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Nov. 23, 2021

Jim Tressel: How Inner Satisfaction of Developing People Leads to Winning Championships

Jim Tressel: How Inner Satisfaction of Developing People Leads to Winning Championships

#16. In 2004, I was tasked with building a football program at a brand new high school.  It was my first experience working in a public school, and although I thought I had all the answers as a first-time head coach, I quickly learned that I was not as ready as I had originally thought.  For the first couple of years, I did what “good” programs do - all learned from being a product of Catholic schools.  We had some success with this blueprint, but I knew something was missing. So, in 2009 I evaluated my program, and concluded that a vital component was missing:  we were only training our players to win football games.

As I mentioned, my previous experience as a student, a teacher, and a coach was only at Catholic schools, which had very strong athletic programs. Although these Catholic schools wanted to win on the field, their ultimate mission was to prepare their students for life. Most of which was done through the lens of Catholicism, which obviously wasn’t going to fly at my new public school. So, I had to turn to other resources. Being an English teacher at heart, I read everything I can get my hands, but one book in particular, provided that “aha” moment, The Winners Manual by Jim Tressel.

Coach Tressel was the head football coach at Youngstown State and Ohio State. At the young age of 32, Coach Tressel was hired to turn around the football program at YSU, and he decided that he first needed to teach his players what winning meant - not only on the field, but more importantly in life. So in 1986 he created The Winners Manual that center around guiding his players to be able to answer this important question: “If the game of life ended tonight, would you be a winner?”  

Using The Winners Manual as his foundation, Coach Tressel won over 240 games, 5 national championships, and 7 conference titles in his 25-year head coaching career. More importantly, he helped his players be winners in life.

Currently the President of Youngstown State University, Coach Tressel was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to discuss:

  • Where the idea of The Winners Manual came from
  • How training his athletes to be winners in life translated to winning on the field as well
  • Why it’s important for coaches to separate what they do from who they are
  • And as a special bonus, of course had to get Coach’s thoughts on the CFP and the upcoming OSU/Michigan game

In the Prologue, Coach Tressel states, “It is my sincere hope that this manual will be helpful in your pursuit of excellence; that it will provide important tools you need to succeed; that during difficult times when you feel like giving up, you will leaf through this book and find something refreshing or something that ignites a fire to keep you going” (Tressel XV). Well The Winners Manual has been just that for me and think it can be for you too.

 

Review The "I" in Win on Apple Podcast or my website to let me know what you think of the show. If you want to connect with me to discuss leadership coaching, or even make guest recommendations, best ways through my website or on Twitter (@LukeMertens

Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 16 of The "I" in Win podcast

Coach Tressel:

And then all of a sudden the belief got stronger and, uh seven of the next nine years, we won the big 10 and played for three national championships. and, to this day, I think it's because we built that foundation, that it was going to be more than just about football

Luke:

In 2004, I was tasked with building a football program and a brand new high school. It was my first experience working in a public school. And although I thought I had all the answers the first time I'd coach, I quickly learned I wasn't prepared. For the first couple of years, I did a good programs do. All what I learned from being a product of Catholic schools. We had some success with this blueprint, but I knew something was missing. So in 2009, I evaluated my program and figured out we were only training our players to win football games. As I mentioned my previous experience as a student. A teacher and a coach. Was only at Catholic schools prior to this job. Although these Catholic schools won the win on the field. Their ultimate mission was to prepare their students for life. Most of which was done through the lens of Catholicism, which obviously wasn't going to fly at my new public school. So I had to turn to other resources but one book in particular provided that aha moment. The Winners Manual by Jim Tressel. Coach Tressel was the head football coach at both Youngstown state and Ohio state. At the young age of 32 coach Tressel was hired to turn around the struggling program at Youngstown State. And he decided that he first needed to teach his players what winning meant. Not only on the field, but more importantly in life. So in 1986, he created the winner's manual that centered around answering one important question. If the game of life ended tonight. Would you be a winner? Using the winner's manual as his foundation, coach Tressel won over 240 games, five national championships and seven conference titles during his 25 year head coaching career. More importantly, he helped us players be winners in life. Currently the president of Youngstown state university coach Tressel was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to discuss. Where the idea of the winner's manual came from. How training is athletes to be winners in life, translate it to winning on the field as well. Why it's important for coaches to separate what we do from who we are. And as a special bonus, of course, we had to discuss the college football playoff picture and the upcoming Michigan, Ohio state rivalry game. In the prologue Coach Tressel states, "It is my sincere hope that this manual will be helpful in your pursuit of excellence. That'll provide important tools. You need to succeed. That during difficult times when you feel like giving up, you'll leaf through this book and find something refreshing or something that ignites a fire to keep you going. Well, the winner's manual has been just that for me. And I think it can be for you too. Here's coach Tressel. Welcome. Thanks for listening to another episode of The "I" in Win, and we have an unbelievable guest today, most known for his time, Manning the sidelines at Youngstown state and Ohio state universities. Now president at Youngstown state university. Welcome Mr. Jim Tressel.

