Four Life Lessons from American Football

Sean just sent me a timely guest post that discusses what you can learn from American football.  It’s a great read and makes me miss watching my beloved Giants.  I think Sean’s got a number of interesting points here…even though he roots for my most hated team 🙂

“Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport – dancing is a contact sport.”
–Vince Lombardi

Well it is finally football season!  Here in Texas, football is more religion than sport.  Communities rally around the high school football teams like they were armies going into battle!  So I thought I would pay a bit of homage to the sport by relating some life lessons learned from playing and coaching the game.

It is Going to Hurt

If you play football, you are going to get hurt.  It might not be a bad career ending injury, but with football comes pain.  The same goes with life.

It doesn’t matter who you are, you are going to have some pain in your life.  It might be a failed relationship, a lost job, or a lost love one, but there will be pain.

The thing you have to remember is that most of these pains are no career ending pains just as in football.

You have to move past these pains and keep moving forward.  Learn from them, if there is a lesson to be learned, and move on.  Remember, it is not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up!

There is no ‘I’ in Team

In football, success does not happen if everyone does not do their job.  If the center doesn’t get the ball to the quarterback he can’t get it to the backs to make the play.  If the line doesn’t block the quarterback will get clobbered.  It is the same in life; you can’t be a success going it alone.  You need the support and expertise of others if your journey through life is going to be successful.  Seek out relationships with others rather than shunning them.  You will be able to reach much greater heights by standing on someone’s shoulders!

Having the Right Coach is Important

Even the best athletes need coaches.  The same goes with life.  A coach doesn’t have to be a professional, (although it wouldn’t hurt!) a coach can just be someone who is interested in seeing you succeed.  A person looking at you from the outside can see a lot of areas that need improvement that you might not see.  How else can you explain how a coach, who is obviously not as talented as the athlete, can improve an elite athletes performance?  Coaches provide feedback on areas that you aren’t aware need improvement.  Seek out a coach or mentor, and watch your success soar!

You Have Give it Your All

In football, as with any sport, you have to give it your all.  You have to go out there every play and give 100% every single time.  You should be doing the same with life.  You get one chance at life, so why not make that chance count?  If you wake up in the morning and go full speed, at the end of the day you will be able to feel like the day was a success.  This doesn’t only apply to work, it applies to every area.  If you are spending time with your love ones, be present, don’t have your nose buried in your Blackberry, give them 100%.  If you do your best at everything you attempt, no one can ask for more.  Remember, it isn’t the things we do that we regret the most, it is the things we did not do.

There you have it, so go out there and attack life!  I will leave you the same way we started, with a great quote from one of the greatest football coaches ever.  I almost forgot, Go Cowboys!

“Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.”

–Vince Lomabardi

Steve’s Note: When he is not flying around the world securing complex computing systems, Sean Mathena runs Find Your Peak where he helps people to achieve peak performance in every area of their life.  Let him help you improve your life by visiting You can also find him on Twitter @findyourpeak and Facebook by searching for Find Your Peak!

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30 thoughts on “Four Life Lessons from American Football”

  1. Hi Steve:

    Great post for everyone to learn lesson. The lessons you have mentioned really apply in many aspects of life.

    Thanks for a reminder, so we all may do better. I like the last one most. You have to give it all you have. I really do that.

    Have a good one

    Fran Aslam

    • Thanks for the kind words! I think the last one is the key, you can’t approach anything half way and expect to get stellar results, you definitely have to give it your all.

  2. Hi Sean,

    I enjoyed the parallel between football and life. As you noted being hurt is unavoidable but when you can accept this fact suffering becomes optional.

    Actually I agree with everything you said….until the last sentence 😉

    Thanks for sharing the cool analogy 🙂


    • Thanks Ryan!

      That is a great point! I think most of the pain associated with the troubles in life come from the unexpectedness (is this even a word?) of the events.

      I knew that last sentence might not go over real well…:)


  3. It’s actually quite interesting that you bring up the coach aspect because just the other day my boss was telling me the same.

