3 Lessons from a Coaching Legend

Vince Lombardi

Image by jimbowen0306 via Flickr

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.
~Vince Lombardi

The temperature is -13 degrees fahrenheit with a wind chill reported at -48F.  The bitter cold has overwhelmed Lambeau Fields new turf warming system.  The playing field is as hard as a rock and as slick as ice.  The packers have the ball on the Dallas Cowboys one yard line with just 16 seconds remaining in the National Football League Championship. The coldest game in the history of the NFL comes down to one play.

The Packers have already tried to score twice on running plays from the one yard line but had no gain. The Cowboys Coach Tom Landry is expecting a pass play because a failed attempt would stop the clock and allow for a game tying field goal. Lombardi is not going to play it safe and calls for another hand off to Chuck Mercein. The Hall of Fame Quarterback Bart Starr decides at the last second that the turf is too slick for another hand-off. To the surprise of even his own team he runs a quarterback sneak. He scores and gives Lombardi’s Packers a 21-17 lead with just seconds left in the game. The Packers hold on to win and go on to easily defeat the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl.

Vince Lombardi is widely regarded as one of the best if not the best coach in NFL history. He took over a Green Bay team that had been losing for nearly two decades and only won one game in 1958. Yet in ’59, his first year, they have a winning record. The Packers make it to the league championship in Lombardi’s second year in charge. They win the NFL Championship in his 3rd and 4th year at Green Bay. In all, the Packers win 5 championships in 7 years under Lombardi and after that first year they never finish worse than 2nd.

Vince Lombardi was not only successful, he was legendary.  He is still regarded as one of the most inspirational leaders is our lifetimes.  What made this legendary coach so inspirational?

  1. Passion: Vince Lombardi once said, “There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that is first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay and I never want to finish second again.”  That is passion for victory.
  2. Communication: Lombardi was not only passionate, he was able to communicate his passion to his team in terms they understood.  He was in touch with his team and knew what they needed to hear to be inspired:  “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
  3. Dedication: Vince Lombardi was as dedicated to the game as he expected his players to be:  “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
Why They Play the Game

Image by jpeepz via Flickr

What can you learn from this coaching legend?  Can you be more passionate or dedicated?  Can you connect with your team and improve your message?  What will you do today to become a better leader?

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.

~Vince Lombardi



The Packer’s season record data was obtained at http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/football/profootball/greenbayseason.html.  Details of the 1967 Championship game were obtained at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NFL_Championship_Game,_1967

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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24 Responses to 3 Lessons from a Coaching Legend

  1. Pingback: 3 Lessons from a Coaching Legend | Life's Lessons in the 21st Century « Five Little Rules

  2. Great reminder that our passion for our vision should be “catchy”. We should do all with excellence and those with us will likely do the same. If others see that you are willing to go the extra mile, they are more more likely to go with you.

  3. Chris, those 3 honorable characteristics – passion, communication, and dedication – not only make a great leader, they make a person of great character.

  4. Paul Novak says:

    Very inspirational post. Like it a great deal.

    I notice that a lot of people equate hard work and dedication with working as hard as possible.

    What kills a lot of efforts though is not immediate failure, or an inability to just overcome adversity, but the slow grind of day in and day out toil. It’s easy to lose sight of the goal when your efforts do not return quick results and even easier to have your ambition slowly wear away without realizing it is even happening.
    It’s easy to be passionate and determined at the onset of an effort. It’s how much passion and drive you have six months later that tells the real story.

  5. Susan Oakes says:


    Passion and enthisiasm by a leader can be infectious and get a team that wasn’t working together in the past to be a winning team. I also liked what you said about communication regarding he knew what they needed to hear. This does not always happen and the leaders who take the time to understand their team can get outstanding results. Those that don’t fall into the trap of assuming they know and can get the communication wrong.

  6. Keyuri Joshi says:

    My teenager plays football and I’m going to forward this article to him. I agree with Susan that passion is infectious. There is no greater joy for me than to witness this emerge from one player or coach and filter through to a team. TEAM. Together Everyone Achieves More.

  7. Wow, I love this!! I have noticed that when I am really into something, I can’t help but speak passionately about it to others. If I happen to be selling that item or service, I usually do quite well. Mostly because I really enjoy talking to the person about it and enlightening them. The sale is almost an after thought.

    You have to fully commit with whatever you do. I’ve been very fortunately to consistently work in areas that I love. I feel very sorry for folks who hate their jobs. There can be no passion, no enthusiasm, no life.

    Thank you for your article. I love your writing style. You are a good storyteller!

  8. Mary says:

    As the second oldest of six children, sandwiched by my two brothers, I grew up with football. Both brothers played, my dad coached, and in the days before Title 9, I watched from the sidelines. What I saw taught me how gridiron drama could mold young boys into men.
    There is a reason why the Super Bowl trophy is named after this sport great. We can all take a page from his book.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your insight. There is definitely a reason why the Super Bowl Champions are awarded the Vince Lombardi trophy each year. I suspect that it would still be named after Coach Lombardi even if they were naming it today. Thanks again.


  9. I’ve learn more and more as the years go by that in anything you do, it doesn’t matter how good you are or where you are when you’re doing it — in order to do it right you have to have a leader’s spirit.

  10. Rob Berman says:

    One more saying that seems to fit is, “There is no “I” in team.” What Lombardi did was incredible. Books and articles are still being written about him years later. And of course, New Jersey immortalized him by naming a rest stop after him.


  11. Vince Lombardi is a great example of a leader who profoundly influenced his sport. It is no accident that the Super Bowl trophy is called the Lombardi. I live in New York and will be fortunate to see “Lombardi” on Broadway next week in previews. I’m really looking forward to it.

  12. Laura Hunter says:

    All three of these elements are definitely necessary for successful leadership. Without passion dedication can turn into drudgery. Without dedication passion might be no more than wishful thinking. And without communication you aren’t really a leader but just one person with your own great idea. I think the challenge (and success) lies in keeping it all balanced.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Love all the information these wise men and women have gifted us with, and feel that we should take every opportunity to be blessed by what they have left us. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Chris says:

    As a coach myself (girls soccer) I can not only appreciate the ability to motivate players that Lombardi possessed but also realize what a different world we live in with regards to players/workers lack of willingness to work hard to accomplish something meaningful.

    I only wish more young players nowadays would take head to his wise words:

    ”The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

    • Chris,

      Thank you for reading and for your comments. Yes, times have changed. I suspect that you are a greater influence on these girls than you may realize. You are to be commended for investing in others that way. Thanks again.


  15. anita says:

    Passion cannot be faked….you have it no doubt! You are an inspired blogger! 🙂

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