Pro athletes could learn a lot from people in construction
November 1, 2009
I’m one of those guys who first turn to the sports pages when I open my daily newspaper.
Don’t get me going or I could talk all day about baseball’s designated-hitter rule, zone vs. man coverage, or a thousand other sports-related topics. This is a lifelong sports nut coming at you.
However, one thing has changed since my glory days when I hit a grand slam in a little league all-star game with both my dad and Stan Musial watching (long story). There’s nothing resembling hero worship left in me when it comes to athletes and coaches. Though I still enjoy watching them perform, it dawned on me long ago that the sports world is populated by eminently fallible human beings.
That’s because to reach the top ranks in any sport requires an all-consuming commitment to develop those athletic skills. Although there are notable exceptions, as a rule the demands don’t leave enough time and energy for the shaping of a well-rounded person. That’s one reason why today’s sports pages are filled with so many police reports.
Nobody personifies sports fanaticism more than football coaches. The big names all seem cut from the same mold of fire-breathing workaholics. Maybe it takes that kind of obsession to be a winner in the National Football League or National Collegiate Athletic Association. I wouldn’t know.
However, this I do know: Since at this stage of life I have little use for learning the proper techniques of blocking and tackling, football coaches have nothing to teach me that I have not learned better from persons in other walks of life. Famous coaches are always giving speeches about the lessons their sport teaches that are applicable to the business world or to the great game of life. I think football coaches would do better to instill lessons from the business world in the jocks they inspire to commit and endure mayhem. Such as:
Size doesn’t matter, spirit does. I’ll believe that when I see feisty 150-pound linemen playing in the NFL. It’s true for people in the HVAC world, however.
It’s all about teamwork. When football coaches blather about the importance of teamwork, mostly they are talking about blocking, a thankless activity that enables backs and receivers to rack up impressive statistics and the biggest paychecks. The people who play the blocking positions tend to be oversized galoots who are too slow and uncoordinated to entrust with ball-handling duties. I bet 99 percent of these oxen would rather play quarterback if they could.
For a real lesson in teamwork, check out the coordination among a crack construction project team, or the handoffs that take place on a busy day in plumbing or mechanical service companies involving dispatchers and technicians. It’s a beauty to behold in a well-run company.
Winning is everything. If this is the case, then every year all coaches except the championship winner must be regarded as losers. How do they all explain blowing the big games? However, I know plenty of contractors that have made money every year in business and have customer satisfaction records surpassing 90 percent - a larger winning percentage than any coach I’m aware of.
Football builds character. Then how come so many players get arrested for anti-social and criminal behavior? Compared with athletes, the HVAC industry’s MVP candidates are not so self-absorbed and prone to whining about every little indignity. Most are content with a pat on the back now and then.
Loyalty. When your people get injured on the job or take ill, health insurance or worker’s comp protects them economically. And they can be reasonably assured of still having a job when they heal.
In pro football, contracts are voided when crippling injuries render players unable to perform. And next time you’re listening to a college football coach prattle on about loyalty, ask him how many scholarships he’s revoked of “student athletes” still able to attend class, but no longer of use on the gridiron due to a knee blown out on behalf of dear old alma mater.
Motivating people. Heck, it’s easy getting people fired up to play in front of tens of thousands of excited fans and a TV audience. I’d like to see one of those football coaches figure out how to get a crew motivated to install rooftop piping in below-zero weather, or do their work inside a dirty, stifling crawl space when it’s 100°F outside.
How much do you want to bet that screaming and humiliation won’t work?
Jim Olsztynski - pronounced Ol-stin-skee - is editor of Supply House Times, a sister publication of Snips. He can be reached at (630) 694-4006, or e-mail email@example.com.