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Football is like LIFE!

Football is like LIFE!
By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

There I was, sitting amongst 94,402 fans at the national championship football game on Monday night in the Rose Bowl, thinking about football. I looked to my left and saw my 11-year old son, Luke, intently watching the game. I looked to my right and saw my 8-year old son, Brady, eating peanuts & Cracker Jacks, and staring up at the Goodyear blimp. And then I looked out onto the field and saw two incredible teams—the Auburn Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles battling it out intensely. Determined to leave it all on the field.

It was then that I thought to myself, “Wow! Football and life. They just go together. Like fathers and sons. Like peanuts and Cracker Jacks.”

This month, I’m going deep with a “9-route” and taking this opportunity to point out 13 ways football is like life. There’s something here for everyone.

1. It takes 11 guys working together to accomplish the goal. And the goal for the offense is to work together to progress the ball past the goal line for 6 points. The job for the 11 guys on defense is to stop the guys who are trying to strategically advance the ball down the field.
Regardless of your industry, organization, or profession, it always takes a team of people working together to produce extraordinary results. Communication, clarity of roles, feedback, and support are all vital to the success of a team.

2. Strategy counts. Like anything in life, when you have a good strategy, you put yourself in a situation to win. If you just show up and play, chances are your team is not going to do well. In this way, football, business and life are all the same.

3. Preparation is the key to success. In football, the more you watch film, study opponents, improve your technique, master your assignments, and know the plan, the better your chances for winning. I like the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning and preparation win the day. Perhaps the best story I can tell on this subject occurred a few years ago. I took my family down to New Orleans to see my long-time client, Drew Brees, play against the Chicago Bears. Drew invited us to come over to the team facility when we arrived late on Friday afternoon, so he could show the kids around.

When we pulled into the Saints facility at about 5 pm on a Friday, two days before the Sunday game, there were only 2 or 3 cars in the entire parking lot. One of them was Drew’s. He was at the facility late studying film, reviewing the playbook, and making final preparations. Everyone else was gone. Drew was studying. It’s these little things that count. Remember, “There is never a traffic jam along the extra mile.”

4. Maximize your talent and potential. It doesn’t matter if it’s football, teaching, coaching, business, or school. Man, you have to maximize your God-given talents. Physically and mentally. Maximizing involves extraordinary sacrifice. It involves tremendous discipline. It requires belief and hard work. And then some.

5. Physical conditioning is paramount to creating greatness. Success in football requires you to be strong, fast, quick, powerful, flexible, and coordinated. Pro athletes need to be dialed into their nutrition, supplementation, massage/bodywork, sleep, and use of other recovery strategies.

It’s no different in life. If you want to be great in your career, you have to be in the best shape of your life. You need to train with the same discipline and work ethic as a pro athlete. I’m not saying you need to jump onto 40” boxes, bench press 300 pounds, or squat 500 pounds for reps. But I am saying you need to devote 45-60 focused minutes per day on fitness, 6x per week, to be your absolute best… in the boardroom, in your business, in your relationships, and in your home life.

6. Gotta have some thoroughbreds on your team. Hey, let’s face it, you need some talent on your team to excel. As motivational speaker Dave Ramsey once said, “Thoroughbreds like hanging out with other thoroughbreds… they don’t like hanging out with donkeys.” But you don’t need a bunch of superstars or renegades. You just need a few game-changers who can elevate an organization. And you hope like the dickens they fit within the chemistry of the club.

7.  Leadership at all levels.  OK, I’ll admit it. I am NOT a huge New England Patriots fan. Not sure why, I’m just not. But interesting enough, I am a huge fan of head coach, Bill Belichick. This guy amazes me. He might be one of the best football coaches of all time. Besides his shear number of wins, I’m amazed how he takes guys who are misfits from all over the league, brings them into his system and culture, and helps them PRO-duce. Belichick’s had some real characters on that team, but you don’t hear a lot of negative press about his athletes (other than Aaron Hernandez).

As a matter of fact, besides Tom Brady, the average football fan in America (outside the Boston/New England area) would be hard-pressed to identify many other starters for this team.

WHY? Leadership. This is the genius of the culture Belichick has created.

Leadership, leadership, leadership. If you want to be great in life or business, you need to be surrounded by great leadership. And you need to be a great leader yourself.

8. You need a great “team” of people around you. In football, if you’re the head coach, you need great assistant coaches. You need a great supporting cast of administrators (owner, GM, player personnel, scouts). You need great strength coaches. You need a great medical team. You need many “good” players who are coachable and ready to be made “great.”