Coach Tressel:

How are you doing?

Luke:

I'm doing great coach. It's a, it's an honor to be here and I hope you don't mind me calling you coach. Just know it's all out of offense.

Coach Tressel:

No, that's fine.

Luke:

So let's get a little bit into the moment you knew you wanted to get into education and, and be a coach. I know your dad was a big influence on you.

Coach Tressel:

Yeah, he really was. I was the youngest of three boys and, uh my two older brothers, decided they were going to be educated. I really wasn't sure late in my high school years. And I think it wasn't until my guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do that I started thinking about it. You know, I was typical high school kid involved in football, basketball, baseball, student activities. I worked hard in school, uh, but you know, I, I never really thought much beyond the next. And then when my guidance counselor asked me, well, what is it that, you know, you think you want to do? I said, gosh, I don't know it. And he suggested maybe I go to one of the academies and be an engineer. And I thought, well, I don't even know what an engineer does. I don't know any engineers. I said, well, why do you think I'd do that? And he said, well, because you're good at math. And I said, well, okay. Uh, let me think about. So that's when I started thinking about what is it that I wanted to do. And I started paying more attention. I had always known the impact that my father had on his student athletes and on the community and on the university as a whole. I saw my oldest brother go into the education realm and he, uh at the time was a graduate assistant football coach at Florida. And my next brother was getting ready to go to college and he wanted, he knew he wanted to be an elementary education teacher. And so I started thinking about what is it that I'd like to do. And, and, I kinda decided I was going to be a high school teacher and teach math and, uh coach football and, and, uh live happily ever after. So I went to college and majored in education and, and, uh really enjoyed it. Played football and college for my dad. And, and, uh, so obviously enjoyed that. And, so after I graduated with a degree in education from Baldwin, Wallace college. Everyone told me that, you know, if you're going to go onto high school coaching, it'd be good to get your, uh, master's degree out of the way, because you'll be so busy coaching. And so I thought, well, that's good advice. And so I went to the university of Akron to be a graduate assistant,, and teach in the health and physical education department actually. And after about six or seven months doing that, the head coach, Jim Dennison, who's still one of my great mentors. Offered me a position on the full-time coaching staff. And I had applied for some high school jobs while I was in grad school. I was silly enough to think I was ready to be a head coach. You know, I knew after interviewing a couple of times that that probably wasn't happening. But because I had math education, I had a lot of opportunities. People are always looking for math teachers. But when I was offered that job by Jim Dennison, I thought, well, you know, I don't have a job, so let me try this. And then 37 years later, You know, I was still in the college ranks and now, uh, you know, 11 years later I've gone from the college coaching ranks to the higher ed administration and, enjoyed every day of it.

Luke:

And at its core, this podcast is really about leadership and. There's no important leaders than teachers and coaches of young people. So I know this is a large question, But. if you could kind of break it down to the fundamental values of what makes a great leader in your opinion.

Coach Tressel:

well, I've grown to believe that, sometimes leadership is misunderstood, some people think leadership is a position that you might have a rank, but I've really grown to believe that leadership is really the action that you take to serve others. And that's what the fun of being a teacher is. That's the fun of being a coach. I grew to believe that coaching was the purest form of teaching because when they left your classroom, they really never left your classroom. It was 24 hours a day and I enjoyed, not just teaching them in my case football, but, helping them prepare themselves for the rest of the. And, as you know, every student is different. People come in with many, many different experiences, and there's never a dull moment, with what you might be able to impart what you might be able to get young people to think about. Consider, so again, I've enjoyed this, I think it's my 47th or 48th year, uh, in higher education and. You know, it's just been a joy.

Luke:

Well, I connected with you through your book, the winner's manual. And there's a question in that book that you, I call it kind of a thematic question of if the game of life ended tonight, would you be a winner? And I think that's just an awesome question. One, that, to be transparent with the, I stole stolen used within my own football program. Hope that's okay. But how was that question helped to shape your life?

