Urban Meyer, head football coach at Ohio State, has now won three national championships. (His first two came at the University of Florida.) Those who follow college football closely know Meyer’s reputation as an intense, hard-working leader.
A major strength of Meyer’s is his ability to deeply connect with and motivate his teams. This is fundamental to good coaching and leadership.
What exactly does Meyer do?
~ He emphasizes the “power of the unit” in working with position groups (e.g., receivers, defensive backs). This strategy creates connections among players, which leads to ownership, pride, support, and accountability.
~ Meyer effectively uses simulation. For example, to prep for the recent game against Oregon, he had two scout teams alternating running plays quickly (setting the play clock to 16 seconds, simulating Oregon’s normally-successful quick offense). Most coaches use simulation and scout teams. But doing it frequently and with intensity is key.
~ He uses a variety of motivational techniques (speeches, quotes, music, keeping practices fresh), and tries to tailor them to his individual players. With a large football team, this is especially impressive. For coaches of smaller teams (e.g., basketball), knowing your players well is obvious. Be unafraid to treat players differently, because they are.
~ Probably most important, Meyer helps players recognize that how they think about things that happen in the course of a season is more important than the events themselves. He makes this very simple by borrowing a formula from business psychology:
E is the Event. R is the Response. O is the outcome. Event + Response = Outcome.
On the wristbands which players wear, notice that the “R” is much larger. Meyer correctly emphasizes that it is the reaction/response that really counts (e.g., self-talk, where one looks, body language).
The other side of the wristband reminds the player to take responsibility for the response.
Ohio State had a fair amount of adversity to overcome this season. But that’s not unique to the Buckeyes. All teams have to deal with the unexpected… with adversity… with challenges. Take ownership of the response to adversity. This is central to resilience and to a high functioning team. Teammates believe in themselves, each other, and the system. That allows them to maximize their performance because they are playing from a place of confidence and connection.