Coach Holtz’s Great Advice

I hate Notre Dame.

Image result for notre dame lou holtz
Coach Holtz giving some strong advice. Source:

People who are Notre Dame football fans and/or alumni of the University in Indiana that is most famous for its football prowess are hard for me to stomach.  I know a  few Notre Dame alums, and they are even more arrogant and conceited about it than you would find of Duke, Northwestern or Harvard grads.

You may think me a jerk for thinking and writing this.  You, yourself, may be one of those people who, for whatever reason, root for the Fighting Irish to win their football games.  Unless you are an alum of the school, I would ask you why.

For some reason, the sportscasts in the Chicago area always seem compelled to report on Notre Dame football scores during the season, often before they report on the Northwestern score or other Illinois schools.

For those of us who root on Chicago-area teams, I really could not give a crap about what Notre Dame does or does not do in football.  If their football team never won another game for the next decade, I would be fine with that.

Nobody epitomizes Notre Dame football in my mind and the mind of many others like Lou Holtz.  He led the Fighting Irish to the National Championship in 1988, forever gaining fame and accolades for his leadership and coaching abilities.

He served as head coach for eleven years and took his team to to nine straight New Year’s Day bowl games from 1987 through ’95 and coached the Irish to finishes of sixth or better in the final Associated Press poll in five seasons per Notre Dame’s sports website.

I am not a college sports fan, in general, knowing that most college athletes are only token students, at best, and mostly there for their sport or sports.

The manner in which the UW football players were coddled while I attended made me sick, and the team barely won any games in the five seasons spanning 1988 to 1992.  This was well before their Rose Bowl days, but had you met any of the players, you might have thought that every one of them was a Rose Bowl MVP and shoo-in first round NFL draft pick by their attitudes.

Per, the Badgers’ record was 14 wins against 45 losses during the five football seasons that I spent on campus, yet if you met any of the players at a party, you might have thought that their record was 45 and 14 with five straight bowl game bids.

25 1992 Big Ten 5 6 0 .455 2.34 1.89 Barry Alvarez (5-6)
26 1991 Big Ten 5 6 0 .455 -2.86 -1.50 Barry Alvarez (5-6)
27 1990 Big Ten 1 10 0 .091 -6.73 6.00 Barry Alvarez (1-10)
28 1989 Big Ten 2 9 0 .182 -8.67 4.05 Don Morton (2-9)
29 1988 Big Ten 1 10 0 .091 -12.99 3.01 Don Morton (1-10)

So how did I glean such excellent advice from Lou Holtz, a man who I never met and who I generally despised during his coaching tenure?  A middle aged Middle Class Guy living in a middle class neighborhood in the Midwest?

By purchasing and reading a used copy of Winning Every Day, a book that Holtz authored in and was published the same year that my son was born, in 1998.

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Before I detail my nine primary takeaways from Holtz’s book, I should mention that I no longer despise him, even though I would still root against Notre Dame in any given game.

Without summarizing his life story, Holtz is a scrawny five-foot-ten 150 pound guy with thick glasses who was born into a poor family in 1937. Nobody in either side of his family had ever even been to college, and he details how he worked his way up through the coaching ranks for many years, sticking to his high standards all the while until reaching the pinnacle of college coaching that allowed him to gain admiration from millions of people and even convinced me to buy a book by him.  Who could not use advice from a man with intense focus and commitment to become a champion?

Here are a few pieces of advice that Coach gave me.

Have a Strategy

Holtz writes that much of what he accomplished came out of a strategy that he devised many years ago.  He says that choices are your game plan’s bricks and mortar.  We choose to act or procrastinate, believe or doubt, help or hinder and, ultimately, to succeed or fail.

Holtz writes that his book is designed to help the reader put your game face on and to ensure that you are in a winning frame of mind every time that you charge out onto the field.

You Are What You Think

Holtz writes that winners and losers are not born, but are products of how they think.  Mothers do not give birth to lawyers, doctors, scientists, business owners, bank presidents or successful football coaches.

What those individuals become is a matter of the choices that they make. He urges the reader to eschew mediocrity while embracing greatness and to welcome adversity as a test of your resolve.

Have Goals

Like many other motivational books that I have read, Coach Holtz urges the reader to get back in touch with the dreams that you once had.

