I had the pleasure of hearing Dabo Swinney speak this past week. Swinney is the head football coach at Clemson University. This past season, his Clemson Tigers posted a record of 14 wins and 1 loss. The lone loss was in the National Championship Game on the final day of the season. He has done a great job building a successful program at Clemson. The talk he gave was not about football strategy, but rather about how to build a championship culture. As leaders, this is something toward which most of us aspire. So I plan to devote my next few blogs to some of the really great advice that Swinney shared.
Dabo Swinney’s success story is a great one. He is a guy who received some unexpected opportunities; but when they came along, he was ready for them. As such, he started his talk with this advice: “You’ve got to prepare for your opportunity. It’s better to be prepared and not get an opportunity, than to not be prepared and get one.”
This lesson stems from two significant events in Swinney’s life. First, as a non-scholarship football player at the University of Alabama, Swinney had never played in a game. One day in practice, his coach told him to work with the starters, and if he did well, he was going to play that Saturday. He played well enough, then, as the coach had promised, played in the game, and eventually earned himself a scholarship. He was ready for the opportunity when it came. He had practiced and prepared so that he could take advantage when the opportunity presented itself.
The second significant event came when he was an assistant coach at Clemson. Mid-way through the season, the head coach was fired and the Athletic Director appointed Swinney as the interim head coach. Swinney was just a wide receivers coach at the time, not one of the top assistant coaching positions. And despite the fact that two other, higher ranking, assistant coaches had been head coaches before, Swinney was selected to be the interim head coach. (This is unheard of in today’s world of college football.) As you might expect, Swinney was prepared. He was ready for this opportunity. He did so well, that he received the permanent position and this year, completed his seventh season as head coach at Clemson.
“It’s better to be prepared and not get an opportunity, than to not be prepared and get one.” This is great advice for us all. We don’t know when those opportunities may come, but we need to be prepared and ready to take full advantage of them. Dabo Swinney lived this lesson and just coached his team to the national championship game. Be prepared for your opportunities, and when they come, you too will find incredible success.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. – Please share my blog with others who love leadership and positivity. And follow me on Twitter, @jvearle.