Home > Business, Inspiration, Leadership, Motivation, News, Self Help, Success > Who are you competing against? Part 2 of 2

Who are you competing against? Part 2 of 2

Yesterday I talked about my time as an ROTC Range Challenge coach and the parallels between knowing yourself and your company before you can focus on competition. You can read about it here.  Today I’ll finish my story about the relationship between you and your competitors.

Knowing who is the best helps focus your team.  In this case, Ohio State University Army ROTC was the reigning champion.  They had unbelievable Cadets at that University.  Their Cadet Corps was well over 200 strong.  They would field two nine-person teams year after year.  The “A” team would win the competition and the “B” team would finish in the top ten or better.  They cross trained with the football team and had vast resources and a proven winning culture.  They were unbeatable!  I have a lot of respect for those Cadets and their leadership who trained them. 

Our goal was to beat them. 

It can take years to accomplish your goal


The second year of the competition was another fantastic building block.  The young team members learned from the Seniors.   They were emboldened by the 6th place finish and trained hard.  They pushed themselves.  I only needed to provide minor course corrections the second year.  The new Team Captain monitored and motivated his team members.  They were a well oiled machine.  When the 24 hour competition was over they had improved from 6th to 3rd.  This year we earned a trophy.  The third place trophy validated our training approach and focus.  The team only had one misstep the hand grenade assault course.  Had they finished in the middle of the pack we would have won by a land slide.  But we finished dead last int hat event.  It was amazing that we were still able to finish in third place!   We were able to pin point the flaw in order to fix it.  We would keep the same training regiment for the other nine events  as those seemed to work giving us a real shot to win it all the next year.

The funny thing about expectations is that it’s easy to fall short.  I write a lot (as you can see) and I can whip up some tall tales.  Expectations and projections are the same.  They are based on evidence but they are just best guess.  They are essential to the growth process.  We have to dream a little and shoot for the stars but you must believe that you can and achieve that goal. 

Three years of hard work

In my final year as a coach, the Seniors were fully in charge and ready to lead.  Two of the Seniors were the members of the 26th place team four short years ago.  Now they were looked to as leaders and seasoned veterans of the competition. 

We had a set back, one week before the competition.  One of the Juniors who was a key team member was injured.  He played a vital role in a couple of  events.  Trying to replace him at this stage of the training would have been rough.  Plus we didn’t want to risk further injury.  After some doctors appointments and a lot of rest, he was cleared to participate.  The path to greatness always has it’s bumps in the road. 

It was a beautiful October day.  After the first two events we were performing at the expected level.  A very high level, almost flawlessly.  After each event we could feel the momentum growing.  I paced all day like an expectant father in a delivery room watching and waiting for results.  I timed the events and mentally tracked the team’s progress through each event.  So far so good.  I also saw a lot of smiles along the way too.  Knowing all along that the team was confident in their skills and abilities.  They were having fun.

We had one mental mistake late in the day.  One two-man team failed to return on time during a land navigation round.  This was a bad mental error.  This was an inconceivable mistake because the way we had trained should have protected against this kind of mistake.  One person’s job was simply to watch the time and ensure they weren’t late.  Ooops.  Mistakes happen.  We brushed it off.  We finished 7th in that event.  Our lowest of the day.

I had an eye on the scoreboard throughout the competition.  I saw that the Ohio State team was having an amazing day.  They seemed to be winning every other event.  So were we though.  It was a really close two-horse race, third place was not even in sight. 

We eventually did win.  The second place team, OSU, would have won any other year with the score that they had earned but we were better that day.  The multi-year journey from worst to first taught me a lot as a leader and coach.  I’m not sure who learned more, the Cadets or me.

The goals, hard work and determination had paid off in the end.  We were able to recover from our setbacks and defeat opponents who had better facilities, more funding and a large pool of personnel to choose from.

Our competition was Ohio State.  We wanted to beat them because they were the best.  But we were also competing against ourselves.  The team started to believe in themselves and their abilities.  They knew that if they could perform to the high standards that they had set, they would be unstoppable.  The real competition was against the tasks themselves.  Let’s be honest, when you focus a highly trained team on a goal and they are motivated to accomplish that goal no one can stop them. 

Is your team focused?

  1. ChrisT
    February 22, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Interesting that the second year only required minor course corrections from you and the new team captain took the lead from there.

    Some who believe themselves to be leaders seem to need the limelight a bit too much.

    Leaders making leaders. Pass it on. Pretty sure that’s the way it should be!

  2. February 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I couldn’t do everything. I can’t run six miles everyday for each of them. They have to be intrinsically motivated to put in the work. They have to believe in the process and in themselves.

    I just got out of the way once the ball started rolling. They took the training to another level themselves. My job was to make sure they weren’t OVER training sometimes. They still had to do their school work too. We couldn’t risk injury or flunking out of school. I don’t think I ever used my “veto” as the coach, I would just talk about consequences and let them decide. I just needed to show up to monitor most of the training and have meetings with the team captain.

    Watching those emerging leaders was my payoff. Most of them have been in the Army for about five years now and have commanded Soldiers in combat. I’m honored to have been a part a small of their early development.


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