Coach Tressel:

Well, that question was posed to me. Many many years ago, probably. Gosh, let's see. In 1969. So I guess that's what 52 years ago, when I was at a fellowship of Christian athletes camp and I was going into my junior year of high school, I loved sports. My head coach, Tom Maddie, wanted thought it'd be a good experience for me to go to an FCA camp. And you know, when you're a kid and you want to be the quarterback, you do whatever, the, whatever the coach. And then you see what it's all about. And on the last day we were at that camp, one of my idols happened to be a speaker there. His name was Bobby Richardson. Bobby Richardson was a New York Yankee, second baseman, 10 time all-star world series MVP. I mean, back in those days, uh, baseball really was the national pastors. It was probably more popular than football was at the time. So he was truly a hero. And when he posed that question to all of us, you know, I thought it was profound. I knew all about, uh, the finality of winning and losing a game, highly competitive. I didn't ever apologize for wanting to win. But when he asked about If you would be winner in the game of life that took it to a whole nother level.

Luke:

And let's get into the winner's manual, which, at least my understanding 1986 at Youngstown state was kind of the introduction of the first manual. I think you said it was, You know, maybe about a hundred pages or so what was the motivation behind creating the winner's manual that you felt that you needed to educate your athletes to help guide them? Answer that important question of being winners?

Coach Tressel:

You know, unlike it is today where you're exposed. To coaching and unlimited information on the internet. Back in those days, you had to go out and buy a book and intentionally read it or in my case, when I became a head coach at Youngstown state at a young age, I think I was, I don't know, 32 or 33. I thought to myself, well, now I've got to figure out what I want to do as the head coach. Now I can. I put my signature on the program. I had worked for four wonderful head coaches, Jim Dennison, and Akron and Tom Reed at Miami of Ohio and Dick MacPherson at Syracuse and Earl Bruce at Ohio state. And I picked up so much from all of them, but, I knew that if I was going to be successful, I had to be me and I watched my father all those years. And, and so there were five role models that I could pick and choose what I thought. My capabilities and so I bought a, uh, a sleeve of cassette tapes, I guess they would have been back in those days. And when I was out recruiting, when I first got here to Youngstown state, uh, I would pop those tapes in and listen to them in between stops in high schools and I was in a parking lot. One day. I don't remember which high school it was. And I was listening to a tape on Hayden fry at the time. The great coach at the university of Iowa had great success. And I was listening to his tape and it was talking about how, when he got to Iowa, they were struggling. And so he thought that what he needed to do was he had to create a course on winning because they had. He felt like he had to teach him to win. And I thought, you know, I, I need to create a course on winning, but winning beyond games. Uh, but you know, how can I impact these folks to win in life? So that's when I thought, well, you know, I'm going to create, I don't know what Hayden Fry's course was. I don't know if he had a textbook. I'm not sure, but I thought I'm going to create my course. And so. That first one was probably less than a hundred pages. It was probably 40 or 50 pages. And I began compiling information that I thought would be helpful. Cause you never know which nugget helps, which person, different thoughts speak to people in different ways. And so I started compiling. Just lists and lists of thoughts and quotes and articles and tips and, and everything I could find. And in our winters manual, half of it really at the beginning was just the expectations and the policies and that, uh, kind of the blueprint, but also the other half was hoping to give them some information as they were curious about how they could be successful. I didn't know which piece would touch whom. And then, so over the course of years, as our winners manual got bigger, as I was collecting more things and players would bring me things saying, Hey, I read this somewhere. Uh, I think some of the other guys would, gain something from it. And, and so then all of a sudden, after, you know, decades. Overbearing. And I got to the point where it was four or 500 pages long. And I used to try to thin it out every year. I thought, well, this is just, you know, a little bit too much, and we can't afford to print all these and all that kind of stuff. And then one day in about, oh, I don't know, 2004 or five at Ohio state. Uh, we used the same winner's manual at Youngstown state as we did HIO state. And, I remember thinning it out once. Before we started preseason and I thought, well, I'll take this one out. This one's been in there a long time. I don't know if this one relates to everybody. And, and, uh, I've gotten a lot of things from others to add so I took a few things out and then one day Bobby Carpenter, who ended up being a great player for us first round draft choice. And, he came storming into my office and he said, You took the man in the glass poem out of the winters mag. I said, well, you know, I, I don't remember exactly how I send it out, but, you know, we were getting to 400 and some pages, I didn't think someone would miss a particular page or two or 10 or 12, and he said that was my go-to. Ever since I was a freshman, when I was struggling, when I knew I needed to get re-centered and when I knew I needed to take things into my own hands, he said, you know, you can't take that out. You have to put that back in. And so I went and made a hundred copies of it and handed them out to the guys and told them to add it to their Winners Manual. And it reminded me that you don't know. I had no idea that that was important to. And that one was important to Bobby and Bobby was, uh, he was alive wire. He was going to tell you what was important to him. But he taught me a great lesson don't assume, you know, what's important to someone else. So I learned a lesson there and, and, that's kind of how the winner's manual evolved.

