By Ernie Palladino
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Here's one thing you can depend on. When Tom Coughlin sits down to write a book, it's not going to be the same old boring sports autobiography.
"Earn the Right To Win: How Success in Any Field Starts With Superior Preparation" drops March 5. Between its covers you'll indeed find Coughlin's story, but not in the typical "I was born in Waterloo, NY" kind of way. This is really a self-help book for the working man, a plan to help those willing to make the sacrifices rise through their organizations, and for those at the top of those companies to make their businesses more efficient.
Is it any surprise, then, that the always-focused, fanatically systematized Coughlin would have authored such a book? This is a man who has little patience for waxing sentimental over past achievement. Instead, he busies himself daily with methods and ideas to make the next year more successful than the last. Not that it always works out that way, but it isn't because of any lack of effort on his part.
But this is far from Coughlin pontificating to the masses. It's rather an explanation of the concepts that have made him a winning coach year in, year out. That's where the autobiography part comes in. As he explains his system, he also takes us through his personal transformation; lets us know how he started as an iron-fisted taskmaster as he started programs at Rochester Institute of Technology and the Jacksonville Jaguars, revived programs at Boston College and the Giants, and then softened by necessity after the tumult of 2006 when those methods didn't work anymore.
We see a man who altered himself to become more receptive to the needs of his players while maintaining his core beliefs in preparation, punctuality, professionalism and hard work.
Coughlin uses football anecdotes to highlight his chapters on building a structure, scheduling time, paying attention to detail, communicating, motivating, and finally getting into the habit of working hard. Though they come from the locker room and the playing field, the philosophies apply directly to the workaday world.
For instance, Coughlin relates his season of 2003, the season between his firing in Jacksonville and his 2004 hiring with the Giants, as an example of spending his time wisely. Instead of enjoying the beach in Jacksonville, which he could well have done, he wound up at the NFL Combine in his usual spot at the finish line of the 40-yard dash. Armed with his usual mound of notebooks, he eyed the prospects as if he was preparing for the draft himself. Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi happened to spot him and asked him what he was doing there; he didn't have a team. Coughlin responded, "I will, though!"
Coughlin remained prepared, and when the Giants came calling the next season, he wowed them in the interview. The lesson: Always remain prepared. Don't sit idle. Do what you can to gain knowledge because you never know when your next opportunity is going to present itself.
He also talked about the importance of bosses listening to their employees. He and Michael Strahan were as far apart philosophically as the U.S. and China are geographically in 2004. In fact, Strahan nearly retired after that season over his differences with the coach. Eventually, and because of one conversation in particular where Strahan told Coughlin directly, "You're losing this team! Do you hear me now?" the coach actually started listening to his Pro Bowl defensive end.
It's significant that none other than Michael Strahan wrote the Foreword, proclaiming at the end that looking back, he'd play for Coughlin any day.
Quotes from Coughlin's heroes such as late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, Gen. George Patton, and Andy Rooney work their way through the book. These are Coughlin's teachers, his influences.
The best thing is, one need not have won two Super Bowls to put Coughlin's lessons into practice. The drive to better oneself, the determination to succeed, and the willingness to adjust is all that is needed to make "Earn the Right To Win" a worthwhile read.
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