Vince Lombardi. Photo: Jim Bowen

American Super Bowl is the annual championship game for America’s National Football League (NFL). While Vince Lombardi is the greatest football coaches of all time. Admittedly, in passed years I have never taken much notice of the NFL but this year, it has lead me to discover a list of 26 netball coaching tips inspired by Vince Lombardi that can motivate any grade of netball.

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is typically the most watched American television broadcast of the year. The winning team receives the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  Curious about the name for the trophy, I Googled to find out about the man, the legend.

Who is Vince Lombardi?

Vincent Thomas Lombardi was head coach of the Green Bay Packers when they won five championships during the 1960s (three of which were consecutive).  This stint included winning the first two Super Bowls.  He also coached teams like Washington Redskins to their first winning seasons in more than a decade.

Reading through his career highlights, I soon discovered that his legendary status didn’t just stem from his achievements of the teams he coached but his amazing ability to teach, motive and inspire.  This made him one, if not the, greatest football coaches of all time.

Lombard’s way with words will have his memory transcend through the years. His beliefs (otherwise referred to as ‘the Lombardi Rules’) as I discovered are timeless as they continue to resonate with people today, regardless of their sport or discipline.

The Lombardi Rules

Here is a list of principles Vince Lombardi lived by. Even though they were originally intended for his football players, these can apply to any sportsperson such as a netball player or to life in general. Whenever you question your ability to motivate and coach netball, check back with these rules and quotes.

1) Ask yourself tough questions

  • Get to know yourself
  • Learn from failure
  • Don’t run for the sake of running

You can’t improve what you don’t understand

2) Look at the truth straight on

  • Don’t try and fake it
  • Expect to be observed
  • Don’t compartmentalise: your conduct matters at all times

Goals built on half truths are almost certain to fail when push comes to shove. If you can’t act on your convictions in a crunch, then success is out of the question. Trust is earned through patient investment and a consistent track record, and it can be destroyed in an instant.

3) Play to your strengths

  • Choose your own path: what matters is that it’s the right one for you
  • It’s not a failure if you learn something: sometimes the hardest lessons are the most important
  • Practice continuous renewal

Strong people tend to have strong weaknesses; as long as you’re aware of them, they don’t have to work to your disadvantage. Your greatest strengths as a leader are those qualities that are unique to you.

4) Write your own character

  • Learn from hardship
  • Building character takes discipline
  • Identify your heroes

Everyone has character, but not all of us are “of” character. It is the culmination of years of choosing to act one way rather than another, of choosing truth over deception, respect over arrogance, compassion over cruelty.

5) Think the big picture

  • Link goals to vision
  • Change with the competitive environment
  • Don’t be swayed by minor setbacks

The difference (between a good coach and an average coach) is knowing what you want, and knowing what the end is supposed to look like. If a coach doesn’t know what the end is supposed to look like, he won’t know it when he sees it.

6) Be completely committed

  • Start with yourself
  • Talent only gets you so far
  • Weed out the uncommitted

When you commit to something, you are cutting away all your other possibilities, all your other options. When you commit to something, you are also cutting away all the rationalisations, all the excuses.

7) Work harder than everybody

  • Perfect your discipline
  • Invest in your talent
  • Start at home

It is this discipline of hard work and training, investing those countless hours of practice, that leads to mastery, that takes a skill from the conscious level to just being the way you do things. The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.

8) Be prepared to sacrifice

  • Sacrifice leads to success
  • Use failures as stepping stones; when you use a failure to your advantage, it can become merely a stepping stone on the road to victory
  • Pay the price

I think you’ve got to pay a price for anything that’s worthwhile, and success is paying the price. You’ve got to pay the price to win, you’ve got to pay the price to stay on top, and you’ve got to pay the price to get there.