Luke:

Well, that's a great nugget. And I agree with Bobby. That is an awesome poem. Let's talk, going back to 1986. You said you were about 32 years old. You're a young coach. you walk in the room and you're, you're telling these players at Youngstown state that you're going to be about more than winning and here's this winner's manual. How receptive are the players to it?

Coach Tressel:

you know, I think all of us humans are instinctively, willing. But then they want to see some results they want to see, well, how is this helping me? How does it make me feel? Is it really helping me? Is it helping us become a better team? Am I becoming a better player? And so that first year we were at Youngstown state, the first 10 games where we were one to nine and there I was this young guy and didn't know what, I didn't know. Uh, I was doing something brand new. I felt as if, the guys knew that I wanted to do more than win games, but I also knew that they wanted to win games and sorta die. And so it wasn't an easy Trek. But like in life or, or season or a program, sometimes you need a breakthrough. And we were playing in the final game of the year against our rival. The university of Akron, which is 45 minutes away. And they were in our conference. They were eight and two, they were heading to the playoffs and we were one AA, which is now FCS and, and, uh we weren't heading anywhere. And then we had that breakthrough when, and I think as our players had that breakthrough, when it was almost that little bit of proof they needed, I think they want it to believe. I think as they reflected back on the wind, they really felt that part of the strength that we had to overcome a very difficult beginning, uh, was because that it wasn't solely about winning. And I think it, you know, maybe there were a little more willing to hang on because it wasn't simply about their performance. It was about, you know, how could they grow? And, uh you know, so we, we had a, we had a breakthrough and then a lot of good things started happening at Youngstown state, similar situation at Ohio state, you know, I got there and now we're at this big time place. And you know, w what are we talking about? All this other stuff for, you know, I need more X's and O's, we need more of this or that. And, and. We didn't get going very well that first year, you know, there was buy-in but there was slow buy in. There was buy-in with a, well, I'm going to evaluate this to see how this is going to go. But a similar situation happened. We got to the last game of our year was against our rival university of Michigan was, I don't know, ranked third or fourth in the country. We were unranked. I think with the time we were six and four, which at Ohio state, you don't want to be six and four. And, uh, we had that breakthrough win and all of a sudden there was a belief. There was I think a reflection in their minds that, you know what I think we were able to with stain now it was Stan, excuse me, uh the challenges and the, you know, the newspapers and everyone telling us we weren't very good. And the doubt that comes into your mind, I think they felt as if, you know, we were able to withstand that because we were a little deeper than just where are we going to win the big 10 or, or whatever. And we were getting better throughout the year and, uh came up with that win. And then all of a sudden the belief got stronger and, uh seven of the next nine years, we won the big 10 and played for three national championships. and, to this day, I think it's because we built that foundation, that it was going to be more than just about football and, and in recruiting, honestly. We recruited with that, understanding that, Hey, if you come here, we're going to work hard at being great football teams. We're going to be the national champions and so forth, but we're also going to work hard for you to grow as a man.

Luke:

And it's very clear from listening to you that you really believe that the winner's manual and going beyond the field was a big part of your success at both universities. If someone's listened to this and they're, they're doubting right there, they're really wrapped up in X's and O's and feel they do not have the time to invest in our players off. What can be some things to convince them, to say, Hey, look, here's the success I had. And here's the benefit that you're going to have to working on developing people rather than just wins.

Coach Tressel:

no, I think you have to be honest with yourself and, and I know that we get better as we upgraded our tax. We just did. We got better at playing the game? We coached better. We learned more about what the capabilities of our players were, what we should focus on. Uh, I thought whenever I was asked the question, why were your staff so successful? I would always answer that they had that ability to see what our players could do, and that's what we asked them to do. We didn't ask them to do what other people did maybe because we saw it on TV. Or we saw it on a game film and, oh, let's copy that. So I think you'd be kidding yourself if you didn't think that you need to develop your talent, your competencies, there's no doubt. Uh, I think to reach your potential and to have the consistency that you would like to have. To handle the inevitable ups and downs. Cause every year here at Youngstown state, wasn't good. So, you know, I would just say if you believe in building the whole person, the harder you work on that, I think the better your team will be. It doesn't mean it will be perfect. It doesn't mean you win every game. But I think you'll have a much better chance to reach your potential if you make it a much broader approach.

