Coaching with conviction: Vince Lombardi's extraordinary success as the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers demonstrates the dramatic difference principle-based leadership can make.
On December 31, 1967, it was 13 degrees below zero with a wind chill wind chill, the cooling effect of wind and temperature combined, expressed in terms of the effect produced by a lower, windless temperature, also called wind chill factor, wind chill temperature, wind chill equivalent temperature, wind chill index, wind chill of minus 46 in Green Bay, Wisconsin Green Bay is the county seat of Brown County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin.
The city is located at the head of its namesake Green Bay, a sub-basin of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Fox River. . Despite the weather, two football teams prepared to face each other on the frozen expanse of Lambeau Field • • [ . The team from Texas, the fearsome Dallas Cowboys
An investor who decides not to invest due to market uncertainty.
on the sidelines
Of or relating to investors who, having assessed the market, have decided to avoid committing their funds. of the football field and, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Green Bay Packer fullback Chuck Mercein Charles Schley Mercein (born April 9, 1943 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) is a former professional American football running back in the NFL for six seasons for the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins and New York Jets. , "looked like earthmen on Mars." Unlike the Cowboys, the players on the Green Bay sideline were accustomed to the harsh Wisconsin climate. But even they were surprised by the unexpectedly brutal arctic conditions. "It's just too cold to play," Willie Wood Willie Wood is the name of:
Despite the weather, kickoff came as scheduled. One would think that the Cowboys couldn't stand a chance against a team that was hardened to winter weather conditions. But according to David Maraniss David Maraniss (1949- ) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. As a reporter for the Washington Post he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about the life and career of candidate Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign for the U.S. presidency. , author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, even Packer players proved susceptible to the cold. Bart Starr Bryan Bartlett Starr (born January 9, 1934 in Montgomery, Alabama) is a former professional American football player and coach. Wearing #15, he was the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers (1956-1971) and the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. , the Packers' quarterback, fumbled the football right before halftime, owing to owing to
Because of; on account of: I couldn't attend, owing to illness.
owing to prep → debido a, por causa de numbness in his hands. By halftime, the Packer lead was a slim 14-10.
When play resumed, the teams found themselves locked in a stalemate, unable to overcome either the weather or opposing defenses. It was brutal combat on a frozen field of battle. Fingers froze and feet were numb and injuries were an ever present danger as giant men in football armor sought to drive each other into the frozen ground of Lambeau Field. Even the referees suffered. "Bill Schliebaum, the line judge," writes Maraniss, "had his whistle freeze to his lips and lost a layer of skin yanking it loose."
As the icy contest drew to a close, the Packers found themselves behind. A touchdown had given the Cowboys a 17-14 lead. Nevertheless, with 16 seconds remaining, the Green Bay Packers had something the opposing players did not have: the teachings and inspiration of their head coach, Vince Lombardi, a famously stubborn perfectionist per·fec·tion·ism
1. A propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.
2. , disciplinarian dis·ci·pli·nar·i·an
One that enforces or believes in strict discipline.
a person who practises strict discipline
Noun 1. , and leader. Lombardi's uncompromising values and teachings were never so apparent as during that 1967 "Ice Bowl" game.
Under Lombardi's tutelage TUTELAGE. State of guardianship; the condition of one who is subject to the control of a guardian. , the Packers had learned never to give in. They would not give up now. As time ran down, the Packers' offense confidently and methodically marched down the field, the cleats of the linemen clicking and clacking with every hard-fought step on the frozen turf. With only enough time for one last play, Bart Starr stood on the threshold of victory at the goal line. Across the line of scrimmage line of scrimmage
n. pl. lines of scrimmage Football
Either of two imaginary lines extending across the field parallel to the goal line at the ends of the ball as it rests prior to being snapped and at which each team lines up for , the grimly determined Cowboys prepared to defend their territory one last time. Bending over the center, Starr took the snap, paused, then lunged forward behind his offensive line and fell into the end zone as time expired. Against the forces of nature and against a talented and determined opponent, the Packers and Vince Lombardi had prevailed.
For those watching and for the Packer players themselves, "that final [touchdown] drive, more than anything else, was the perfect expression of Vince Lombardi," wrote Maraniss. "The conditions were miserable, the pressure enormous, and there were no fumbles, no dropped passes, no mistakes.... In his speeches Lombardi talked about character in action, and here it was, in real life." So it appeared to legendary announcer Ray Scott Ray Scott may refer to:
The "Ice Bowl" was a testament to the teachings and life of Vince Lombardi. Over the preceding seasons. Lombardi taught players the values he learned and embraced himself from youth to adulthood. One of the great leaders of the last century, Lombardi taught that a virtuous existence will aid in the ability to triumph over adversity both in football and in life.
