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Which is More Important: Resiliency v. “Game Control?”

I love college football and a couple of years ago, when I learned that a decision had been made to implement a four-team playoff, I was overjoyed.

As a fan, the move excited me because instead of relying on computers and polls, we’d have an actual committee to evaluate which teams had earned the right to battle for the national title…then let the championship be decided on the field. But as this season has progressed, I’ve lost much of my enthusiasm for that committee because it seems that every week it is announcing a new criteria for what makes a team a top-four candidate.

The latest shift of the goalpost that has really left me perplexed was a statement by Jeff Long, chairman of the committee, that they were judging teams on “game control” (which was a phrase I had NEVER heard before).

Game control, as it was defined by the chairman, is the ability to put your boot on the throat of an opponent and keep it there, to get ahead in a game and stay there. A team will benefit, he said, if it shows dominance from the opening kickoff to the end of regulation.

This comment led to a really interesting conversation between myself and others that I have worked with in journalism over the past few years. The subject: What is the most valuable characteristic in a Great team? Do you want a team that can get out front and maintain “game control,” or would you prefer a resilient team that could come from behind—no matter the circumstances—and continue to win?


[tweetthis url=”http://donyaeger.com///which-is-more-important-resiliency-v-game-control”]Great teams come together when times get tough.[/tweetthis]


Full disclosure: I live in Tallahassee, FL., where I root for the Florida State Seminoles. This year, Florida State—who seemed invincible last season—has not controlled many games by Long’s definition (this might be the understatement of the year!) As a fan, I have to admit that a legitimate criticism is that Florida State seems often to play down to the level of their opponent for parts of games. But they do rally and are currently undefeated (though just last night they were dropped to #4 in this ranking).

One amazing quality of Florida State is the team’s resilience. It doesn’t matter how far behind they fall, they seem to rise up when it matters most. This is applicable to the sports and business worlds alike. When I think of the characteristic that I’d want with the team that I work with, I’d want a team that can take a blow and come back to fight some more. I desire to have the kind of team that can rally when a rally is needed.


[tweetthis url=”http://donyaeger.com///which-is-more-important-resiliency-v-game-control”]Great teams can adapt to win in any situation.[/tweetthis]


Certainly it is more fun as a fan to cheer for a team that is ahead every game. (It certainly is easier on the heart!) But if I were trying to define the characteristics of a team I’d love to build, I’d want one that knew how to win in all circumstances, even when they were down.

As the great philosopher/former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

I don’t know about you, but given the choice between a team that wins from whistle to whistle or one that can come from behind when the stakes are highest, I’d want to be surrounded by teammates who react with fire and determination when they are hit the hardest. I want a team that I know can regroup, and recover to win the game.

Which characteristic do you think is more important in a Great team? Please share with me your opinion. I’d love to hear from you!

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Comments (18)

  • Avatar

    Lloyd Paradiso

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    Sadly, grit has almost become a cliché. But it’s what matters most; in games, in business and in life.

    Some leads are earned, some are given and some are pure luck. But leads don’t always win. What matters is what’s on the board at the end; in games, in business and in life. Winners are those whose resilience has them on top when it’s over. That’s what really counts.

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Lloyd, thank you for sharing such a thought-provoking comment! And I fully agree with you. We must never underestimate grit and the will to win from an driven individual or team!

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    Andy

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    Resiliency is most important. The St. Louis Cardinals have shown this for years under two different managers and with a number of World Series titles under their belt. Finding a way to win has been the key to their success because on paper many times they have been written off from accomplishing what they have as a team.

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    Tom Wilkinson

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    Don–
    Resilience is a critical characteristic of greatness but I’m not sure it’s at the top of the list of characteristics of greatness. You have interviewed more great athletes than I will every meet in my lifetime so I’m not sure I have the credentials to question your opinion.

    That said, I will at least offer my opinion which is, great teams don’t put themselves in a position week after week to have to come back. Great teams don’t have individuals that put their desire for attention ahead of what’s good for their university and teammates. Great teams respect their opponent enough to not fall behind in most games even to unranked teams. If you’re great you understand who you play matters and if you’re supposed to put a team “away” you do so with class and if you know you’ll be in a “dog fight” with a good team you fight with all you have to be victorious.

    The good news for you as a Florida State fan is that your team will likely be in the playoff, assuming they win this week against Georgia Tech. To win a national championship you’ll have two win two games regardless if you go into the tournament as the #1 seed or the #4 seed. So go and win and prove all the naysayers wrong. As a supporter of a team that isn’t even in the conversation any longer it’s difficult for me to feel too bad for the Seminoles.

