“Excellence is achieved by mastery of the fundamentals.” ~ Vince Lombardi
I start getting a bit “antsy” this time of year. I’ve struggled through basketball season, painful as it was seeing the Spurs miss a golden opportunity, and I refuse to watch baseball since Commissioner Bud Selig has pretty much destroyed the game for me and Pete Rose still is not in the Hall of Fame. So the reason why I start getting antsy this time of year is because football is right around the corner.
So this weekend I spent a little time catching up on training camps, seeing what the Texans and Broncos did to maybe move a step closer to a title and seeing what kind of bone-headed decisions Jerry Jones has made in micro-managing the Cowgirls and catching up on all the other teams around the league. For me, pre-season football is all about “mastery of the fundamentals” as Lombardi put it.
That’s one of the things I’ve always admired about the job Vince Lombardi did in Green Bay back in the early and mid-sixties. Clearly, they did not have the most talented team in football. Their roster wasn’t filled with “superstars”. But year in and year out, they were at the top of the league because they were exceptional at “mastering the fundamentals”.
It is well-known football lore that the Lombardi coached Green Bay Packers had the smallest playbook in professional football. In his thinking, the Packers didn’t need hundreds of plays to choose from – they only needed a few plays executed better than anyone else. Opposing teams knew when they took the field they would see sweep plays come at them time after time – and because the Packers executed the sweep better than anyone else, even when defenses knew what was coming at them, most were powerless to stop it.
Old Packer training films are famous for hearing Lombardi’s booming voice after each practice play yelling, “Run it again!” And they did, over and over and over until they executed the plays so well, no one could stop them. That’s how they became legendary. They mastered the fundamentals.
I believe the same philosophy is true in any business or any other aspect of life. If you master the fundamentals by practicing over and over and over until you can perform those fundamental tasks without even thinking about it, you’re almost there. There is only one thing left to do. Practice some more.
Have you mastered the fundamentals? If you truly have, then you know you must continue to practice regularly to stay on top. You see, when a practice play was perfectly executed, Coach Lombardi didn’t say, “That was perfect, let’s hit the showers!” he said, “That was perfect, run it again!”
- Vince Lombardi Quotes (mademan.com)
- Remembering Lombardi, on the 100th anniversary of his birth (miamiherald.com)