Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blueprint To Build a Championship Team

Florida State University, 2014 BCS Champions

With the conclusion of the National Football League season ending with the Seattle Pigeons vanquishing the record setting Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, a lot of deserved attention was heaped upon that whole team, specifically the defense. Even though I hate that Seattle team with every fiber in my body, I have to give credit where credit is due...the players on that team were amazing and every single one rose to the occasion. But if you think for one second that is the sole reason for Seattle winning the Super Bowl, then you're crazy. If you think Pete Carroll is the sole reason why Seattle took home the Lombardi, then you're crazy. As corny as it sounds, it truly takes a team effort to end the season hoisting a trophy. And this is not specific to football. This whole team effort it takes to win a championship crosses over to all sports and any industry to be honest. Let's take a look at what it takes to win a championship or be successful in any industry.

Eddie DeBartolo, the first owner to not care how much he spent

When we watch sports, we see the players performing. These people, however, are the last pieces of the puzzle. At the top of the organization is an owner. Owners are the ones that write the checks and because of that, everyone in the organization has to answer to him/her. The owners are the ones who set the culture and how the people working for him should present themselves. But another question is how to motivate employees. And it is not a complex question. Look at this past year's champions in the MLB, NFL, and the NBA: the Boston Red Sox, Seattle Pigeons, and the Miami Heat. The thing these three teams have in common is that the owners are willing to spend money. It is easier to do in baseball because there is no salary cap and John Henry of the Red Sox takes advantage of unlimited spending. Boston is annually in the upper echelon of payrolls in the MLB and the results show it. After not winning a world series in 86 years, they have won 3 in the past 10 years. Paul Allen just won his first Super Bowl as owner of Seattle. One of the biggest advantages they had was their stadium and that did not appear out of thin air. Paul Allen had to put money down to build the best home field advantage in American sports today. Obviously winning a championship is not dependent on spending more than everyone else, but you need to pull out the wallet. Look at Micky Arison, owner of the Miami Heat. When they won their first championship back in the 2006, they paid money to bring Shaq in from LA the year before. Then in the famed summer of 2010, they pulled the ultimate coup by bringing in Lebron and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade. This tandem has resulted in 2 championships in the 3 years they have been together. Speaking of bringing these guys together, this brings me to the second most important part of an organization.

Pat Riley, Mafia Don

The next step in building a championship team is having a front office that knows what it wants to do. I mentioned how the owner should be the one to set the culture for the organization and write the checks but that is all they should do. The best owners are seen and not heard. They shake hands and kiss babies but should not be involved in the building of a team. Look at Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. They are the definition of a dysfunctional team because Jerry Jones is trying to wear too many hats. He wants to be the owner, GM, and face of the franchise. There is not enough time in the day for one man to accomplish all of these things successfully. The only owner I can think of who has a large media presence yet is successful is Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. The good thing about Cuban is that he does not get involved with shaping the roster (or it appears so from the outside). He generates interest in his team, back his players no matter what, and leaves the important basketball decisions to those in charge of making those decisions, but I digress. It seems like every team has someone with a different title in charge of the front office. The titles could range from General Manager (GM), Team President, Director of Personnel, Director of Operations, etc. For the sake of simplicity I'm just going to call the person making decisions the decision maker. We could see how the owner and the decision maker work together in order to make their vision work. The owner sets the vision for his brand and the decision maker constructs it and attempts to bring it to fruition. The decision maker brings in free agents, drafts prospects, make trades for players, and decides who gets to come back to the team next year. They are in charge with shaping the team and must select someone to lead this group of athletes to accomplish a goal. That person who is chosen as the leader is known as the coach.

Pete Carroll, sleazeball

The coach and the decision maker must be on the same page in order to bring in the right type of players on to the team. If they are out of sync, then the coach is stuck with a bunch of players he does not want or do not fit the coaching scheme (see Washington Redskins). You better hire a good coach too because a team can have talented players but not get anywhere if there is an incompetent coach leading them (see San Francisco 49ers under Mike Singeltary). Now a coach is the equivalent to your boss in the workplace. There are different ways to be a boss and different ways to coach but we all generally like to have the same qualities from our coaches/bosses. We like them to 1) be knowledgeable. If the people you're supposed to be following is full of it and has no idea what he/she is doing then the workers/players are going to tune them out real quick and lose respect. Number 2 is the ability to motivate. There will be days when people aren't at their best but it is up to the coach to uplift their workers/players and get them to perform the best of their abilities. Number 3 is the ability to be cool in stressful situations. It is often said that players take on the personality of the coach and although it is not a scientific fact, I believe that to be true. If your coach is pacing up and down the sideline in a nervous wreck with two minutes left in the game, how is that supposed to motivate the team. However, if the coach can make smart decisions under stress, that instills confidence in the team to perform at their best. I said earlier that the owner sets the tone for the organization as a whole, but the coach relays that message and sets the tone everyday because he is in contact with the players and his coaching staff every single day.

David Ortiz, 2013 World Series MVP

The last part that makes a team successful is finally, the players. You can't win a championship without good players. We always root for the underdog in sports but there is a reason they are the underdog in the first place, they aren't as good as their opponents. The majority of the time, the team with more talent wins. But it isn't just the individual talent that matters, it is the talent of the team as a whole to fit the scheme that the coach and decision maker has out into place. We just saw it with Seattle that the old saying rings true, "Defense Wins Championships." Denver had a record setting offense being piloted by the greatest regular season quarterback in history but could not do anything against the attacking defense of Seattle. In my opinion, defense is what wins championship in football, basketball, and baseball. Defense always has to rise to the occasion to make a stop. Look at the Super Bowl 47. It was a high scoring game between Baltimore and the 49ers but it came down to a goal line stand (and terrible/unimaginative Greg Roman calls) by Baltimore to seal the Super Bowl. The Miami Heat has LeBron James and Dwyane Wade leading their team but what makes them go is their suffocating defense. The Indiana Pacers are considered the favorites to take home the Larry O'Brian Trophy and that is because they have the defense to stop any team. Defense is the reason why the Chicago Bulls have been in the playoff chase these past two years despite Derrick Rose barely being a part of the team. In baseball, it is easier to prevent runs from scoring than to try and light up the scoreboard. Look at the 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers had the best hitter on the planet in Miguel Cabrera and the best clean up hitter in Prince Fielder but they were stumped time and time again by the Giants pitching staff and great defense, particularly shortstop Brandon Crawford and leftfielder Gregor Blanco. The way you win in sports is by stopping the other team from scoring and that may not be the sexiest strategy but it is the most effective. Defense is the foundation then everything else comes after that. I could go on and on but I think that would be a good spin off article.

It's seems so easy to come up with a championship team that I should just become an adviser or something and lead my team to championship upon championship but you know the politics and stuff. Back to the main point of this post is that, these four groups: owner, front office, coach, and players all have to be in sync with each other in order for the organization to be successful. Look at the past champions in football, basketball, and baseball (I don't know anything about hockey) and tell me I'm not right. If there is a champion that is missing one of the four main ingredients, then there is usually a fluke reason for that. And if you didn't realize it, these four main ingredients cross over into the "normal world" too. I guarantee successful companies like Macy's, DirectTV, and Disneyland have amazing structures which is why they are constants in our society. Start your own business and follow this to become a success and I'll be expecting that 10% of all profits wired into my checking account.

Little Brother feat. Elzhi- Hiding Place

Boldy James- Moochie

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