Vince and the Virtues
Lombardi will always be remembered for the amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. Packer victory in the Ice Bowl. But he should be remembered not only for his victories on the football field but for the virtues he embodied: prudence, courage, discipline, and justice; and for his ability to teach that these virtues were not only necessary for success on the gridiron, but also were the foundation of the moral life that made him and the players he taught successful.
Lombardi's education in virtue began early. As a child and young adult he frequently attended church services, becoming a faithful Christian. His religious upbringing taught him that patience and repetition were necessary if one were to become a better person. "The church was not some distant institution to be visited once a week, but part of the rhythm of daily life," notes Maraniss. "When his mother baked bread, it was one for the Lombardis, one for the priests, with Vince shuttling down the block between his house and the St. Mark's St. Mark's could refer to:
Vince was devoted to his faith and had a "strong affinity to Catholicism's routine." Throughout his life it was a daily routine for him to drop to his knees and pray. Lombardi's faith was so strong, in fact, that he wanted to pursue the priesthood. He entered a diocesan preparatory seminary, Cathedral Prep, at the age of nine. "The experience brought more discipline to Lombardi's days and instilled in him many rituals he continued into his adult life," notes Maraniss. "He was required to wake before dawn to attend mass at St. Mark's, and his attendance was recorded with X's and O's in a book that the priests checked regularly. Daily mass became a lifelong practice, often cited as evidence of his extraordinary faith.... He was imbued with the notion that success came with faith and obedience to superiors."
Although Lombardi did not pursue the priesthood, his religious habits did not cease. But rather, he preached the importance of a virtuous life, on and off the field. Through the daily ebb and flow the alternate ebb and flood of the tide; often used figuratively.
See also: Ebb of his early religious upbringing, Vince Lombardi learned that, if one wished to better himself, it was prudent to practice regularly and make habitual those things that lead to success.
This understanding of the prudence of regular practice became a singular hallmark of Vince's coaching career. One such memorable image of Vince is during practice sessions. Marking X's and O's on the chalkboard, he would turn and explain that a coach "must be a pedagogue.... He has to pound the lessons into the players by rote rote 1
1. A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension: learn by rote.
2. Mechanical routine. , the same way you teach pupils in the classroom." Although Vince made his plays uncomplicated and required that they be practiced often, football practice was anything but dull: "Even in his repetitive drills he had a way of making the mundane seem important." As Maraniss recalled, "Bart Starr was on the edge of his seat, listening--getting it for the first time. All 'the crap' was gone; this was 'right to the bone,' simple, yet 'so refreshing and exciting,' Starr thought."
Football, Lombardi taught, did not have to be complicated. More important was attention to detail, to careful preparation, and an understanding of the basics, or fundamentals, of the sport. "Fundamentals were the foundation of my father's coaching philosophy," Vince Lombardi, Jr. wrote in his book The Essential Vince Lombardi. "At the ground level, this emphasis on fundamentals means you've got to take care of business, which is the guy lined up on your nose." For coach Lombardi, the fundamentals were truly the fundamentals. Even the simplest matter was worth revisiting, if necessary. "One year, after a difficult game in which the Packers struggled offensively," Lombardi Jr. recalled, coach Lombardi "started his lecture by saying, 'Gentlemen, we're going back to the basics. This is a football.' He was only half joking!" Doing one's best, Lombardi knew, meant getting back to basics whenever necessary.
If it is prudent to always do the best one can, then Lombardi was a very prudent man. As Bart Start, the Green Bay Packers' star quarterback, remembers, "the man is a perfectionist, of course, and he was never satisfied simply by a victory. He always wanted us to play as well as we were capable of playing." Starr recalled a game played against the Jacksonville Cardinals in 1962. The Packers won 41-14 but Vince scolded the offense. "At the time," recalls Starr, "most of us thought he was wrong, he was being overly harsh, but when we got home and saw the movies, they bore him out. We had played lousy." Even though the game ended in a victory, Vince prudently pointed out mistakes, expecting the best performance regardless of the outcome.
When Vince coached football and basketball and taught physics, chemistry, and Latin at St. Cecilia, a parochial high school in Englewood, New Jersey Englewood is a city located in Bergen County, New Jersey. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 26,203.
