play like a champion greg bustin and daughter executive leadership blog

Play Like a Champion

September 8th, 2015  | 

Published in Event

This past weekend, my daughter Jordan and I traveled to South Bend for the Texas – Notre Dame football game.

We’ve had this date circled on our calendar for more than two years. The photo of us was taken before the game started, which was the last time the score was tied. The Longhorns lost to the Fighting Irish in embarrassing fashion, 38 – 3.

I’d heard for years about the term, “Play like a champion today,” and have always associated it with Notre Dame.

Turns out, the phrase was first used nearly 75 years ago by Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson.

Back in the late 1940s, the great Oklahoma Sooners coach had a sign made and posted above the locker room door that the players touched on their way through the tunnel that leads to the field. The tradition continues today, and a portable version of the sign has been created and travels with the team on road games.

In 1986, Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz discovered a photo in a Notre Dame book with the same phrase and asked around about its origins. While no one could remember the origin, Holtz considered the phrase a powerful motivational tool and added it to the other great Notre Dame game day traditions.

Regardless of the origin of the phrase, whether on the field or in the workplace, we are reminded that everyone must give their best if the team expects to win.

To be champions, however, even more is required. In the words of legendary Notre Dame player and coach Knute Rockne, “The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.”

It’s the leader’s job as coach to bring out a person’s best capability and then put them in a position to win.

What steps are you taking to help your colleagues play like a champion?

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, and he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. His fifth leadership book—How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices—examines 52 of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies and debuted in April as the #1 new historical reference book on Amazon.

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