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Are you watching your own game film?


It was the late ‘80s, and neither of the two men was famous like they are now.

One was a defensive coach for the Houston Oilers.  The other held a similar job with the New York Giants.

They’d agreed to meet in the summer, their off-season, to swap ideas on coaching. It was a time when even talking with a competitor was frowned upon, so the two men met secretly at a tiny town outside New York.

They knew they were doing something they weren’t supposed to, but their passion for being better coaches ran deep. They couldn’t resist. The weekend became one of long sessions in a dark room with a movie projector, debating x’s and o’s on the screen.

Coaches call it watching the game film. 

Fast forward to today.

The habit formed that weekend – the two men watching the film together – has continued annually for nearly 30 years. Last month, one coach, Nick Saban, won his sixth college football championship (the collegiate record) for the University of Alabama. The other, Bill Belichick, tries for his sixth Super Bowl victory this weekend with the New England Patriots. That’s the most for any professional coach.

I know what you’re thinking.


You’re tired of Alabama and (especially) the Patriots winning.  And neither Saban nor Belichick has the most endearing personality.

But here’s the revelation from what they’ve have done all these years. We could argue their success affords them the right to coast a bit. They’ve both been to the peak, multiple times. Wouldn’t it be natural for them to push a little less… and enjoy a little more?

But the opposite has occurred.

They’ve pushed harder.

Saban and Belichick have done things other coaches, even successful ones, haven’t. This story paints the full picture of their passion for improvement. It references their own realization that, while they didn’t have all the answers, they shared a mutual obsession to find them.

Says Saban: “We are like the way we are because of that. We’re always trying to learn, to improve the way we do things.”

As for us?

If we applied this story to business, the CEO of the acknowledged leader in one category (say, Howard Schultz at Starbucks) would share business strategies with a similar CEO in another (maybe Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway). They’d watch game film together for an entire weekend.

But this just doesn’t happen frequently, if at all.

Watching game film (in sports or in business) checks a variety of important things:

  • Our fundamentals. How’s our blocking and tackling, the things we’re instinctively supposed to do? Are we getting the right effort from everyone? How can we improve our technique?
  • Our plays.  What’s working and what’s not? Are we all on the same page on what plays we’re calling?
  • Our opportunities. What might we do next? What can we exploit?

Look at that list again. If you’re a coach and you’re not reviewing the film regularly, how do you possibly win games?

You don’t.

Now ask the same question about our business. 

Imagine we instilled a culture of not having all the answers but sharing an obsession to find them… and to always be learning something.

To always be watching game film in order to keep getting better in whatever we do:  from our product quality, technology platform and marketing approach to our leadership style, how we move as a team and how we show up to our customers.  And everything in between.

Wouldn’t that be useful, even powerful?

Because here’s the reality: game film never lies.

It’s there on the screen.

And it shows who we really are.

So, ask yourself:

  1. Are you instilling the mindset of always learning something?
  2. Are you watching your own game film?
  3. What’s it telling you?

~ Craig