Englewood was incorporated as a city by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 17, 1899, from portions of Ridgefield Township and the remaining , repetition and clarity were part of his teaching style. "He often spent a week repeating one concept until the slowest student in the class understood," explains Maraniss. "He made the subject clear and succeeded in communicating all the essentials so that all the students could get good grades," said Joe McPartland, a former Lombardi student. "He had a great way of sensing whether you were getting it. He'd say, 'I don't think you really understood that,' and go over it again." He was prudent to ensure all students benefited from his teachings.
Vince Lombardi was a thoroughgoing thor·ough·go·ing
1. Very thorough; complete: thoroughgoing research.
2. Unmitigated; unqualified: a thoroughgoing villain. individualist in·di·vid·u·al·ist
1. One that asserts individuality by independence of thought and action.
2. An advocate of individualism.
in , unafraid of criticism, willing to stand up for what was right, and, if he found himself out of tune with the prevailing culture, willing to courageously defend his apparent anachronisms. He certainly did this on the field. And off the field, too, he let his opinions be known. Wrapped up in football, Vince hardly noticed the growing radicalism of the culture in the 1960s. "As he acknowledged later," author Maraniss notes, "he had been 'so wrapped up' in his own world, in his God and family and especially the Green Bay Packers, that he had not seen it coming, and then 'all of a sudden there it was'--all around him." Vince Lombardi was a standing rebuke to the hippies hippies
1960s “dropouts of American culture” usually identified with very long hair adorned with flowers. [Popular Culture: Misc.]
See : Hair , the protesters, the Communists, and all the other radicals of the time. "All of this was deplored by Lombardi as a dangerous disregard for authority and an abuse of liberty," writes Maraniss. Importantly, Vince Lombardi had the courage to speak out. He said in a speech to business leaders:
I am sure you are disturbed like I am by what seems to be a complete breakdown of law and order and the moral code which is almost beyond belief. Unhappily, our youth, the most gifted segment of our population, the heirs to scientific advances and freedom's breath, the beneficiaries of their elders' sacrifices and achievements, seem, in too large numbers, to have disregard for the law's authority, for its meaning, for its indispensability to their enjoyment of the fullness of life, and have conjoined with certain of their elders, who should know better, to seek a development of a new right, the right to violate the law with impunity. The prevailing sentiment seems to be if you don't like the rule, break it.
Having this courage to take a stand on important issues in public, Lombardi would probably say, stemmed from the practice of the very same virtue on the field. After all, football is a dangerous sport. Each player on each play must face an opponent who, within the rules of the game, will do anything physically possible to obstruct ob·struct
To block or close a body passage so as to hinder or interrupt a flow.
ob·structive adj. his progress. It takes courage on each and every play. It also takes courage to continue forward in the face of adversity. Thus, Vince's insistence on winning was, in fact, an insistence on having the courage to have the will to win. As a result, Lombardi emphasized the point that he didn't want "good losers." "I don't want any good losers around here," Joe McPartland remembered him telling the squad every year. "If you think it's good to be a loser, give the other guy the opportunity. Good losing, he said, was just a way to live with yourself. It's a way to live with defeat."
Success, Lombardi knew, required a dedication to temperance Temperance
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
organization founded to help alcoholics (1934). [Am. Culture: EB, I: 448]
provides protection against drunkenness; February birthstone. , and temperance required a disciplined mind. As coach of the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi insisted on individual and team discipline. Certainly his dedication in his religious beliefs contributed to his view on the matter, but his experience as an assistant coach at West Point confirmed for him the importance of discipline in football. The game on the gridiron is, as is famously said, a game of inches. Consequently, Lombardi learned and later taught that a careful, disciplined approach was a key to success. At West Point Head Coach Colonel Earl H. "Red" Blaik was fanatically insistent on analyzing plays on film, looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. ways to improve his own team while probing for weaknesses in opponents. After hiring Lombardi, he quickly convinced the enthusiastic young coach of the importance of this type of disciplined and detailed preparation. Every movement was scrutinized, including how the upper body was positioned and where the feet were placed.
"It's surprising how many players tipped by the position of their feet, the angle of their body. You could tell whether it was a wedge play, pass play, dive play, sweep," Lombardi said. "You see whether a lineman can be had to the inside. You make notes on paper and put books together on the formations and the personnel." This kind of preparation was revolutionary at the time. "Such comprehensive analysis and adjustment would become routine among football coaches decades later, but it was rare then," Maraniss observed.
