Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Nick Saban on the Mindset of a Champion

The May 1, 2018 issue of Fortune profiled many individuals who are leaders in their respective fields. Coach Nick Saban, who has won five national championships in nine years with Alabama and six national championships overall (the most by any college football coach in the poll era, dating back to 1936), was the obvious choice for college football (if not for the entire sports world).

Bill Belichick and Nick Saban worked together for the Cleveland Browns in the early 1990s before becoming, respectively, the greatest pro football coach and greatest college football coach of this era (if not all-time). One of Belichick's most famous mantras is "Do your job"; Belichick urges each coach on his staff and each player on his team to focus on the specific responsibilities of his job and to depend on each other coach and player to also do his job. "Do your job" encompasses many concepts, including the idea that if one player is hurt or ineffective then his backup is expected to come in and not just perform adequately but rather perform at a high level.

One example of that from Saban's recent experience is the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game versus Georgia. At halftime Alabama trailed 13-0 and Saban benched his experienced starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of 19 year old freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who clinched the championship for Alabama with a 41 yard touchdown pass in overtime. Such individual and team success is not a fluke but rather a result of season-long preparation for such pressure-packed moments.

Saban told Fortune, "To me it takes a completely different mindset to stay successful as opposed to what you have to do to build something to be successful. All of us are sort of geared toward, if we have success, we're supposed to be rewarded for it, not necessarily that we have to continue to do things even better than we did before."

Saban explained that being a champion requires a different and special mindset: "I mean, it's like you make an A on a test and you say, 'I can take it easy for two weeks and make a C on the next test and have a B average' That's normal. It's special for somebody to make an A on the test and say, 'I'm going to try to make the highest grade ever in the class.' That's not normal. But yet, that's what you have to try to promote from a mindset standpoint to the people in your organization."

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