So there I was in the back of an Uber, sat in the Boston traffic on my way to Logan airport. Picking up on my British accent, the driver an ex-military guy and ardent New York Giants fan called Luis, asked me what I knew about sports in New England. Taking this as an invitation to talk sport (something I am always happy to do), Luis gave me the low down and in doing so sparked my fascination with the legendary Bill Belichick.
As a Giants fan, I expected Luis to give me all the usual banter about how the Patriots suck and how much worse the teams in Boston are compared to those in his native New York – but I was pleasantly surprised.
The affable Uber man proceeded to explain how instrumental Coach Belichick had been in creating a five-time super bowl winning team.
“The thing is right,” Luis tells me in his thick New York accent “Coach Belichick is the king of man management. His whole career has been about making sure that every player on the roster respects the fact that they are never bigger than the team. If they don’t pull their weight in training, don’t back up their teammates on the field, don’t eat right, sleep right, perform right, then they ain’t gonna make the team. Bill see’s it all. He gets into the psyche of the players, he can tell when they are giving it their all or when they are not 100%. He’s a details guy and it pays off.”
I listened as Luis continued with his impassioned explanation, “…see that’s what the Giants struggle with. We have a team of wannabe superstars, who play for their own personal recognition instead of for the teams. I’m not sure any of our players would cut it under Coach Belichick, not ’cause they aren’t good enough man, but because they don’t have the attitude Coach Belichick demands”.
Bill Belichick sounded like my sort of coach! Like Bill, I believe that it is impossible for one man to carry an entire team, and if they think that they can, then they aren’t worth winning with. When I got back to the U.K. I wanted to find out about the man behind the legend and found that despite him forming a formidable partnership with the second most inspirational man in his career, that it wasn’t all plain sailing…
Born on April 16, 1952, in Nashville Tennessee, Bill was bound for a career in football. His father Steve coached and scouted in college and military football for the best part of 35 years, so football was in his blood. When asked about his greatest influences, Bill wasted no time in naming his father.
Having excelled at University (although strangely, in lacrosse rather than football), Coach Belichick followed in his father’s footsteps from an early age taking his first football coaching role in 1975. Bill spent the next decade working his way through the ranks until in 1985 he took the job that arguably shaped his career.
Bill spent five years at the New York Giants as a Defensive Assistant, where is his talent was recognized by the then Head Coach, Bill Parcells. Parcells made Belichick his assistant and together the two Bills took the Giants to two super bowls together. Coach Belichick used this double winning platform as a spring board for his career and took his first Head Coaching role with the Cleveland Browns in 1991. The spell proved to be a mixed one and he moved on from the Browns in 1995.
During the years between 1996 and 2000, Coach Belichick renewed his partnership with Parcells for a brief stint at the Patriots before a couple of ill-fated years at the Jets. Staying just one day in the Head Coach job, Coach Belichick resigned and not long after took up the post he retains today as Head Coach at the Patriots.
Some 17 years and 5 Super Bowl titles later, Belichick remains at the heart of Robert Kraft’s team where he occupies the unique role as sole overseer of football and team affairs. As a Head Coach, his record speaks for itself at 263-115 and a win percentage of .673. But what is the secret to his success? In one word, leadership – and who better to define the importance of leadership than the man himself:
“Leadership means caring about everything going on in the lives of your people. There are a lot of things that affect what happens on the field that occurs off the field. Players have wives and girlfriends. And they have babies. And they have personal situations. They have parents that are sick. All of it runs in together. Work and life, in other words, are inseparable, and it’s incumbent on leaders to help their people sort through it. “The more you and the organization can help take care of personal situations,” he says, “the smoother the ship runs on the football end.” (Bill Belichick)
I am glad I met Luis. Not only was he a true gentleman but he made me realize how special the Patriots coach and Tennessee boy is.
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