    I think, being young, we resist the idea of a coach because:

    1. We don’t understand the need for one
    2. We’re often thick headed

    But after hearing what you (and my boss) said about it; it makes total sense. Even the best athletes need a coach because they’re the ones that can go “you did this a little off, try this”. That type of coaching can go a long way in any area of life.

    I don’t watch much football but I love the environment – all the energy when you and your friends get together for a game. Thanks for looking into this deeper, Sean.

    Oh, and just for giggles -> go browns! Yeah, that’s right. One day…they will upset everyone.

    • I am a little embarrassed about throwing a “go Giants” in after the thrashing they got last weekend.

      Both you and Sean make great points about a coach. Even if a coaches level of knowledge is similar to yours (though they are usually greater) They are outside looking in. It is much easier to see mistakes from that viewpoint. It is difficult maybe even impossible for people to see all of the little errors and wrong turns they make on their own.

      It is not only what they know but how they can see it.

    • Yep, once you realize people like Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps have coaches it is hard to reason out why everyone shouldn’t have one.

      I think the Browns are going to surprise people one day…someday.

  4. Life and football definitely have a lot of similarities. I’ll add a few:

    1. It’s all about executing, 1 play at a time.
    It doesn’t matter if you threw an interception 3 times in 1 game, you have to forget it, and focus on the next play.

    2. It’s all about winning the dirty battles.
    The Q-back always gets all the credit when games are won, but the O-line is what wins games. The same can be said for achieving goals such as mastering a foreign language. It requires daily listening and practice, and things that may not seem very sexy.

    • You make some great additional points!

      1. Similar to zero based thinking. You need to start every over with no preconceptions of failure or you are doomed to fail.

      2. I absolutely agree about the O-line. They are often the unsung “blue collar” heroes of offence. Getting down and doing what needs to be done, even the stuff that isn’t flashy or pretty is very important.

      (or hiring a a fast and agile 350 pound guy to do it for you)

    • Excellent points! I wish all kids playing football would get your second point. My son plays center, and he is always saying he wished he would get the glory the QB does. I try to tell him if it wasn’t for him, the QB would never get the ball in the first place!

      Thanks for the comment!


  5. A little bit lost on me in place as an immigrant I’m trying to learn about football, but completely agree about the benefit of a coach. I had one for a few years and it was a great experience.

  6. Hey Steve,

    Great relationship. If your going to play the game be ready for the losses and the victory. The best thing to do is to go in with a strategy and tweak it as you go, until your on the winning side.

  7. Great points, Sean! Nice to see another Texan on here. 🙂

    I am lucky to have my husband coach me on a lot of business issues, and I do the same back for him. You can get so immersed in the day-to-day that you lose the big picture.

    Just as a coincidence, I have a friend who played professional football many years ago. He was not the fastest or the biggest, but he made plays because he was mentally tougher than the other guy and never gave up. I think you can apply that to life too.

    • Yep, I agree. It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog! Having the toughness and internal drive will always dominate someone who is more talented but has not will to win.

  8. Love your point about coaching Sean (maybe that’s because I’m a coach lol)

    It’s really important for some people to work with a coach to get the best results. It doesn’t suit everyone.

    The real power of a coach comes from their ability to look at the whole situation and suggest strategies to produce results. It’s hard to see the problems when you’re in the game isn’t it?

    Go Seahawks!

  9. Just stumbled onto this article.. a bit late to the party, I know I know..

    But I would add a 5th point – You can’t improve your game (life) without practice. You can read all the literature and how-to guides in the world, and you can talk to your coach and mentor all day everyday, but until you actually go out and apply what you’ve learned and practice it, you won’t improve.

    The Lombardi quote kinda touches on it, but not exactly.

    Anyway thanks for the read.

  10. This is a great article.
    I’ve currently been looking for clear and concise blogs and articles that articulate lessons from professional contact sports like football and show how we can apply them to other areas of our life, including entrepreneurship and business.

    As I go deeper into my Internet Marketing & Digital Publishing business… I wondered what my strengthened interest in the NFL indicated in terms of my relationship with personal development. I guess intuitively, those very things that kindled an intensified interest were mulling below the surface, and are now fully confirmed!

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