Luke:

And I believe in people. And I like to assume that majority of coaches do get into the profession because they do want to develop the whole. there's the reality of winning and the complexities of winning. So how do you balance the development of young people and developing the whole person with the complexities and demands of winning.

Coach Tressel:

Well, I think there's no question. People expect results and you expect results. Early on in my career, I became a, a constant reader of John wooden. You know, the great basketball coach at UCLA that won 10 national championships or whatever. But if you read deeply into John wooden, never was the word win, ever mentioned. It was reaching your potential. It was being the best you could be. I always felt that. At Ohio state, for sure. We always had capable talent. I don't know if we had necessarily the best talent in the country. We with very capable talent. And I always felt that if we could reach our potential, we would be fine. And I think sometimes if the focus is too much on winning, that becomes a little challenge to you in your efforts to be the best you can. Because being the best you can be, doesn't always mean winning. Some of our best teams in my 25 years as a head coach might not have been, uh, in those 25 years, we went to nine national championship games. There might've been some of those other years that we reached our potential even more than we did in some of those star-studded years, if you will. And, and, uh that's the peace of mind and we copied coach Wooden's definition of success and kind of changed it and made it our own. He used to always say that success is the inner satisfaction and the peace of mind, knowing you did the best you could possibly do that success. We added three words on the end and we said that our definition of success was the inner satisfaction, the peace of mind, knowing we did the best we could possibly do for the group. So I did the best I could do for this team. And if we can maximize every coach doing the best, they can do every player doing the best they can then we were going to have a chance to re to be successful, but society right now only wants to talk about the top two teams, uh, playoffs have kind of done that, honestly. When I was growing up my dad's college teams, he was the head coach for 23 years in college. And, really wasn't until maybe his last 10 or so that there were even playoffs. It was, Hey, you played your schedule. And, you know, if you were in back in those early days, you might have nine games. And it was kind of like, well, if we were five and four, we did, we won more than we lost, you know, and it, and no one talked much about it. Um, my dad's first years at Baldwin Wallace I think his first five years, he probably had as many under 500 as he did over 500. But when he got his program in place and probably grew as a coach, you know, that closer to doing the best he could do, and God has players little further along and maybe it recruited more talent, who knows? Um all of a sudden he took off and had extraordinary years your year after year, but in today's world, Will they let you be? I think his first year he might've been four and five and then he might've been three and six. And it really wasn't until probably his 10th or 11th year that he went on a run. And you know, people look at our time here at Youngstown state and they, you know, they see all those national championship banners, but we didn't want a national championships our fifth year. Uh we had good teams before that, but we didn't do what society was really looking for. You know, they want to know who's number one and that's. Uh, so it's not easy. You have to have a staying power. You have to have the right people that you're working for and that was what was encouraging about my two head coaching situations. My athletic director at Youngstown state was a great competitor. Joe mal, Missouri been a division three head coach. He wanted to win big time, but that wasn't all he wanted. And then when Andy Geiger took me to Ohio state, he took me there for the very reason that he wanted someone to come in and build a whole program and that, yes, we needed to win, but he felt if we built the whole program, we would probably win. And so working for the right people is a decision that you have to make, because if, if you leave it up to society, You're going to have to be in the top one or two teams all the time or, or you're not very good.

Luke:

And if you're a coach that wants to make an impact on people and your mind developed a whole. How do you gauge your success? Obviously, as a football coach, you could look at the scoreboard, wins and losses. Do you have that performance based outcome, but we're talking about something in tangible. So how could listeners gauge that? You know, Hey, you are being successful in your mission of creating personal connections and making better.

