This year’s College Football National Championship was a played between Clemson and Alabama, two teams that have dominated the sport for the last decade. Combined, they have won 7 championships since 2009.
On Monday both teams went into the game with a 13-0 record. By some scouts’ estimation, there were 30 future NFL players on the field.
On this night Clemson got the better of the Tide, but to me, the most remarkable takeaway from the game was the culture of consistency that both programs have been able to build in their own way.
The two coaches, Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, couldn’t have more different styles.
Saban is a hardliner that expects nothing but the absolute best from his players and coaches. His communication style is palpably blunt. He is visibly upset for most of the game and praise is hard to come by – even for All-Americans
When recruiting players to come to Alabama he sells them on the fact that his program is a proving ground for the NFL. An ‘if you make it here, you can make it anywhere’ scenario.
It might not be easy and it might not be fun, but follow his process and you will be in the best possible position to have success at the next level. This pitch obviously works as Alabama consistently has the best-recruiting classes in the country as well as the most draftees into the National Football League.
The same goes for coaches. Saban’s coaching tree marks some of the best programs in the country. 15 of his former assistant coaches are now head coaches for programs including Georgia, Oregon, and the Atlanta Falcons.
On the other hand, Dabo takes a more father-figure approach with his program at Clemson. Faith is a centerpiece of their philosophy and the word “family” is talked about in nearly every time a Clemson player is interviewed.
While Clemson produces their fair share of top-5 recruiting classes and NFL talent, his players seem to buy into the program, not just as a stepping stone, but as a foundational piece of their life. Many players, even those projected to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft after their junior season, tend to stick around and come back for their senior season.
Coaches also follow suit. While Alabama’s coaching staff is a revolving door, Clemson is a model of consistency. Many of the coaches have been on staff for over 5 years. This is a powerful recruiting tool for their program as players know who their coaches will be on their first and last day on campus.
While their approaches are very different, there is one trait that both share – consistency. Players know what each of their coaches expects and have completely bought into their ways of teaching and growing young players. This is a powerful leadership lesson.
As a football fan, I’ve always been interested in the games within the games, and I think that the element of consistency is one that is pervasive throughout successful college football teams, Fortune 500 companies, marriages, and friendships.
Being consistent with what you expect and clearly communicating when your expectations aren’t being met in a leadership style that will succeed in almost any role.