Aim is Not to Win Once

domination leadership development planning sustainable success winning Aug 01, 2022

Do not plan to win one championship, but to win many.

Legacies are built on sustained success.

When I first met Alastair Clarkson, I was a green rookie just starting my first full-time job as a sports scientist and assistant strength coach at Bolton Wanderers football club. He was just starting his coaching career. It was early in the Premier League season and Alastair was visiting for a week to learn what he could from other sports.

Our paths have crossed many times since. “Clarko” had a rare quality that I recognized in a few special coaches like Bill Sweetenham, Alex Ferguson, Jim Gavin, and Pat Howard – a desire to utterly dominate for multiple seasons, not just one game.

It’s a combination of hunger and strategy that is surprisingly rare. An ability to plan with what is referred to in conflict as “the long war.” Many leaders get caught up in focusing on what’s right in front of them, without preserving their focus on the big picture.

You will observe this often in teams who win a big game with great purpose, but stumble against lesser opponents or can’t put together back-to-back winning seasons.

Many of the best leaders focus on building an organization and team that relentlessly dominates with resilience. The rugby league coach Wayne Bennett was probably my best teacher on this point. He might well lose occasion- ally, but the long-term goal and attitude remains intact. Recognizing this quality changed my perspective completely.

My goal has always been to help build an organization/ team that dominates its sport so completely and relentlessly that the governing body has to change a rule to stop us. To get to this level, you need a plan that establishes a defined path to consistent excellence:

  • Rather than saying, “We will win every game,” it focuses on long-term performance

  • It directly identifies the need for a roster and pathway of developing players to continue it

  • It creates an ideal greater than just a coach or player that everyone in the organization could identify with and contribute to

  • It doesn’t change in the face of defeat

  • It personalizes the goal to the people in the organization in a way that makes it become apparent the only real competitor was ourselves



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