Coach Tressel:

Uh, I used to always say we did great things with our players and our student athletes way before we won a national championships. And you have to believe that. Society is going to pat you on the back. When you win the chapter but you have to have that feeling. You have to have that inner satisfaction. And it's not easy and it becomes even harder when you start winning because the expectations, all of a sudden are, if you aren't the national champions, you didn't have a good year. But you, you have to be able to compartmentalize. Here's what we have to do to win more games. But here's what we have to do to be successful with our students. And that one has to override the winning of the games. Again, we did not apologize for wanting to win. I mean, that's, we were, you know, passionately competitive, but it couldn't be the only thing. And if it's the only thing, like I, I was telling Ryan Day, who I think is doing a great job at Ohio state, we were talking one day and I. Bottom line is you can't win enough at Ohio state. It's impossible because if you don't win every game every year, it's not enough. That can't be your measuring sticks. And you know, you have to, you have to believe in what you do now. You got to try to win every game and you gotta be mad when you don't win one. Whatever your capabilities are, but we've certainly with all the exposure athletics has gotten. And especially at young ages, you know, with the use, the old phrase of trophy generation that, you know, everyone thinks you have to have a trophy and so forth. Um you've got to work hard to not fall in and conform to that thinking.

Luke:

Yeah. And to your point, I, I think you can't win enough games anywhere in today's world. Unfortunately, it's, it's really getting tough. And one of my favorites, my favorite quotes from your book is we have to separate who we are from what we do. And that was something that was near and dear to my heart. And I'll be honest with the coach. I struggle with it. Not because I don't believe in it. I believe in a whole. being a coach is a 24 hour, seven day a week job that you just can't turn off. And the reality is, and you know, this better than anyone. Your family is the collateral damage of that. At times you're, you're spending more time with other people's kids than your own. And it's hard to create that separation. And part of me struggled with maybe I can't separate it, maybe. Coach Burton's is really who I am. And, and maybe I can not make that separation. So just talk a little bit about that idea of separating, who you are from, what you do and the struggle of that time. Commitment of coaching.

Coach Tressel:

Yeah. You know, circumstances sometimes have a lot to do with that. See, my father was a coach. He was the head coach. He was the athletic director and he was the head of the physical education department, health and physique in three jobs. He worked crazy hours, but we lived on campus. Our house was in front of the. I could look out the window when I'm going to bed and see his light on, see the projector flickering or whatever. And I got to live it now, Mike children, we didn't live on campus, even though I live on campus now as a president, uh, my kids are grown up and doing their thing. They didn't really get to live it like I did. Therefore they didn't fall in love with. Now they enjoyed it. They loved the bowl games. They loved the championships. They loved to wear their gear and all that, but they didn't fall in love with the depth of it. And none of them are coaching right now. And the thing that I was fortunate, and again, circumstances have a lot to do with it. My kids went K through 12 in the same place. Now college coaches, that doesn't happen. But I happened to be lucky to coach 15 years at the same place and, uh, at the formative times, and because I was in charge, I was the head coach. If there was a orchestra concert, I was gonna make sure we weren't meeting that night. If there was something activity in the school, you know what I said, when the meetings were so I could, I could be there. So I was fortunate, everyone isn't that. Uh, Gary Blackney was a dear friend. He later became a good head coach at bowling green. He's since retired, but he coached a UCLA. And at UCLA, they had to live like an hour and a half from campus because he couldn't afford to live near Westwood. So they'd stay in hotels two nights a week during the season. And then of course, when you went recruiting, you're in hotels three or four nights a week. And, he worked extremely hard to have his family involved in it, but it was harder in that circumstance, but he found a way to have his kids around as much as he could. And, and, and really all you can do is all you can do. And so, you've got to have that belief that it's okay for things not to be perfect. Um, We just had a great speaker at Youngstown state. Her name was St. John, and she's the, uh chief marketing officer at Netflix. And she happened to lose her husband to cancer when her daughter was four years old. So now all of a sudden she goes, he was a big time, a huge job, and she, you know, multi-billion dollar job. And now she's a single mom who still has this big time job coast to coast and she told us the story that, you know what, just the other day. Seven years later after she lost her husband, it's it's time to, for the bake sale at her daughter's school. And she came rolling in as fast as she could, uh, with her cookies that she picked up from Kroger. And she sees all the moms that had baked cookies and had special things. And she said, I have to be okay with, I did the best I could, you know, that my circumstances it's okay. I had to stop at Kroger. And so, uh, you know, having. That inner satisfaction that you're doing the best you can, but you can't trick yourself. And if you're not doing the best you can, you gotta find a way to do it better.

Luke:

well, I think that chase for perfection is the tough part that you alluded to. Right? I mean, we're just especially coaches, we're just so competitive and we want everything to, just to be perfect. And it's hard to relent the control that it's not going to be perfect. So

Coach Tressel:

well, Zoma said, uh, the other night she said, perfection is the enemy of good. Right.

Luke:

Right. on,

Coach Tressel:

And that, that speaks to a coach. Right? Perfection is the enemy of good.

