Thursday, June 14, 2007

John Gagliardi

Though I was reading this article for its discussion of motivation, particularly with respect to exercising, I was fascinated by the background story of how the man they deem the "Most Successful College Football Coach in the History of College Football Coaches" began coaching:
Back in the 1940s, Gagliardi played on his high-school football team in Colorado, and he doesn't have fond memories of the experience. The coach of the team made the players run laps, do extreme calisthenics before practice, even duckwalk across the field. "We never duckwalked during the game," Gagliardi says, shaking his head. The worst part of all? "We were terrible."

Midway through his junior year, however, the coach quit. To save the season, Gagliardi, at age 16, volunteered to take over. When the school administration agreed, he did what any teenager would do: He jettisoned all the stuff he and his buddies couldn't stand. He ditched the laps, calisthenics, and duckwalks, and started letting players drink water between plays, which the previous coach had outlawed. He also implemented a new philosophy: Run plays until we're good at them. Now, Gagliardi was operating purely by instinct, but in fact he had created a perfectly self-determined climate. The players were autonomous running plays was exactly what they wanted to do. They were competent the more they ran the plays, the better they were at them. And since football is the ultimate team game, they couldn't help but feel a sense of relatedness.

"The good part is, we succeeded boom!" Gagliardi says, his face lighting up at the memory of it. "We were pretty good. We started knowing what we were doing." He's being typically understated, of course. Led by their student coach, the team won two championships, and four more when he kept coaching while he was in college.

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