Roy Exum: A ‘Must-Read’ On Nick Saban

Saturday, March 16, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

My friends – as well as “The Geek Squad”  at BestBuy – know I get a huge stack of emails every day. I am flattered when people want to send me things that they think will help me in my life’s journey but constantly disappointed I don’t have the time to write each one of them back. Yesterday morning I got a “must read” and – yes – everybody in America who is trying to be better ought to read this one.

It seems somebody went to a speech not long ago that was being given by Alabama football coach Nick Saban. That “somebody” took notes with the diligence of an honors student and, whether you are a sophomore volleyball player, the CEO of a corporation, a guy who drives a trailer truck or a housewife with three children, I will guarantee you the same principles that Saban has instilled in a team that has won a national championship in two of the last three years will help each one of us to be better.

Again, these are notes, not flowing prose. Pretend like each paragraph is a different piece of candy. And now devour the whole box:

* * *

Friday night I had the opportunity to hear Saban speak at the Glazier 150 clinic in Atlanta. As always, a great experience to hear him speak and truly gain some insight on how and why the program is so successful. He gets invited to speak all over the country, of course, but it’s obviously very strategic on his part to speak in front of Atlanta-area and Georgia high school coaches (there are 17 players from Georgia on the roster currently).

He was only allotted 50 minutes to speak, but he went about 30-35 minutes over. He spoke the first 40 minutes on philosophy, today’s college football players, what it takes to run a great organization, etc., then gave a pretty good clinic talk on press man coverage and drills. Great stuff.

Here’s some of the takes from the evening … 

ON THE FOUR PLAYERS RECENTLY DISMISSED -- You may have heard recently about those four cats we had on the team who were in trouble. Coming off the season, we identified five kids on our team that were going to kill us as a team, in terms of not buying in, being held accountable, attitude … and four of those five screwed up.

In 5½ years we really haven’t had one player get in any real trouble. That’s rare and something we’re proud of. But, sometimes you have to sort of prune the trees in order to get to the healthy part that makes it grow. And our team learned from this.

AND LATER -- Coach Parcells, and he’s had sort of a lot of success, you know … he speaks at our clinic last year. And he tells us about a sign he posts in all the locker rooms he’s coached at … the Giants, the Cowboys, the Patriots … and it says this: “Dumb players do dumb things. Smart players seldom do dumb things. Which one are you?” We like that, and guess where that’s hanging now?

ON RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATION -- We’re very detailed in how we define what people do here, whether it be a coordinator on down to the secretaries. And I think you have to define every role and every expectation, because it’s chaos if you don’t. It’s impossible to be successful with consistency if you don’t operate that way. I’m telling you – it’s impossible, guys.

The first thing you have to do is, like I said, define everyone’s role. When I was with Bill Belichick and the Cleveland Browns, he had everyone’s role detailed and outlined for them. He had one sign in the building: “Do YOUR job.”

The next thing you have to do is get the right guys on the bus. And then, if you have the wrong guys on the bus, whether they’re players or coaches, guys, you have to get them the (heck) off the bus.

We have two starters off last year’s team that I know will kill us, and with their attitude and work ethic not being what it is, I’ve told them … they’re not going to be starters for this team unless things change. That’s just how it is.

Not long ago, we had a receiver that didn't do what he was supposed to do. And he missed a lot of time. Missed spring. And we had a quarterback that wanted him back, really wanted him back. And I was like, Nuh uh. Ain't gonna happen. I can't look at those other 84 guys who have been doing what they're supposed to be doing, what we expect, buying in ... and then just welcome this guy back after he really hasn't done anything right? No way, wasn't going to happen.

Then you have to have everyone buy in and you have to have positive energy. You have to have positive energy and you have to know what you are doing and what your role is. If you’re a coach … we didn’t hire you to be an independent contractor. We hired you to do things the way we do them here, because that’s what works for us and it’s been good for us.

MORE ON POSITIVE ENERGY -- I ask our kids every day, “Hey, what are you selling me today, man? Positive energy or negative energy? You failed a test, you broke up with a girlfriend, what is it?” Because you’re going to affect people positively or negatively, and you can’t show disappointment. And it’s great, man, because they hold me accountable, too, and can tell if I’ve had sort of a bad day or whatever, and they ask me trotting out to practice, “Whatcha sellin’ me today, coach?’”

ON RECRUITING -- You know, recruiting is great and all for these kids, but these services and all … with four stars and five stars … all that’s great, but kids get into that so much and they’re into it for the self-gratification and for the attention … and I’m telling you that we have to spend a whole year de-recruiting (them) once they get here. They have to know they’re part of a team and they have to maybe relearn what that means, but you have to define what that is for them.

ON WORKING HARD -- There’s no other way, guys. You have to know what you’re doing and then you have to have guys that want to put in the time. And you have to know that it’s not going to be easy, and you’re going to have to persevere, and most guys don’t like that. Because it’s your human condition to be average, but are you going to settle for that? And you can never feel entitled, and that’s a huge challenge for not just the players but also sort of for us coaches too.”

ON KNOWING WHO YOU ARE -- You know our players know, and many of our fans that follow us, that we really try to focus more on us and how we do things rather than what our opponent does. What our opponent does is really pretty technical, but doesn’t really have anything to do with us. Whether we win is going to come down to what we do. Our ability to execute, our proper technique.

I’ll never forget fishing as an 11-yr-old in West Virginia and I’m fishing down by this lake where the hot water runs off from the coal mine, because that hot water is where the catfish like to hang out. And this guy is just sitting there pulling in huge catfish, but throwing them back, and then he’ll catch smaller ones and keep them.

And I’m not catching anything at all, but I’m like “Hey man, why do you keep those little ones and throw back those huge ones?” And his answer was “because I’ve only got a 9-inch skillet.” See? You have to know who you are.

He also retold the story of the SEALs coming in before the LSU game last year and talking to them about dealing with adversity, that things just aren’t going to go well all the time. And he firmly believes that’s why, with 1:42 or whatever, they were prepared mentally to make that final drive and win the game.

Good stuff as always from Coach Saban. When it was over, I was a little bit tougher, a little more champion-like and real, real proud to be a Bama fan.

* * *

And there you have it, a lesson to help you get better, no matter what you do. And, if you’ll pause for a second, you can see why successful people always are the ones who take notes.

royexum@aol.com

Nick Saban
Nick Saban

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