As coach of the Green Bay Packers, bringing this kind of dedication to temperance and discipline to a hitherto very lackadaisical lack·a·dai·si·cal
Lacking spirit, liveliness, or interest; languid: "There'll be no time to correct lackadaisical driving techniques after trouble develops" William J. Hampton. and undisciplined team was a major part of the Lombardi program. The great coach, for instance, insisted on strict curfews. Just how strict was brought home for star Packer players Max McGee William Max McGee (July 16, 1932 - October 20, 2007) was a former professional American Football wide receiver who played for the Green Bay Packers from 1954 to 1967. He also served as the team's punter during a few years of his career. and Paul Hornung Paul Vernon Hornung (born December 23, 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky) is a former all-around athlete who played college basketball but is best known as an American football player. during the team's first training camp under Lombardi in 1959. "Vince's rule was that you had to be in bed each night by eleven, with your lights off and your clothes off," Hornung recalled during an interview with former Packer great Jerry Kramer Gerald Louis Kramer (born January 23, 1936, in Jordan, Montana) is a former professional American football player (and author), best remembered for his 11-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers as an offensive lineman. As a 6'3", 250 lb. for the book Lombardi: Winning Is the Only Thing. One night during training camp Hornung and roommate McGee decided to press their luck with regard to the curfew, returning from a night on the town to their room at St. Norbert College History
St. Norbert College was established when Abbot Bernard Pennings, a Dutch immigrant priest from the Premonstratensian abbey of Berne (Netherlands), founded the college to train young men for the priesthood. St. as the clock chimed 11:00. As they walked into their room, "there was Vince, standing in our room, taking bed check," Hornung recalled. Lombardi, famed for his temper, was not happy. "It'll cost you a hundred and fifty each," he told the tardy tar·dy
adj. tar·di·er, tar·di·est
1. Occurring, arriving, acting, or done after the scheduled, expected, or usual time; late.
2. Moving slowly; sluggish. players. "What for?" Hornung asked, thinking they had made it to their rooms on time, if only just barely. "We're in our room." To Lombardi, though, the rule had clearly been violated. "You're supposed to be in bed," he admonished. "That's a hundred and a half," he said again before walking determinedly out of the room.
Hornung also found out, on another occasion, that Lombardi insisted on discipline and temperance in public too. The team was in Chicago the night before a game against the division rival Chicago Bears
1. Lack of discretion; injudiciousness.
2. An indiscreet act or remark.
1. the lack of discretion
2. cost Hornung five hundred dollars.
To Lombardi, discipline and temperance needed to be habits outside of football, in everyday life. According to Vince Lombardi, Jr., the great coach once remarked: "What we do on some great occasion will probably depend on what we are; and what we are will depend on previous years of self-discipline."
At other times, players could not be reformed. In such cases, Lombardi knew he had to make the tough call, for the good of the team, and remove the player who could not, or would not, live up to the Lombardi standard. Cheating and poor sportsmanship in particular raised his ire. According to Maraniss, "When one of Lombardi's defensive backs tripped a receiver in frustration, he immediately yanked him from the game, even though the referees did not see the violation."
Lombardi, though famous for his dedication to temperance and discipline, was no less dedicated to fairness and justice. This dedication was evident in his approach to bigotry. Racism, Lombardi knew, was not only distasteful but in its basic collectivism collectivism
Any of several types of social organization that ascribe central importance to the groups to which individuals belong (e.g., state, nation, ethnic group, or social class). It may be contrasted with individualism. was intrinsically unjust. It would not be tolerated within the Green Bay Packers' organization. "If I ever hear nigger or dago or kike kike
n. Offensive Slang
Used as a disparaging term for a Jew.
Noun 1. or anything like that around here, regardless of who you are, you're through with me," Lombardi warned. "You can't play for me if you have any kind of prejudice." Moreover, under Lombardi, team rules forbade for·bade
A past tense of forbid.
forbade or forbad
the past tense of forbid
forbade forbid players from frequenting businesses that wouldn't serve blacks. Any of the taverns, restaurants, or hotels that wouldn't allow black players into their establishments would be off limits to all team members.
Under Lombardi's leadership, the previously hapless Packers became legendary for their dominance on the gridiron. The team won the NFL NFL
National Football League
NFL (US) n abbr (= National Football League) → Fußball-Nationalliga championship in back-to-back years in 1961 and 1962. The team again won the championship in 1965. After that, the team famously took the first two Super Bowl championships in 1966 and 1967. So successful were Lombardi's Packers teams that the league honored the coach by naming the Super Bowl trophy alter him.