In life, who is the team around you? Do you have a coach? Do you train with a trainer? Who is your accountant? Who is your attorney? Who is your financial advisor? Who is your pastor? Who are the 5 people closest to you? All of these people count when it comes to maximizing success in life.

What you typically find is that most every successful athlete or executive has mentors and/or coaches who have helped them attain success in life. Who is on your team?

Surround yourself with people who empower you, who teach you, and who motivate and inspire you to be your best.

9. Be ready to call an audible. In football, you see the quarterbacks checking and changing plays at the line of scrimmage all the time. This is called an audible. And it’s because they want to run a different play against the defense they see or anticipate.

In life, sometimes we need to call an audible. Sometimes things just aren’t going the way we intend. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying or give up (heck, you never want to “quit” anything mid-season), but sometimes you just have to go in a different direction. So if you feel like you keep banging your head against the same drum over and over again and the tune is not right, maybe it’s time to call an audible and go in a different direction.

10. Overcome adversity. Every team faces adversity. Some big. Some small. But in every game and every season, every team will face some setbacks. I hate to bring up the Indianapolis Colts vs. KC Chiefs game last week (I wanted the Chiefs as I train a few of their guys), but the Colts were down 28 points in the 2nd half. That is some serious adversity in football terms. And through REAL persistence, great plays, and even a bit of “Luck” (pardon the pun), the Colts came roaring back and shocked the Chiefs 45-44.

How about in your life? Facing any challenges? Feel like you’re losing the battle? Stressed or anxious? Facing financial difficulties? Is there a relationship that’s not going the way you hoped? Then go into halftime, regroup, take a few deep breaths, create a new strategy that can get you out of the mess you are in, and then EXECUTE.

11. Eliminate mental errors and mistakes. Turnovers will kill a football team. So will dumb penalties (e.g., unsportsmanlike conduct). So will blown assignments. It takes great focus and attention to play at a championship caliber level.

We all need to focus more. Eliminate chaos. Get organized. Say NO to distractions.

12. Get MO-mentum going in your favor. In football or in any sport for that matter, momentum shifts are huge. You can feel them happen at different times in a ball game. Heck, you probably felt the momentum shift in the 4th quarter of the national championship game when Florida State roared back from a 11-point deficit and ended up winning late in the ball game.

You are going to feel momentum shifts in the NFL playoff games all the way up through the Super Bowl. It’s inevitable. It’s part of the game. And the key is taking advantage of momentum when it’s in your favor and slowing it down or stopping it when it’s going against you.

So how do you get MO-mentum going in your life? You become an action-taker. You become a “driver” and not a “passenger.” You say “YES” to what you do want and “NO” to what you don’t want.

As pastor Miles McPherson from the Rock Church says, “Getting MO-mentum in your life leads to MO-harmony, MO-happiness, MO-money, MO-everything… and not necessarily in that order.”

Get “MO” in your life!

13. Have a deep-seated purpose. What is the purpose of playing the game of football? Or the purpose of a season? While you can argue that it’s about winning championships and accolades, some coaches or organizations are just trying to claw out of the cellar of the league. Or to build character and confidence in players. Or to give kids from economically depressed areas or troubled home-lives hope for the future.

In life, we all need a purpose. I know my purpose is to inspire millions to greatness and create IMPACT everyday. That drives me. That empowers me. That wakes up my spirit every morning to utilize my God-given abilities to do good things in life and make a difference.

But that’s MY purpose. WHAT’S YOURS?

Each of us has been blessed with different gifts. You just have to dig deep to find your gifts, use your gifts, share your gifts, and live your most profound purpose.

You see, football IS like life. Between playing the game for approximately 15 years, being a strength coach/trainer for high-level athletes for 15+ years, and being a fan my whole life, I know this game. And I know what it has taught me about life. Football and life go together. Just like fathers and sons.

So there I was last Monday at the Rose Bowl, watching Auburn and Florida State duke it out for the championship, with my two boys beside me. One munching on peanuts and Cracker Jacks while watching the Goodyear blimp and the cheerleaders. The other intently watching the game he so desperately wants to play in the coming years. There is nothing better than moments like these.

Here’s to the great game of football…

Much love and much IMPACT,


Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally recognized performance coach and trainer, speaker, and author. He is the Lead Training Advisor for Under Armour and has trained hundreds of NFL players and thousands of youth, high school and college football players.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ToddDurkin, on his Facebook Like Page at and on his website at &

You can join his monthly newsletter, the TD Times, that goes out on the 10th of every month by simply visiting and putting in your name/email.

Please feel free to leave your comments on the game of football below in the “Comments” section.

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