A Communication Lesson From the NFL

The Globe and Mail newspaper ran an article from The Associated Press on October 4, 2008. There were some interesting coaching tips on player communication from two very successful NFL coaches.Here is most of the article.

RENTON, WASH. — There may be a secret to coaching success in today’s NFL, though it’s one Vince Lombardi would never stand for: empower your players.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was 25-23 in New York with no playoff wins when he arrived for the 2007 training camp in Albany, N.Y., to begin a must-win season. The man renowned for inflexible discipline was concerned over players misunderstanding why he made certain decisions. So he established a leadership council of about a dozen players to deal with internal issues.

Mike Holmgren has had his own players’ committee of about half that size in each of his 10 years with the Seahawks. He also had one from 1992-98 while leading Green Bay. Holmgren won a Super Bowl and went to another with the Packers before moving to Seattle…

Coughlin’s Giants are undefeated and the Super Bowl defending champions.


Players on both teams say the committees enlighten them, unite them, strengthen their teams’ trust.

“It just gives us a chance for you to relate stuff better to your teammates than maybe a coach can,” said all-pro left tackle Walter Jones, a Seahawks committee member. “Not saying you don’t want to hear it from the coach, you are just more comfortable hearing it from a player.

“You build a bond in the locker room. It’s all about respect.”

Added quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, also a committee member: “It makes the players feel they have input.”

Coaches having veterans as their deputies isn’t new in the NFL – or even with the Giants. Bill Parcells used to rely on Harry Carson and George Martin to deliver his intentions and report back on the pulse of New York’s locker room.

But Holmgren and Coughlin have formalized the practice, setting committees and having philosophies on who it should include. Coughlin’s represents older and younger players. Holmgren’s is limited to the captains of the offence, defence and special teams, so it usually includes only established veterans…

Last season, the Giants were 0-2 after routs by Dallas and Green Bay. Fans screamed for Coughlin’s dismissal. Coughlin went to his leadership council and told it there was no other group that he would rather be coaching.

The council relayed the coach’s message. The Giants went on a six-game winning streak en route to shocking the undefeated New England Patriots, one of the biggest upsets in a Super Bowl.

“I think that I’ve communicated better than I have in the past,” Coughlin, 62 and a grandfather, said. “I think I’ve taken the time to do that, attach more significance to that, and been more keenly aware of trying to make everyone understand what’s being done, why it’s being done. And do so with enough advance notice so that there’s time for it to sink in.”

Manning said Coughlin went to his council during New York’s bye last week to inform it he wanted to suspend star receiver Plaxico Burress for that Sunday’s game for missing a team meeting. The quarterback appreciated knowing what was going on.

Coughlin said there was a “very good reaction. The players understood it, they understood why, and they went back to work.”

His last meeting with them was on Monday, apparently over Holmgren wanting to change the way the players review game and practice video.

The 60-year-old has a limit to the give-and-take with his committee.

“I don’t want them coming up to me saying, ‘We want grilled cheese sandwiches on the airplane,’ ” Holmgren said.”We’re talking about things more important

Winning the Stanley Cup with Defense, Leadership, Experience–and Europeans

The 2008 Stanley Cup final round was just great hockey to watch. With so many players from so many different countries, it really shows there is a growing world wide love for the game.

Both teams were great defensively. Most involved in the sport are quite well aware that, to win a championship at any level, a team has to be outstanding defensively. Pittsburgh was very good defensively-Detroit was outstanding.

Leadership from captains Crosby and Lidstrom on down through both rosters was evident every game. And in the process, as Eric Duhatschek pointed out in his June 5,2008 Globe and Mail article, Lidstrom became the first European captain of a Stanley Cup winning team.

“It’s something I’m very proud of,” said Lidstrom, after he received the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman Wednesday night after the Red Wings closed out the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-2 nail-biter, which them the best-of-seven series in six hard-fought games. Playing against a high-octane Penguins’ attack that obliterated three successive Eastern Conference opponents, the Red Wings won their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years with defence, pure and simple. They surrendered just 10 goals in six games, with Lidstrom leading the way.

“The main thing is, we didn’t get rattled,” said Lidstrom. “Experience has a lot to do with that. That gives the whole team some calmness – that we’re not going to panic.”

In the opening period, the Swedish trio of Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Zetterberg killed 93 seconds of a two-man advantage in the first period, an opportunity that could have changed the tone and tenor of the game.

That clean efficient kill demonstrated the Red Wings’ twin trademarks — skill and poise — both of which are embodied in Lidstrom’s play. He doesn’t have Malkin’s “wow” factor; or Sidney Crosby’s, or even Zetterberg’s. He just gets the job done, in the same calm fashion as the rest of his team.

Experience was an advantage Detroit had in the finals and it is what all those super talented young Pittsburgh players gained for the next time.

Can’t wait until next year.