It’s the ability to consistently produce results that leads to success. That’s a complicated idea. It’s part discipline, part mental state, part effort, part resourcefulness, part initiative, and part determination.

3. Just Get Four Yards

Passing plays weren’t working. Coach Alvarez wasn’t known for running a passing game offense. He was known for running the ball straight at you and pounding you down, betting his big guys could wear down your big guys. He won a bunch of games that way, including three Rose Bowls.

He told me he wanted four yards. Three yards a play doesn’t get you enough for a first down over three plays. But four yards gets you the first down. I like that kind of smash mouth football, and I like the lesson.

Sometimes the best way to produce results is to grind it out. Dig in, push hard, and gain a little bit of ground. Then, refusing to give up what you’ve taken, push forward and do it again.


Join my weekly Newsletter or apply for membership in my exclusive Inner Circle Mastermind Group.

Subscribe to my weekly podcast In the Arena.