Book Review: Earn The Right To Win by Tom Coughlin

July 29, 2013 by
Filed under: Christian Living, Philosophy, Sport 

Preparation Is Winning

 

I just read Tom Coughlin’s book, Earn the Right to Win, and gleaned some valuable insights. Insights anyone can appreciate. This isn’t just another book written by a popular icon to entertain the masses and make a few bucks.

Although the book includes plenty of anecdotal material it isn’t a bio of the NY Giants or of Tom. This is Tom telling us how he won the most coveted prize in football, the Super Bowl, and he assures us, even in the title, that the principles he used can be applied to any field of work. Tom is very intentional in his coaching, his book tells us how he does it and it illustrates the point that a lot of thinking went into his approach to football.

If that’s true for one of the most physical sports around then it is probably true for anything else one might do.

Tom does have impressive credentials. He began his coaching career at Rochester Institute of Technology, starting the schools football program from scratch. He also served in several assistant coaching positions before taking the head coaching job at Boston College and was eventually hired as the head coach for the new NFL franchise in Jacksonville. At every level and in every position he established himself as a no nonsense leader who won games. How he accomplished this winning tradition is what his book is about.

I was impressed enough with the book to think it deserved more than just one short review. Since Tom is the kind of man who can start with nothing and eventually reach some lofty goals, He’s also a man to whom we should listen. If you’re looking for inspiration and how-to advice, Tom’s your man.

This post is just the beginning and will be followed by more.

It becomes very clear in the book that Tom is very deliberate. I was actually surprised at how much of a thinker he is and the overall theme of the book, preparation, illustrates the point. Everything Tom led his teams to do was his way of preparing them to win. Every detail of the preparation was well thought out. Winning was the goal and detailed preparation was his way of getting there. He introduces the “preparation” theme in the subtitle:

How Success in Any Field Starts with Superior Preparation

He elaborates on preparation in his introduction and then expands on it in every chapter that follows. He uses sports to illustrate his points but his illustrations can easily transfer to any other sphere of endeavor. He argues his points well.

For example, when it comes to winning Tom says no one wins every game but “the better you prepare the more likely it is that you’ll succeed.”

Tom gives us a very good description of what he means by winning, which happens on three levels:

  • The next game (regularly scheduled games)
  • The big game (games against high powered teams not easily beaten)
  • The ultimate game (like the Rugby world cup or the Super Bowl)

Coughlin didn’t always win but he never failed to prepare and preparing to win was as much a goal for Tom as was winning. Using that approach he won on all three levels. He won the Super Bowl twice. A great point he makes about preparation is:

  • We prepare because we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Preparing for everything you think might happen is way of reducing the number of surprises, whatever the venture. Even poker players study probabilities and possibilities before they play. Doing so reduces the gamble factor with each bet.

Winning is a goal we prepare for not a wish we hope for or the result of a lottery draw. We should never micro manage people but we must always develop a micro detailed plan for winning.

Without preparation everything we do is spontaneous, which is really nothing more than chaos. Tom was highly organized, some would say obsessively so but his first chapter begins to clear the air.

Before we go there some might wonder what this has to do with God or the Bible or Christianity. Well, there are some interesting parallels between Tom’s methods and Paul’s teachings.

I don’t know if Paul participated in sports but his remarks indicates he was at least a keen observer. At one point he said . . .

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. I Cor. 9:24-26

Tom and Paul definitely agree on one thing. Aimless running and beating the air are missing the point. Tom’s ideas about preparation made me think that praying and preparation would work together well and I think Paul might agree.

Next post: Chapter 1 – Build the Structure


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