Luke:

Yeah. Th there's no question. And, as we start to wind down, one thing I wanted you to think about is you clearly know why you do what you do, why you got into coaching, why you got into education, but I'm sure there were moments that you've been knocked off. Course. Tell me about what you do to get back in alignment with what your mission and your beliefs and those moments that you lose your why.

Coach Tressel:

Uh, you know, I'm a real believer in that your toughest adversities are your greatest teachers. Some of the worst toughest games we lost, we learned more lessons that propelled us into some great victories later. Same things in your personal life. You're going to have tough times. It's not a matter of if you have. It's when you have them, how are you going to cope with that? Well, it's exactly what you're trying to teach your, your players. You know, everything on the, game's not going to go the way you expected. You're not going to be ahead by 21 points every game. And the game plan is not going to go exactly the way you planned it, because they're going to, you know, they're allowed to try to. So handling adversity to me is one of the great values that sport teaches. And if we learn that value in sport, we can translate that into our personal lives. And, uh, without question, having good mentors and, and being always in a learning mode is important. And I remember one of my mentors telling me one time. Well, actually when we left Ohio, You said, Hey, what is the most devastating thing that you might think has happened that you get, you have to leave your beloved Ohio state. And he said, I'm telling you now your impact in your next chapter is going to be greater than you ever had at Ohio state. If you believe that. And I didn't want to hear that, you know, that didn't make sense to me. Uh, and then, you know, three years later, I'm president of university, which I've never dreamed of doing. And then all of a sudden able to impact on a, on a different scale, but perhaps a grander scale, so, handling adversity is the key to.

Luke:

I know you're a really big reader. What are some professional resources, professional development opportunities You could recommend for listeners who want to be elite leaders?

Coach Tressel:

You know, I think in, in my life,, I would latch on to a, an author. And try to read a breadth of what they wrote, because if you read one thing, you might not even have a context of all they've been through or all that they've learned, all that they can help you learn. So my first author that I, you know, read constantly was Zig Ziglar. He was a guy that, you know, I just thought spoken. Um, John wooden then became the guy that everything that you know, he wrote bout. And, and, I had context with all of his writings that you can see when an author adds a book. What they've done is they've added lessons they've learned and you know, you might love their first book, but then you learn some lessons. That they hadn't even had yet when they wrote their first book. John Maxwell is, is one of the guys that, uh, you know, I'd probably read 20 of his books. Andy Andrews is a guy that I've read a series of his books. So in my particular case, I've probably latched on to authors. Phil Jackson was when I read a lot about when these were the bulls and the Lakers and, and, uh, And what's interesting is when you read from someone else's experiences, someone else's knowledge, whatever, not every bit of it's going to pertain to you, but it's those things that are profound to you that, Hey, that's, that's where I am today. You know, just like when I was listening to Hayden fry, sitting in that parking lot, that's where I am today. I have to create a course on winning and I have to decide what winning means. And so. I think having context to your growth is really important.

Luke:

Well, where I'm at today is unbelievable. Thank you for providing this moment for me. The winner's manual, you sit on your back cover it's with me all the time. I refer back to it all of the time. You motivated me to write my own version of the winner's manual, that I hope my players refer to all the time and the feedback sounds like they do. So thank you so much. I mean, before I let you go, I just have to ask. Your guests at the college final four this year.

Coach Tressel:

Oh boy. You know, I'm kinda like a dinosaur when it comes to football. So I see a little bit on TV, but I'm at our games and so forth. I, uh, I'm not sitting there watching film from teams all over the country, but I would say the Georgia looks good. Uh, and if they can get to the sec championship without a loss, even if they lose, I think they'll still get in because I think their body of work would make that be the case. I think if Alabama wins out, so they would have to get to the championship and probably beat Georgia. Uh, if Georgia gets there, I think those are two of the better teams. I think probably if you had to pick the top three teams that I've seen, I would say Ohio state, Georgia and Alabama, I'm a little bit biased towards Cincinnati, because, uh Luke fickle was on our staff for nine years at Ohio state, uh, when I was nine of my 10 years. And I think he's done a great job. It would be interesting to see if, you know, in the long haul, you know, he has the depth, to get through the 14 playoff. I think if it was a 12 team playoff or something, it would be. For the likes of a Cincinnati, but maybe a 14, uh, plaintiff, cause his team was certainly a good football team and he's a great coach and he's got a great staff. My nephew's his defensive coordinator, so I'm a little biased toward them. So I guess my, for Ohio state, Cincinnati, Georgia, and Alabama.