9) Be mentally tough

  • Keep the pressure on; troops stay alert and focused
  • Never give in; mental toughness is not rigidity in the face of adversity; it’s stability and poise
  • Work at it

10) Balance humility and pride

  • Pride is necessary; never do less than your best
  • Beware of hubris; the ego that gets in the way of truth and therefore interferes with leadership
  • Give credit where it’s due; if you had help, recognise those who helped you

Simplicity is a form of humility, and simplicity is a sign of true greatness. Meekness is a sign of humility, and meekness is a sign of true strength.

11) Lead with integrity

  • Live what you teach; must be involved up to our necks and make that commitment clear
  • Let them see you sweat; be the first one over the barricade
  • Build accountability; take responsibility when you screw up

If you cheat on the practice field, you’ll cheat in the game. If you cheat in the game, you’ll cheat the rest of your life.

12) Build team spirit

  • Fit your game to the talents of your team
  • Emphasise responsibility and loyalty
  • Focus on team success rather than personal glory

Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence upon one another, and of strength to be derived from unity.

13) Explain the whys

  • Teach to the slowest
  • Start with why, not how
  • Avoid boredom; sinks as many ships as incompetence

They call it coaching, but it is teaching. You do not just tell them it is so, but you show them the reasons why it is so and you repeat and repeat until they are convinced, until they know.

14) Strike the balance

  • Be as close as you can; let them know
  • Get ready to be lonely; keep a distance with particular relationships
  • Familiarity breeds contempt

The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert.

15) Build confidence

  • Project confidence; it is catching, and so is a lack of confidence.
  • Success breeds confidence
  • Give people the tools they need

You defeat defeatism with confidence. The man who is trained to his peak capacity will gain confidence. Confidence is contagious, and so is a lack of confidence.

16) Use your mission

  • Create a shared vision
  • Link goals to purpose
  • Align your values

The man who succeeds above his fellow man is the one who early in life clearly discerns his objective, and towards that objective he directs all of his powers.

17) Know your stuff

  • Demonstrate competence; show that you know it
  • Build your skills from the bottom up
  • Import special skills

A leader is judged in terms of what others do to obtain the results that he is placed there to get.

18) Demand autonomy

  • Don’t confuse control with dictatorship; conduct yourself as a subordinate when appropriate
  • Fight special interests; special interests shouldn’t dictate strategy
  • Delegate when necessary; figure out what you must control, and control that

If I were coaching and someone else in the organisation were questioning me, I couldn’t take that.

19) Respect legitimate authority

  • Lead by example
  • Maintain discipline
  • Respect the system; authority is legitimate

A disciplined person is one who follows the will of the one who gives the orders. You gotta remember one thing: If you’re going to exercise authority, you’ve got to respect it.

20) Act, don’t react

  • Study the past, live in the present
  • Continue learning; challenges of tomorrow is to keep learning today
  • Seize the moment

While statistics are interesting, they’re all in the past.

21) Keep it simple

  • Play to your strengths
  • Innovate without complicating; don’t change for the sake of change
  • Depth over breadth

Almost always, the plan is too complex. Too much to learn and perfect in too little time.

22) Chase perfection

  • Aim for the stars; don’t buy into perceived limitations
  • Insist on excellence
  • The closer you are to the goal line, the more perfect you must be

If you settle for nothing less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your life.

23) Tailor your motivation

  • Don’t try to be popular
  • Counter expectations
  • Keep the pressure on

You can’t coach without criticising, and it’s essential to understand how to criticise each man individually…

24) Motivate by degrees

  • Being with small victories; better beginning than visionary failures
  • Give frequent feedback
  • Be patient

This is not easy, this effort, day after day, week after week, to keep them up, but it is essential.

25) Focus on fundamentals

  • Build skills
  • Rely on repetition
  • Be prepared to seize the opportunity

A small number of big plays in the course of a game, you have to be functioning at a high level of excellence in order to take full advantage of those opportunities.

26) Run to win

  • Results are everything
  • Win by the rules
  • Understand the dangers of winning.

If winning comes too hard, your team may get demoralised. If it comes too easily, it will be harder to stay motivated.

Well worth a readThe Lombardi Rules: 26 Lessons from Vince Lombardi – the World’s Greatest Coach Written by Vince Lombardi Jr.