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Finish. Or What I Learned from Nick Saban.


I come from a long line of Alabama fans. I grew up watching the Paul Bear Bryant show every Sunday afternoon and can still see the Golden Flake potato chips and Coca-Cola signs hanging behind that hounds-tooth hat as he re-hashed the game.

My husband never watched much college football until he married me. Now he is a fierce a fan as I am.  And both my sons learned to say Roll Tide as we watch every kickoff. (And the mini-turk has a Big Al costume he wears on game day. Precious!)

Our intestinal fortitude as fans was put to the test as we approached the BCS National Championship game this week. LSU was the anointed favorite. We’d already lost to them in a heart-breaking game earlier in the season.  Lots and lots of people didn’t even think we belonged in the game in the first place.

The chips, it seemed, were stacked against us.

While we all nursed queasy stomachs, our formidable leader – the often maligned, fiery-tempered Nick Saban – seemed the relish the challenge. And he held us, and his team steady under extraordinary pressure.

Watching the Crimson Tide literally shut down the team everyone proclaimed to be the best in the land was the stuff of legends.  They never lost focus. They never forgot what they were supposed to do. They conducted themselves with an unruffled class from start to finish.

How did they do this under such immense pressure? I think the announcers hit it when they said again and again  “THAT is the sign of a well-coached team.”

So what was the coaching secret Nick Saban shared with his players to produce such an incredible performance?

Here’s what I heard him say (this is a rough paraphrase): 

“I told them to go out there and finish.”

Finish? Really? That’s all they had to do? Finish?

Then I started thinking about what that actually meant. Here’s what I came up with:

1) Finish what you’ve been practicing to do. You don’t need to learn anything new.

2) Finish each and every play. Even when it looks like things aren’t going as planned. Even when you mess up.

3) Finish each quarter. And then start the next one.

4) Finish the game in way that will make you proud – no matter what the score.

5) Finish the season knowing you played your heart out because you love the game.


What does “Finish” mean to you?


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