Still, Lombardi's success on the field was, perhaps, exceeded by his impact on those who knew him. He was so respected that players would do almost anything not to disappoint him. Bart Starr, the Packers' famous quarterback, was among those who, even when injured, continued on just so as not to disappoint the coach. "I remember I played an exhibition game against Cleveland with a shoulder separation and, I'll admit it, I played lousy," Starr recalled. "But, jeepers jee·pers
Used to express surprise or annoyance.
[Alteration of Jesus1.] , my shoulder was killing me. And [Lombardi] came up to me during the game and said, 'Good God! You're playing like you're crippled!' And I didn't say a word to him about my shoulder because I had too much respect for him."
Coach Lombardi also overawed o·ver·awe
tr.v. o·ver·awed, o·ver·aw·ing, o·ver·awes
To control or subdue by inspiring awe.
Adj. 1. overawed - overcome by a feeling of awe Jerry Kramer, the Packers' all-pro offensive lineman. "I knew the emotions he aroused in me: Awe, love-hate, respect, gratitude and, certainly, fear. Very few things in life have frightened me, but Vince Lombardi did," Kramer said. "Not physically, of course. I feared his disapproval."
Perhaps the greatest testament to the man who was Vince Lombardi came from legendary NFL player and longtime Monday Night Football “MNF” redirects here. For other uses, see MNF (disambiguation).
Monday Night Football (MNF) is a live television broadcast of the National Football League. announcer Frank Gifford Francis Newton Gifford (born August 16 1930 in Santa Monica, California) is a former American football player and one of the better-known American sports commentators in the latter part of the 20th century who made the transition from an athlete to broadcasting. . "Vinny believes in the Spartan life," Gifford once noted. He believed in total dedication, in getting the job done no matter the time and effort needed. "I saw the movie, Patton," said Gifford, "and it was Vince Lombardi. The situation was different, but the thought was the same: We're here to do a job, and each and every one of us will put everything we've got into getting the job done. That was Vince. Patton believed in reincarnation reincarnation (rē'ĭnkärnā`shən) [Lat.,=taking on flesh again], occupation by the soul of a new body after the death of the former body. . Who knows? Maybe it was Patton who coached the Packers."
The Quotable quot·a·ble
Suitable for or worthy of quoting: a quotable slogan; a quotable pundit.
"I will demand a commitment to excellence and to victory, and that is what life is all about."
"A good leader must be harder on himself than on anyone else. He must first discipline himself before he can discipline others. A man should not ask others to do things he would not have asked himself to do at one time or another in his life."
"American freedom--and I mean freedom, not license--could be lost ... unless the values underlying that freedom are thoroughly understood and embraced by our leaders."
"People do not lack strength, they lack will."
"Mental toughness is many things and is rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly Adv. 1. most importantly - above and beyond all other consideration; "above all, you must be independent"
above all, most especially , it is combined with the perfectly disciplined will, which refuses to give in. It's a state of mind--you could call it 'character in action.'"
"Winning is not a sometime thing here. It is an all-the-time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time."
"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
The Lombardi Effect
Pre-Lombardi Effect Pre-Lombardi YEAR WON LOST TIED 1956 4 8 0 1957 3 9 0 1958 1 10 1 Worst record in Packers history Lombardi Years YEAR WON LOST TIED 1959 7 5 0 First winning season in 12 years 1960 8 4 0 1961 11 3 0 NFL Champions 1962 13 1 0 NFL Champions 1963 11 2 1 1964 8 5 1 1965 10 3 1 NFL Champions 1966 12 2 0 Super Bowl I Champions 1967 9 4 1 Super Bowl II Champions
In 1958 the Green Bay Packers set the standard for failure. That changed with the coming of Lombardi. "I have never been associated with a loser and I don't expect to be now," the great coach told reporters when he took the job as Packers' coach. Arriving in Green Bay in 1959, Lombardi remarked: "We're not just going to start with a clean slate Noun 1. clean slate - an opportunity to start over without prejudice
fresh start, tabula rasa
chance, opportunity - a possibility due to a favorable combination of circumstances; "the holiday gave us the opportunity to visit Washington"; "now is your chance" . We're going to throw the old slate away." Lombardi did just that, turning the formerly hapless team into winners, bringing NFL and then Super Bowl championships to Green Bay--AKA "Titletown, USA"--in five of his nine years as head coach.
Denise L. Behreandt, a native of Wisconsin, is a lifelong Packer fan and admirer of Vince Lombardi.