Luke:

So then what happens if Michigan somehow runs a table beats beats, the Buckeye. And they're in the college playoff, or I know your Ohio through and through. Are you rooting for the big 10 and Michigan net? Since in that situation?

Coach Tressel:

Whew.

Luke:

I know that's a tough one.

Coach Tressel:

That's a hard one, I

Luke:

You may, you maybe can't admit it publicly, but.

Coach Tressel:

and I think the good news is, is, uh, for us is I'm not sure Michigan's ready for Ohio state yet. I think they, I think they're a little better, but, You know, I don't think Michigan has been at their top level since about oh seven, our first six or seven times we played them. They were legit top five team. I think the jury is still out if they're a legit, top 14. But anything can happen in those rival games and, I suppose if they got into the final four, if they were playing Cincinnati, I'd be going for Cincinnati. If they were playing Alabama or Georgia or Oklahoma or someone like that, I guess I could find myself rooting for them. I don't know. I I'd have to find out.

Luke:

Yeah. Yeah. Fair enough. Well, if we learned anything from college football this year, it's that no ranked team is safe, which is really good for college. And uh, what we learned from you today is, is what we should be striving to do as a coach. And that's develop the whole person and really be intentional with that. It has to be more than just X's and O's and something that I wholeheartedly believe. It's why I got into coaching. And I thank you so much for spending this extended time with us and talking through these concepts.

Coach Tressel:

And then the reality that we just talked about, see, we wandered off and we were talking a little bit, like the only thing that matters is the final. And it's easy to do that.

Luke:

Yeah.

Coach Tressel:

And, and I think that's something that we've got, um, I think it's hurt college football a little bit. I mean, it used to be that, Hey, on when we get that sixth win and we were bowl eligible, that was like a celebration. Now you get the six one. You know, so you get the 11th win or something. Uh, we've made it harder on ourselves. So I just think we have to keep things in perspective.

Luke:

I completely agree with you, but unfortunately we tend to not work backwards on these things, right? So it seems like it's only getting more and more intense. And I mean, at the high school level are there they're being treated like their big time college coaches now, and these guys are being fired based on wins and losses. And Yeah. we're losing whack a little bit on this whole thing, but, hopefully guys, such as yourself, maybe. We could a hold firm on our beliefs and influence them a, or move the needle a little bit for someone realize that there's a bigger purpose here. You know, football is just the platform. It's just the stage. And there's a much larger purpose of developing human beings and impacting human beings, which I'm sure you hear about from your players all the time. NFL players are probably calling you all the time. Oh, coach. The impact you had on my life. And that's the side that the fans don't realize that it's so

Coach Tressel:

ever call and talk about the games.

Luke:

Never I'm with you. I've never had a player call me up and say, man, I can't believe we went six and three that year. Never, ever. They bring up the pizza party, the team dinner, something silly to happen in a team meeting when, uh, you know, a kid pass gas or some silly high school thing. And that's my proof of what really matters. But, um, amazingly enough, coach the adults don't see that piece off.

Coach Tressel:

No, but you know, that's, we have to decide, you know, who our audience is.

Luke:

That's right. And we have to be our, our own critic in life. And we have to block out that outside noise as you know him better than anyone coaching at such a such a high level.

Coach Tressel:

Sure.

Luke:

Well, again, thank you so much. It was a, it's an absolute honor to get to talk to ya. And, uh, Besa walked to your penguins and also best of luck to, uh, to your Buckeyes. I'm going to definitely be looking for, for that the rivalry game at the end here in a big tent.

Coach Tressel:

I think we'll be in good shape.

Luke:

All right. Thanks so much, coach.

Coach Tressel:

Thank you.

Luke:

Huge thank you again to coach Tresa who was gracious with his time and brought a great insight. Why coaches need to invest a time to create winners in life. If you haven't read his book, I highly recommend it and linked it in the show notes. It will force you to rethink your process and what the title coach really means. And thanks to you for listening. The growth of the podcast and the positive feedback is humbling. I sincerely hope you're gaining as much value as I am, and that you'll recommend the podcast to someone else who may benefit as well. If you want to connect with me to discuss leadership coaching, or even make guest recommendations, best ways through my website, theiinwin.com or on Twitter (@LukeMertens) and as always remember the more eyes we impact in this world the more everyone wins that's The "I" in Win!

Jim Tressel Profile Photo

Jim Tressel

President, Youngstown State University