Beyond the Build

Team Building

The Catch.

I’m on the Auburn University Research Advisory Board, which meets twice a year. About three weeks ago, we had a chance to visit the athletic facilities, and among several there, I had a conversation with head football coach Gus Malzahn. Beyond the academics, Auburn is similar to other great schools in their athletic programs and the athletes that participate. I was impressed that day by first year head Coach Malzahn, particularly his attention to discipline, the details, work ethic and commitment required by each of his players.

In the weeks following, I have thought a lot about that afternoon. To me, in many ways, an athlete’s commitment to hard work parallels business. How many of us have seen people who start out at home plate, get to 1st base, and then wish to run straight to 3rd, skipping the two legs in between? What about the bright people in our lives who spend all of their time conniving how to get ahead, but never get there? Just solid effort would allow them to accomplish their goals with a greater degree of success.

Sure, we’ve all seen people who were successful because of  “a rising tide” and others who have backed into it, but for most of us, it’s about preparation, discipline, the details and work ethic–routinely, routinely, routinely. Then, if we’re fortunate, we’ll catch some breaks along the way and we will be successful.

Last Saturday evening, I watched two great football teams battle it out for 60 minutes. There were fine players on both teams, and I have many friends from both schools. I wish they both could have won, but that’s not the way it is in football.

During the last 30 seconds, an unbelievable play occurred.

Cool trick shot from TheAuburner on Vimeo.

This unprecedented catch happened because 2 players and their 9 teammates had worked hard on preparation, being disciplined and focusing on the details necessary to be successful. They possessed the attitude first spoken some 60 years ago, “Never, never, never give up.” While these words were articulated during the darkest hours, I have thought about them during my darkest days.

While last Saturday evening was a game of many that will occur this fall, I will never forget being there and watching “The catch.”  Maybe some lessons learned from these young man on that field that evening.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.