    I continue to learn from you and appreciate your thought-provoking reflections on leadership and greatness. Keep up the great work!

    Tom Wilkinson

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Tom, I totally agree that there are more characteristics than just those two. It doesn’t really come down to game control or resiliency, and your points are extremely valid. As I wrote, it would be greater to enjoy a second half, at least once this year, where Florida State put a team away. But I was comparing those two characteristics in value and I do think that out of those two characteristics, resiliency is the one I would want in a team. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you.

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    Erik Golbiw

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    FSU should be Top 4, even though I can’t stand them, but, it will be interesting to see what happens when they go up against the tougher competition (face it, the ACC is not a quality conference right now). That said, you need a team that is resilient in business because you are not able to ‘control’ the opponent as much. I agree with your opinion on the business analogy!

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Erik, thank you for your comment. And you are right with your business observation. There are many lessons in sports that we can use in the business world and our personal lives. We just have to look for them.

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    Wanda Sturm

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    Don, I totally agree with you. While I am not a Florida State fan at all and I am a huge proponent of the SEC, it has been strange to me that Alabama came out on top of the rankings. I’m happy as an SEC fan, but find that criteria that values the importance of teamwork and overcoming challenge would be much better in terms of what makes a team number one. I was unhappy with the driving up of the score against A&M that Alabama decided to do; I think giving others a chance to play and gain experience would have been a much better use of the time left in the game. thanks for the opportunity to comment.

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Wanda, I appreciate that you, a SEC fan, are willing to put aside conference allegiances in order to dialogue with me on this topic. I agree, there should be a more consistent criteria for judging the top-four teams. Thanks you for your thoughtful comment!

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    Paul Kennedy

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    Don, I think resiliency is what makes teams great in the end. The team that overcame the most obstacles in the season is usually the strongest because of them.

    Paul K.

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Paul, that’s an awesome observation. A team that can handle adversity, regroup, and overcome all challenges is a great team indeed. We cannot overlook this fact. Thanks for your comment!

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    FSUamb

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    If we’re just talking about this year and the current situation, this statement needs to have a caveat …
    “I don’t know about you, but given the choice between a team that wins from whistle to whistle or one that can come from behind when the stakes are highest …”.

    It should say “… a team that wins [most of the time] …” because there’s NO team that has won from whistle to whistle each and every game. All of the teams everyone loves to praise (and rank ahead of FSU) surely haven’t. If there was one, go ahead and put them in front of an undefeated, come-from-behind FSU team. But all of these ridiculous new statistic categories are just that – ridiculous. Let’s make one that is based on consistency. FSU is nothing but consistent … consistently winning. :)

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      I totally agree! One of the most confusing things with the committee is that their decisions don’t seem to be consistent. We’ll just have to see how the next round of games play out. Thank you for your comment! Go Noles!

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    Ricky Gamble

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    Another great example that defends this point is a high school team in florida . The Suwannee bulldogs are one game away from battling for the state title. Yet as far as their playoff games and some regular season they’ve showed no game control what so ever but found a way in the last minutes to pull ahead and win. If let to a committee they would have been written off weeks ago. Thank you for your point of view on this.

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Ricky, thank you for sharing the story on Suwannee Bulldogs! They are another example of a team that figures out a way to win, no matter the circumstances! We should never underestimate the heart and will to win from a determined team!

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    Greg Petersen

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    Don,
    I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles, and here is my comment. Resiliency in all phases of life is among the greatest of virtues, while control is but a fleeting perception of the Ego, be it individual or collective as is the condition with a team or organization. Consistency in winning, or in achieving success, is defined not by the ability to control, but rather by the ability to adapt, i.e. be resilient!

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    Dave Cranfield

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    Since we’re giving out false choices ;-) … Here’s a question back at you.

    Which team would be viewed as the greatest of all time?

    1995 Nebraska who was behind for 11 minutes the entire season despite playing four teams who finished in the top ten and whose smallest margin of victory was 14 points in a game where it previously was a 35 point lead until the scrubs came in….

    OR

    2014 FSU who found ways to repeatedly be behind inferior teams and had to rely on heroic comebacks?

    • Avatar

      Don Yaeger

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      Hello Dave, and thanks for your comment. First, I don’t think there’s ever a “false choice” when asked to weigh attributes of success. But I will grant you that the 95 Huskers are among the best three college teams I’ve ever seen. That they were able to lead games from start to finish was awesome…but if they had been forced to come back, I’d have found that impressive, too. And remember, every team can only play those on their schedule. The key is to win.

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Don Yaeger

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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