November 18, 2016


After an early season loss to Marshall during his first head coaching job at a then down-and-out Bowling Green program in 2001, coach Urban Meyer called his former mentor and head coach at Notre Dame, Lou Holtz for some advice. Holtz laid out four stages to building a championship program to the young head coach.

As we approach the midpoint of the season, it may be a good time to reference these stages as you assess where your program is at. 


The four stages are:


  1. Learning how to compete

  2. Learning how to win

  3. Learning how to handle winning

  4. Learning how to become a championship-level program


Let’s examine each of these in more detail.



Learning how to compete


This involves being intentional or purposeful in your approach. It means playing for a cause greater than yourself. As the leader of your program you should always have a vision for your organization, but it’s equally important to share that vision with your team—and share it often.


Remind your team each day what your cause is. What are you playing for? Why are you putting in all this work? Your cause should transcend wins and losses. 


I’ve never believed in setting win-loss goals. After all, if you lose a few games, then what else is there to play for? Instead, if you base your goals in something greater than wins, then goals are always in front of you. You always have motivation to continue to grow, no matter how many games you lose early on. 


For example, a great goal might be to “Reach our fullest potential in football and ultimately in life” or "Create an environment of excellence in everything we do - on and off the field." 


According to Nick Saban, these were the team goals of 2003 national champion LSU Tigers as laid out by their senior leaders:


  • Be a team – Together everyone accomplishes more

  • Work to dominate your opponent

  • Positively affect our teammates

  • Individual responsibility for self-determination

  • Be champions on and off the field


Nothing above says anything about wins and losses, does it?