He writes about writing out a list of his own goals, breaking them up into five categories of things that he wanted to accomplish:

  1. As a husband/father
  2. Spiritually
  3. Professionally
  4. Financially
  5. Simply for excitement

Coach Holtz had some interesting items on his “for excitement” list including attending a White House dinner with the president, meeting the pope and jumping out of an airplane.  Mine and yours might not be so lofty, but I think that I might have to try this out and list out some goals of my own.  Not New Year’s Resolutions, mind you, but goals that I generally have that amount to dreams of things that I want to accomplish before I leave God’s Green Earth.

Saving As Sacrifice

Even a successful college football coach has to think about saving for the future.  You can read about Coach Holtz’s many years of struggling at smaller, lower paying jobs than the ones that he later became famous for. His first big-time coaching job as an assistant at the College of William and Mary paid him $5,900.

Coach Holtz writes that he and his wife decided to invest 5 percent of every paycheck into a savings account.  He employed the Pay Yourself First method as described by every financial guru on Earth and pretended that it was a bill and made it their first priority every month.

He said that every time you put a dollar in your savings account, you’re making a sacrifice.   Holtz writes of the sacrifices that he and his wife made, but it was important for them to build a nest egg.

Image result for build a nest egg

As Coach told me, “With the money we saved, we were eventually able to buy a house and send our children to the colleges of their choice.”

Tackle Adversity

Have you ever had any adversity?  I have.  Are you facing adversity right now?  I am.

Holtz writes that we could complain about the terrible things that befall us, but that would be a waste of time.  Adversity is part of life.

Holtz and I have something in common in that we have never met anyone who achieved success without first overcoming some misfortune.  If Coach or I asked you to discuss your accomplishments, you would highlight the obstacles that you overcame to achieve your goals.

Preparation is Key

Coach says that preparation dispels pressure because it builds confidence.

He uses the example of a salesperson rather than a football team, but writes that they can’t do what they need to do to reach their full potential unless they do their homework.

If you are going to sell – as I am going to have to do tomorrow in a meeting with a potential business on behalf of my town – you have to arm yourself with information about your products.  Learn as much about them as you can so you can dazzle your customers with your expertise.

Great advice from the Coach, and a good reminder for me to review details of the property that I am going to pitch tomorrow.  Square footage and price are a given in this case, but I am also going to review the traffic patterns, one-, two- and three-mile demographics, drive time demographics, nearest competing businesses, Assessed value and taxation history of the property and many other items before my 10:00 a.m. meeting so that I am as prepared as Coach would want me to be.

If I am going to Win this one, which would be to attract a much-desired business to the community, preparation is key.

High Standards Start With You

Coach says that you want to work with someone who is committed to excellence.  He says that it is the only criteria.  You would not want to be operated on by a surgeon because he submitted the lowest price for the job.

He also says that it is important never to underestimate any individual’s capabilities.  In his coaching philosophy, which can easily be transmitted to your and my place of work, Holtz writes that while you should demand more from your ultra talents, you should have the same requirement for each player on your team: Give me everything you have.

Words Have Weight

When Coach told me this, it really hit me.  He said that rhetoric is a weapon.  We often string together phrases to persuade, but persuasion can become coercion.  He asked if we can tell the difference between communication and manipulation.

What really struck a nerve is when he asked if I am one of those who has trouble hearing what people are saying because I am too busy framing a response in my head?  Yes, that’s me.  I do that.

I think very fast and always have something to add or clarify for those who I speak with.  But since reading Coach’s book, I have strove to not interrupt others in the past few weeks and to concentrate on what they are saying more.  This includes relatives, co-workers and business people who I work with.  Guess what?  Coach is right.  Every conversation becomes an adventure and their words touch deeply and evoke responses that I never imagined.

Thanks Coach.

The Future

When Coach Holtz told me that I don’t have a future, I did not understand. I hope to be around for future decades.

What Coach told me was that the future is not something breathing and alive waiting for you to encounter it.  You create it.  Your future does not exist until you decide what it should be.

Bright or bleak, vibrant or mundane, your life is what you make of it and the actions you choose will carry over because the future is nothing more than an extension of the present moment.

As Bill and Ted would say in their Excellent Adventure: “Whoa!”

I am glad that I decided to seek out Coach Holtz’s advice.  I will work on taking his words to heart and I hope that you do too.




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