The Way Great Coaches Coach: A Tactical Guide to Leadership

Reggie Rivers

CSAE Annual Conference

Crested Butte, CO

June 26, 2017


Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers (@reggierivers) played six seasons as a running back during the 1990s. Reggie is a media personality and business owner, who has worked in newspaper, radio and television in Denver. He graduated from Texas State University with a degree in Journalism, and he earned a Master’s Degree in Global Studies from the University of Denver. He has written five books, the latest is the award winning novel, The Colony: A Political Tale.  In this session Reggie dives into the specific tactics NFL coaches use to engage with their players. These tactics are sincere (no trickery or game-playing), easy to implement and effective at increasing buy-in, leadership influence and overall team cohesion.

Reggie Rivers

Reggie spoke about how teams need to win together and lose together. There are too many examples of individual players “winning,” while the team loses. Reggie showed a video called The Football is the Customer which illustrates the importance of taking care of and keeping the customer (analogous to a football) from competitors.

To illustrate his point, Reggie discussed how good coaches use incentive compensation, in the Broncos’ case, playoff money. (Playoff money covers the salaries of players who make playoff games, providing owners all of their game revenue without the significant cost of payroll.) By enabling every full-time employee of the Broncos to share in playoff profits or receive a Superbowl ring or pendant, leaders encourage the entire organization to work for the same goal, even staying late to produce customized videos for lesser known players to study opponents’ moves from past games.

With this unity of purpose, players like Larry Allen speed undetected across the field to prevent the opposing team from scoring a seemingly unstoppable touchdown.  As Reggie puts it, “if something is within your area of responsibility, not illegal, not unethical, within your goals and values, then do it. Larry Allen could have played the blame game, could have been fatalistic, could have waited for someone to delegate the job to him, could have sought out volunteers known for their speed, but, instead, owned the job and made the tackle.

Reggie finished with the unique observation that typical touchdown runs are only two yards along. In fact, they are the culmination of incremental gains: if a touchdown is scored from a 14-play drive, then your team got tackled 13 times. Pushing forward as a team making incremental successes is the fastest and only way to make it to the superbowl–with your entire team.



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