Translation: One who prudently practices or devotes oneself to the work without attachment
i.e. ‘Karmayoga’, can get rid of both good and bad reactions in this life itself. Therefore, strive
for Yoga i.e. excellence at work.
Let’s try to link this learning with the following story of a football team and its coach,
and try to understand how it helped them.
This story is about America’s National Football League’s (NFL) Football team – ‘Green
Bay Packers’ and its coach. ‘Green Bay Packers’ managed to win only a single match out of
total 12 matches, and was at the last position in the NFL team rankings. In addition, team had
the losing record for last 10 consecutive years. Thus, team was going through a very bad
phase, franchise was seeing the alternative of stirring away from the city and the players were
demotivated. During this difficult phase, in 1959, franchise offered the Head coach position
to Vince Lombardi for this team. At that time Lombardi was associated with one of the top
teams, ‘New York Giants’ as an assistant coach, however, he accepted this challenging task of
coaching & transforming the losing team. But why he would have opted to become the head
coach of such a low ranked team? Why he didn’t continue his association with higher ranked
team ‘New York Giants’? To get these answers, let us briefly discuss about Vince Lombardi
and his coaching career by that time.
During his college days at Fordham University, Lombardi was among the “Seven Blocks
of Granite” – a popular name given for the university team's robust offensive line. After
completing his college, Lombardi started his coaching career at St. Cecilia Catholic School in
Englewood, New Jersey, followed by coaching the team of Fordham University, and then the
Military Academy located at West Point. During all these coaching assignments his teams did
very well and therefore he was looking for a head coach position at NFL level. However, as
mentioned in the book “When Pride Still Mattered : A Life Of Vince Lombardi” by David
Maraniss, Lombardi was refused for the head coaching jobs, and one of the interviewers told
him “you’d better look around and find something else. Because I’m convinced no one is
going to hire an Italian head coach.” He faced such discrimination of being an Italian-American
for most of his life, and at the same time he saw his comparatively less qualified peers getting
the jobs and assignments he deserved. Later, in 1954 he received offer for the position of the
assistant coach for NFL’s “New York Giants” team. The team performed well during his tenure
of five years, including a league title in 1956, but still he was not able to get the head coach
Thus, head coach position offered by the ‘Green Bay Packers’ franchise was something
he was aspiring from years now and also an opportunity to prove & demonstrate his coaching
capabilities, which he cannot deny. But on the other hand, he was also aware that if he failed
in this assignment, he would not get another opportunity.
Lombardi came in to the ‘Green Bay Packers’ team with unmatched passion and in the
very first meeting he clarified his mission:
"Gentlemen we are going to relentlessly chase perfection. Knowing full well we will not
catch it because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it. Because In the
process we will catch excellence. I'm not even remotely interested in being just good."
This speech demonstrates Lombardi’s pursuit of perfection, since he didn’t care about
team’s past performance record or inexperience, but he was focusing on helping his players
to become the best they could possibly be. This resulted in igniting a different level of energy
& confidence in the players, as shared by Bart Starr, his team’sstarting quarterback "I couldn't
even sit in my chair I was so excited!". This followed with the tough practice routine for the
players which was harder, longer and with more intensity than any other team of that times
in the professional football.
Lombardi’s Coaching Principles:
• Focus first on the Fundamentals:
For each year at the beginning of the training camp Lombardi, with football in his hand,
used to begin by telling the team “Gentlemen, this is a football”. He also used to review
basic techniques of blocking and tackling, even though some of his players were best
in the game. Repeating the fundamentals may seems to be boring or less important,
but Lombardi knew that, the will to win was not enough, and to perform at their best,
his players needed to know & believe that they have prepared as thoroughly as
possible to win.
• Emphasizing the Efforts:
Lombardi is often remembered for his three powerful quotes related to efforts:
“Success only precedes work in the dictionary”
“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, its whether you get back up.”
Thus, he always worked on developing the belief of practicing and training hard to
consistently deliver the best performance during the game.
• Leveraging the Love:
Lombardi knew the importance of team and teamwork for improving the overall
performance, and therefore he trained players to play for each other instead of
focusing on the individual glory. As shared by one of the players, “Coach didn’t want
us picking on each other. Instead he wanted us thinking, ‘What can I do to make it
easier for my teammate to help us win the game?’” The question was not, “How can I
look better?” but “What can I contribute to make the team shine?”
Results & Achievements:
In the 1st year of his coaching, ‘Green Bay Packers’ team won 7 matches out of the
total 12, and all other teams were shocked with this kind of radical improvement in the last
ranked team of the previous season. Lombardi was awarded with ‘Coach of the Year’ honours,
for this transformation. Moving ahead, in the 2nd year ‘Green Bay Packers’ amazed everyone
by reaching the finals! In the next 7 years, ‘Green Bay Packers’ team won NFL championship
5 times, something no other team has done in NFL history. These 5 titles included three
continuous titles, from 1965 to 1967. In the year 1967, Lombardi’s beloved alma mater,
Fordham University, awarded him its highest honour, the ‘Insignis Medal’, for being “a great
teacher.” Later in 1969, Lombardi left ‘Green Bay Packers’ and became the head coach of the
new franchise ‘Washington Redskins’, which also registered its first win in the 14 years.
Unfortunately, Lombardi couldn’t continue further as he was diagnosed with an aggressive
form of colon cancer, and died in few months.
As a tribute to this legendary coach, the NFL's Super Bowl trophy was named in his
honour and in 1971 the late coach was also inducted into the ‘Pro Football Hall of Fame’.
Vince Lombardi was truly a football genius. However, it was not his genius that made
him a football legend, but it was his willpower, persistence, honesty & dedication towards his
work, without getting affected by the good or bad results. i.e. ‘Karmayoga’. Since he remained
constant and consistent in his coaching efforts during the challenging period of his coaching
career and even during the best period of his career, when his underdog team won NFL
championship year after year for 5 times. Thus, this practice helped Lombardi in not only
achieving the success, but also prolonging it for several years.
Moreover, Lombardi also proved that, those who not able to reach their dreams are
not always the ones who fail, generally they are the ones who either do not push further and
settle for "good", or those who begin to compromise their principles and make decisions
based on what others are doing, or those who are unwilling to make the hard sacrifices
necessary to achieve excellence. And further the root cause of such failure is getting attached
with the short-term results of the efforts, which further affects subsequent efforts.
Thus, as per ‘Karmayoga’, for the prolonged success it is essential that one completely
devote oneself in the work, without getting affected with the short-term results

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