4 Things Football Teaches Us


September is in full swing and (American) football season is upon us! For diehard fans, summers are miserable. Journalists, talking heads, and the like are hard-pressed for on-the-field material. As such, trivial storylines ranging from practice scuffles to Tim Tebow abound. That will change this Thursday with the season opener between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburg Steelers. With that in mind, this week’s post shares four lessons from the gridiron that translate to our careers. Cue the music!

Trust is Paramount

Football is a violent sport, and players have a limited shelf-life. Between 1993 and 2002, the average career length for a rookie in an opening-day roster was six years, as per an NFL Management Council analysis. Knowing your role and that of your teammates on every play is of utmost importance. A blindside hit because someone missed a blocking assignment can result in a season-ending injury. Players literally entrust their careers to each other on every play. When injuries do occur, successful teams find a way to maintain camaraderie and coalesce through personnel changes.

Homegrown talent breeds winning

The salary cap was set at $143.28 million for the 2015-2016 season. In other words, each team is allotted the same upper limit to build a team. If every club can spend equally, what separates the elite from the run-of-the-mill organizations? Player development. The best organizations invest time and energy on their draft picks to form their rosters. Coaches foster a knowledge culture where veterans take younger players under their wings.

Take the defending champions, the New England Patriots. Despite “deflategate” and “spygate” there is no question that head coach Bill Belichick is the best in the business. He drafted Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins in the first two rounds during 2010-2013. Each of these players turned into starters.

Leaders set the tone

The franchises with the most Super Bowl wins — Pittsburgh Steelers (6), San Francisco 49ers (5), and Dallas Cowboys (5) —have one thing in common: during their dynasties, they employed hall-of-fame head coaches and quarterbacks, with stellar front offices to boot. The principle owner, head coach, general manager, and quarterback need to be in lockstep with the direction of the organization. Otherwise, dysfunction rules and the team suffers.

Everyone counts

Each of the 32 NFL teams have 53 players on its active roster; of these, only 46 can suit up on game day. The second and third stringers are a play away from being on the field, so it is important for them to be ready at all times. Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, once remarked, “individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Every member of the organization is a piece of the puzzle; all must do their jobs.

Football requires the players to sacrifice individual goals for the betterment of the team. It takes hard work and dedication to succeed. The game’s lessons translate to our workplaces. Trust, employee development, solid leadership, and individual effort are necessary components of prosperous organizations. Are you ready for some football?

Wander Cedeño is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Francesca El-Attrash

Wander, fun post! Admittedly, I’m not a football fan, but your post is insightful and offers some great tips applicable to the workplace.

richard regan

Another lesson. Racism and sexism abounds in professional football.

• Despite the fact that African Americans make up nearly 67% of the players in the NFL, there is not one single African American owner of a NFL team.
• Pakistani-born businessman Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars is the league’s first and only nonwhite majority owner.
• Only 28% of the management positions in the league office belong to people of color.
• Of the 29 NFL team managers, only 7 of them are people of color.
• Of the 32 head coaches only 5 are people of color.
• For the quarterback position, only 17% of African Americans play this important role.
• Of the 32 punters, only 1 African American can be found in this group.

The numbers were even bleaker for women despite being a key portion of the NFL fan base.
• Women only hold 19% of team senior administrative positions.
• Among team vice presidents, women held a paltry 15% of these posts.

The NFL gets even lower marks for inclusion from the first citizens of our country as the league continues to support and subsidize teams in Washington, DC and Kansas City, MO that objectify American Indians with offensive team mascots, logos and team descriptions.
We have to give the NFL some credit for penalizing a player’s team 15 yards if he is heard using the N-Word during a game. Yet they refuse to take a stand on the name of the Washington, DC football team considered one of the worst racial slurs you can utter against an American Indian.