Always Go For It #Leadership

Always Go For It #Leadership


“It’s a philosophy as well as a strategy,” said Kevin Kelly,  head coach of Pulaski Academy, a private high school in Little Rock Arkansas.  I want to state it again and I want you to let it sink in, “It’s a philosophy as well as a strategy.” Coach Kelly has instituted some unconventional wisdom when it comes to football.  Let me lay them out for you: 1) Always go for it on 4th down – never punt, 2) always on-side kick & 3) always go for 2 after scoring a touchdown.


Playing The Odds: Is Coach Kelly crazy? Does he just like to be different just to be different? Nope. Coach Kelly watched a short video based on a study conducted by Dr. Romer, a college professor who performed statistical analysis and determined that consistently going for it on 4th down gives teams a statistical edge.  So, Coach Kelly decided to question other decisions made in the game of football. “Because we’ve always done it that way,” and “Because everyone else does it that way,” weren’t good enough answers.  They made other contrarian decisions that increased the odds of winning. For instance, when the opposing team punts, they don’t use a return man and they don’t try to block the punt. Each of the changes he implemented provided his team with a 3-5% improved chance of winning each football game. If you add up these changes, it gives Pulaski Academy an improved 15% chance of winning.


Does it Work? Since taking on head coaching responsibilities at Pulaski Academy, Coach Kelly has compiled a 138-23 record, winning 4 state championships and playing in another 3 state title games. Not too bad. However, some might say that maybe Coach Kelly is just a great coach and he would have won using a more-conventional approach.  I guess we’ll never know, but it’s hard to argue with this kind of success. Keep in mind that his team won the state championship this year by a score of 38-28. Perhaps that 15% advantage that his team gained was the deciding factor between winning and losing.

The Psychological Edge: In addition to the statistical edge that this approach provides, I believe there is an untold psychological advantage. Imagine that you are on the opposing team’s defense and Pulaski’s offense just scored a touchdown and a two point conversion. The defensive coordinator sits the defense down and starts implementing changes. In his second sentence, he looks to the field and sees that Pulaski just successfully implemented an on-side kick, getting the ball at the 50 yard line. The coach says, “OK boys, get back out there. Let’s go!” I wonder how those players feel going back on the field at that point.  Likewise, if Pulaski scores two or three straight times to begin the game and your offense hasn’t even touched the ball – you might be ready to pack it in. Conversely, how do you think the Pulaski players feel after recovering an on-side kick? I bet these players have an opportunistic and aggressive mindset and never feel out of a game. Momentum, emotion and shock can play huge roles and should not be underestimated.

Why Don’t Others Do It: You tell me. Why don’t people put away money early and often into their retirement plan? Simple math and common sense tells you that by doing so, you will become a millionaire. Why don’t all students do their homework? The answers to all the tests are in the assigned books. It’s no big secret. Studying leads to good grades… good grades leads to college… college leads to great opportunities. When 78% of the world’s millionaires are business owners, why don’t more people start their own business? Why don’t people exercise? Eat healthier? You tell me.

No other high school, college or professional coach is willing to make such changes. No one. Despite the success. Despite the odds. Why?  Just remember that humans are skeptical and thus, reluctant to change. It’s difficult to step out on the ledge and try something new when others are warm inside. For most, comfort wins out over ingenuity; fear wins out over possibility; acceptance wins over individuality.

It’s Not About Football: If you think this blog post is about football, you’re mistaken. This is about leadership and how someone chooses to live their life. Do you think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Ted Turner got where they did by playing it safe? Do you think they were conventional thinkers who just did what other people did?  What about great leaders like Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt or Thomas Jefferson? These are the individuals who broke the mold. They didn’t sit back. They didn’t wait and see. They went for it.

Personal Challenge:  What would it mean if you went for it on 4th down all the time, refusing to punt in life? What if you were willing to give up the assured 1 point and go for 2? What if you played every advantage in everything you did… all the time? No worries of failure! No regrets! No fear of being teased or laughed at for being different!  What would happen if you just went for it and lived life in that fashion? What would your life look like?

Your Turn: Please place your comments below, (2) like and share our Facebook page (character development & leadership) or (3) tweet to @CDandLeadership)

1. Why do you think more coaches don’t use this style of football if it can provide them with statistical advantages?

2. Why doesn’t every student study, do homework and read the assigned readings when they know it will provide them with a statistical advantage in school and life?

3. If you metaphorically  applied this approach (always went for it and never punted to gain a statistical advantage) to your life as a strategy and a philosophy, what would you be doing differently in your life? How would this pay off for you?




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