Saban: The Making of a Coach – Book Review

I recently got a library card from my local library and have been taking advantage of their audio books. I find audio books that are more story-like such as biographies easy to listen to relative to the typical business books I enjoy reading. As such I came across Saban: The Making of a Coach by Monte Burke, a book that outlines Nick Saban, The University of Alabama’s head football coach’s career. I found the story interesting as my only real knowledge of Nick Saban prior to him coming to Alabama was that he failed as an NFL head coach, but was a fantastic college head coach. 

Saban has won national championships for LSU and Alabama as a head football coach and his persona as a process driven perfectionist is well known among football fans. I found the story in general interesting in his career and coaching progression as he bounced from job to job throughout the majority of his career always looking for the next big opportunity. For someone who is well known to me now and being so process driven, hearing how his career is defined by these big emotional moves from school to school as a college coach was enlightening. This internal conflict helped paint the picture for me of who this legendary coach really is on a more personal level.

The 2 key takeaways for me from this book are:

#1 focus on the input rather than the output. Saban’s famous process for his players is about doing the right things in practice and during every down. He stresses the inputs that his player should focus on rather than the outcome. As a track record it works as we’ve seen Saban’s tremendous success winning 5 National Championships as a head coach. This concept of focusing on the inputs over the outputs is true for business, life, and health. If you are trying to live a healthier life and you focus on the inputs of proper diet and exercise, it will have a much greater impact than if you focus just on how many LBs or inches did I lose. The reason being if you focus on the inputs of living a healthier life diet and exercise you are building a long-term foundation. Whereas if you care focus more on the output, it won’t matter if you lose the weight from catching an illness, starving yourself, or having a medical procedure. For long-term success in living a healthier life the input is much more important than the output. One last note is the output is still an important measure of success and a way to track if what you are doing is working (just like winning a football game), but recognize how and why is just as important.

#2 the path isn’t always clear. Saban’s story came with a lot of success at times and as such he was presented with some tough decisions. He waffled back and forth about leaving multiple coaching jobs when he was at Michigan State, LSU, and the Dolphins. Each decision was challenging for different reasons some focusing more on the professional growth – his decision to leave LSU. Others like his decision to leave Miami – both personal and professional, where difficult choices that ultimately defined his career. The key takeaway is that in both success and failure we will have difficult life choices to make. The path is not always obvious and regardless of your decision, you have to be confident once that choice is made. If things change (which they always do), it is okay to reevaluate your decision. 

Overall I enjoyed the story and hearing more about how Nick Saban developed into the successful coach he is today. It requires a lot of hard work focusing on the inputs vs. the outputs a.k.a. the process and owning difficult decisions that may be unpopular. Ultimately your life is what you make of it so focusing on what you can control, the effort you put forth and decisions you make will dictate the life you live.

Other Book Reviews:

Book Review: Superforecasting

Book Review: Commit to Win

Book Review: The Magnolia Story


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