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My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages

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Leadership Posts

Don writes each week about the lessons we can learn from the world of sports
that translate into greatness in business leadership.

What You Can Learn About Momentum From Packers’ Kicker Mason Crosby

When you’re a kicker in the NFL, the job description is pretty straightforward: put the ball between the uprights on field goals and extra points and limit your opponent’s field position on kickoffs.

The simplistic job description for kickers makes them an easy target for sarcasm and derision; after all, while everyone else is sweating through the first half, the kicker is sipping Gatorade on the sidelines, just waiting for his number to be called.

Pretty sweet gig, right?

Except being a kicker in the NFL is NOT easy, a lesson we relearned on Sunday when Mason Crosby, the dynamite kicker for the Green Bay Packers, did something he’s never done before.

He missed four fields and a PAT.

In one game.

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What You Can Learn About Humility From Tiger Woods’ Latest Victory

“I couldn’t have done this without the help of everyone around me.”

Those were the words of Tiger Woods on Sunday evening as he stood, victorious, at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club. At the home of Bobby Jones, Tiger once again found a way to make golf magic happen, shooting a final round 71 to win the 2018 Tour Championship in a thrilling wire-to-wire fashion.

And as he stood there in the setting sun, surrounded by thousands of fans cheering him on, what looked familiar felt brand new. In fact, it was obvious how new things were when Woods, a winner for the first time since 2013, choked back tears as he spoke of the moment and what it meant to him.


From Tiger?

On the golf course?

To quote the late Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out here?”

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Being Worth Following Is More Important Than Talent: My Conversation With Roger Staubach

Maybe the best parts of life as a journalist are those moments when you get to go eye-to-eye with one of your heroes and your “job” is to engage them in conversation.  And if you get to do that “job” at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio the “work” gets even sweeter.

A couple of weeks ago, leadership legend John Maxwell invited me to join him on stage in Canton to interview football legend, Roger Staubach.  We talked about how he went from a kid in Cincinnati, Ohio to a Heisman-trophy winning, two-time Super Bowl winning, Hall-of-Fame quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys.  I loved the entire conversation, but he told one story that really grabbed my attention.

Coming into his senior year of high school, Staubach’s coach wanted him to step up and take the job as the team’s quarterback.  He actually told his coach, "I don't want to be quarterback and you've already got a great quarterback," naming off a kid who was bigger, stronger than him.  The coach looked at him and said, "Yeah, he may be bigger, stronger, he may have been a quarterback before.  But the other boys will follow you."

Roger Staubach will forever be enshrined in Canton, and yet he didn't see himself as quarterback.  He didn’t see a gift that had little to do with arm strength or accuracy.  He told me, "If I didn't listen to that coach, if I had just said, 'No, coach, the other guy is the guy,' first off, I'm not sitting on the stage with you.  My bust is not in the Hall of Fame.  It was because of what the coach saw in me – that people will follow me – that all this has happened."

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Earl Thomas’ One-Finger Salute Raises Questions: What’s A Superstar Worth?

In the aftermath of a broken leg, a middle finger, and one hellacious Tweetstorm, one of the most pressing questions in the NFL this week has to be:

What is the value of a superstar?

That’s the question the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers have been asking themselves since this summer when Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell announced they wouldn’t report to the teams without a new contract or trade.

In the NFL, players have a short shelf life; in many circles, players are thought to physically peak at age 30 and then begin experiencing a steady decline in performance (though 40-somethings Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Adam Vinatieri are doing just fine, thanks).

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How To Handle Young Talent In Your Business: A Lesson From The NFL

The other day I was listening to sports radio and the hosts were arguing about what to do with New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.  Do you throw him in the fire, giving him the starting job from game one of his rookie year?  Do you give the job to an experienced older player and let Darnold sit back and learn?  Each one of them made valid points and could claim history on their side.  They didn’t know it, but each side was arguing for one of the most important tenants in a Journey to Greatness.

One camp says that if you have a rookie quarterback who’s got the skill to be Great someday, teams should let him suffer a few bumps and bruises on the job.  Just let him learn on the fly.  There's no better place to learn than being in the fire.  Right?  Then there's a whole camp of folks who say it’s best if young talent learns from the sidelines for a little bit, so they can patiently observe and ask questions.

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Four Ways To Be Great And Celebrate: Lessons From Chicago Cub David Bote

The other night I saw something incredible. The Chicago Cubs were playing the Washington Nationals and it was the bottom of the 9th, two outs, three men on, with the go-ahead run at bat. The Nationals were up 3-0, and I was about to turn off the game because the Cubs put in David Bote, a 25-year-old rookie who was only playing his 34th professional baseball game, as a pinch hitter.

To my amazement, on a 2-2 count, Bote connected with the ball, sending it sailing towards the center field wall. He knew it was a home run. Unfortunately, in his excitement, Bote committed an unforgivable sin.

He flipped the bat. If you’re not a baseball fan, that means that he didn’t just drop the bat after hitting the ball, he did so with a little pizazz.

Bote broke one of those silly, unwritten rules that seem to plague baseball. To baseball purists, it is disrespectful to flip the bat out of your hand when you hit a home run. Watching the replay and listening to his side of the story, I don’t think Bote meant to be disrespectful. He was just so excited. As he ran around the bases, his arms outstretched in victory, I’m sure it never occurred to him that in less than 12 hours he would be apologizing for his celebration.

A rookie hitting a grand slam to win the game in the 9th inning, with two outs, deserves more than the quiet, staid celebration expected by the purists of the game. It’s a moment kids fantasize about when they’re pretending to be pro ball players in their backyard. It deserves a big celebration because celebrations matter to the morale and culture of a team.

The best teams celebrate their victories.

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About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger - Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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