5 Ways Youth Football is Just Like Business

It’s football season. For many of you that means getting elbow deep in a fantasy league, water cooler smack talk, and burying Sunday afternoons in cold beer and your famous chili queso dip. For the parents of rough and tumble youngsters, it means tying cleats, strapping up shoulder pads, buckling chin-straps, and finding new and inventive ways to keep oversize spandex pants from falling off your youngster as he runs for a touchdown.

Youth football is great. I don’t believe there is a sport that is more adept at teaching young kids teamwork, leadership, work ethic, sportsmanship and resilience. For those of us who choose to volunteer as coaches, the challenges are vast, however the rewards are never short of inspiring. As I stood on the sidelines watching my group of 4th graders earn a hard-fought 6-0 victory last night, I couldn’t help but laugh at the seemingly odd parallels between the game, and my dealings with the business world as Chief Strategist at Decklan Group. I laid out five of my favorite similarities below.

1.  No one is ever on time.

No matter how many emails, text messages, phone calls, and calendar invites you send, at least one kid will be running up 5 minutes before kickoff with half a piece of pizza in his mouth. In business, you can bank on someone being late to just about any group meeting you set. Plan for it and don’t let it throw you off your game.

2.  Everyone reacts to adversity differently.

You can learn a lot about a kid when he is about to get tackled. Does he lower his shoulder and deliver a hit, does he freeze up, does he try to spin and juke, or does he curl up in the fetal position and close his eyes? Same goes for my clients; some meet adversity head on and try to throw their weight around, some get that deer in the headlights look and shut down communication for days/weeks, some get creative to side-step the problem achieving their end result with a different approach, and some duck and cover hoping the problem goes away.

3.   It takes a team to deliver an individual’s glory.

Every time the star running back, or promising young QB crosses the goal line they are showered in praise, however, they’d never get there if it wasn’t for the efforts of the players around the executing blocks, and carrying out their misdirection. In business, ownership and the C-suite often get the newspaper quotes, and their pictures in magazines, however the hard work and dedication of the employees below them are the stepping stools to their success.

4.  Momentum can be generated by celebrating the small successes.

Football is a game of inches and battles. Watch how tides turn by players high-fiving, butt-slapping, and chest bumping after a seemingly meaningless play. Motion creates emotion, and positive breeds positive. The same thing is true in business. Celebrate small milestones. Give weekly awards to employees for hitting goals. Recognize trivial achievements with enthusiasm and then watch morale, efficiency, and loyalty sore.

5.  The only play that matters is the next one.

The surest way to lose a game is to worry about the last play. The past is the past. You can learn from it, but it’s over. In order to achieve success, you need to focus all of your attention and ability on the next play and execute to the best of your ability. Business is the same. No one cares how profitable you were last year. Your boss doesn’t care how many accounts you closed last week. Your clients don’t care how well your last product performed. All that matters is what happens next. How will you improve your performance and deliver results? If you hang your tomorrow on yesterday, your success will be short-lived if any.

I could go on, and I’m sure you have or can draw your own parallels. I want to hear your thoughts, share your business/youth sports correlations below.