Bill Belichick

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Patriots Coach Shows Patience

In the 2005 Super Bowl, head coach Bill Belichick led his New England Patriots to win their third Super Bowl in four years, a record that’s never been equaled by another coach. His record of postseason wins beats Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach after whom the Super Bowl trophy is named.

From 2001 to 2005 he’s been recognized for his coaching genius with award after award, including two honorary doctorates, Coach of the Year (Sports Illustrated), 100 Most Powerful & Influential People (Time Magazine), NFL Coach of the Year (Sports Illustrated, Associated Press, The Sporting News,, Terry Bradshaw) AFC Coach of the Year (USA Today).

But notice, those awards were from 2001 to 2005. Before 2001, Belichick wasn’t looking so good. Were it not for Belichick’s patience, he might have quit years ago. You see, he wasn’t always a winning head coach. In his last job as head coach, the only other team he’d served as head coach, he led the Cleveland Browns to four, pitiful, losing seasons (more games lost than won) out of his five seasons with them. No wonder he was fired. And no wonder many Patriot fans couldn’t believe their ears when they heard that this recently fired coach had been hired as their head coach. His first year with the Patriots seemed to confirm their fears. They won 5 games and lost 11.

Here’s how one columnist described him at the time:

“While Belichick is a terrific defensive coordinator, he was a miserable head coach in Cleveland and is too unpredictable. Players want consistency from a coach and they aren't likely to get it from the man one former colleague calls "paranoid and schizophrenic." (Sept., 2000, Football Digest)

Imagine that you were Belichick in the year 2000. Imagine that your recent history was marked by such defeat as a head coach. Imagine you’d been thoroughly humbled in Cleveland by being fired, probably accompanied by a sigh of relief from many players and fans. Wouldn’t you have been tempted to quit? 

Patriot fans are now glad he had the patience and fortitude to learn from his past mistakes and keep coaching, despite the criticism. Following his failures, his next seasons would make him a legend in football, and his team a dynasty. But coach Belichick couldn’t have succeeded without patience. 

Has your "last season" or "last four seasons," consisted of failure after failure? Whether your failures have been in academics, sports, or relationships, don't give up too soon. If you give up, you might just miss out on your greatest season ever. This week, let’s work on our patience. It just might be a key to our success.

For Discussion

1) How did patience pay off for coach Belichick?
2) Why do you think he hung in there rather than quit?
3) How can patience help us? (Enduring friendships, hang in there during difficult classes, not get discouraged when we fail at a sport or vocation.)
4) What can we do to be more patient this week?  

Other Life Lessons from Coach Belichick

            1 – Find something you love. Belichick's fascination with football strategy started when, as a five-year-old, his coach/dad couldn't keep him from analyzing football films. As high schoolers, Belichick and fellow-student Ernie would create football plays and strategies. When you're interested in something, it's much easier to excel. Try different things to see what you enjoy. Take vocational inventories to home in on your interests and talents. Caution: Your interests may change and new talents may emerge over time; so be flexible! 

            2 – Never stop learning. Belichick has an extensive library of football books that he adds to as often as he can. It's said to be one of the largest personal collections of such books in existence. Besides learning from books, he also learns from his teammates, listening to their ideas. 

“The best thing about Bill is if you have an idea, he's always willing to listen if you have some reason and fact behind it,” defensive-backs coach Eric Mangini says. “He is completely open-minded to your ideas.”

He learned personally from mentors, watching legendary coach Paul Brown conduct Summer training.  Finally, he learns from his mistakes. Following his dismal time coaching the Browns, he made a lot of changes in the way he related to the team and his associates. Many can hardly believe he's the same man. If people in mid-life can change, so can you!

             3 – Gather a team. In America, we too often hold up the "self-made man" as an ideal. Most, if not all successful people, gather sharp people around themselves. If you watch Belichick on the sidelines for long, you'll see someone occasionally walk up and whisper something in his ear. That would be Ernie Adams, the guy he made up plays with in high school. Ernie and Belichick's other staff can see things that Belichick misses. In fact, Belichick is known for deflecting the emphasis from himself and putting the spotlight on THE TEAM. He's known, not for recruiting superstars, but recruiting smart team players. Then, he listens to them. 

               4 - Give back to the Community. Wherever Coach Belichick and his wife live, they start a foundation to help others in the community. It's not enough to be successful in a career. Give back to others. It makes life so much more rewarding.

(Here's a more recent story on Bill Belichick, and a chart contrasting his criticisms prior to year 2000 with his glowing reviews after year 2000.)

Stories and principles written by Steve Miller, Copyright February, 2005, at .  Sources: Getting to know the Real Bill Belichick By Richard Scott April, 02; Feb. 1, 2005, by Pete Prisco, Senior Writer; Belichick Fulfilling his Destiny, by Tom Pedulla, USA TODAY; Belichick Solves NFL Puzzle with Analytical Approach, by Wright Thompson, The Kansas City Star, Coach Went to School: Belichick Versed in Ways of Brown, by Bob Ryan, Globe Columnist, January 29, 2005; Belichick Makes New Case for Old Staple: Teamwork, Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 7, 2005, by Mike Mulligan, Staff Reporter; Formula for Success, by Glen Farley, Enterprise Staff Writer.

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