Johnnies Football: Just Do It… Right.

Just Do It.

It is truly brilliant in its simplicity.  The advertising slogan is as well-known today as when it was conceived 26 years ago.  It reinforces the intuitive notion that if you want to get good at anything you need to get in the game and go.  It is the same mentality that has helped fuel the rise of youth sports over the past 25 years, the expansion of AAU, sport specialization and year-round play.

People buy the shoes and they buy the motto.  Unfortunately, an extension of this mentality has also led to a dearth of fundamentals, defense and selfless play.

Because no matter how many games you play, or how much you “Just Do It” you are missing a large part of sports.  Games and scrimmages have their place, but they are very little help in preparation.

Says who?


Says 489 wins.  Specifically the 489 wins collected by the most successful football coach in the history of the game.

Hall of fame coach John Gagliardi specifically, the man who led Minnesota’s St. John’s football team to 27 conference titles and four national titles over 60 years.  Retiring in 2012, the winningest coach in all of football did it all with a singular focus — Execution.  If you hope to play for Gagliardi you must prepare diligently, drill on fundamentals, concentrate, know your job and work on executing it flawlessly.

So wrapped up in fundamentals was Gagliardi that he didn’t even allow full contact at practice.  Players at St. John’s wore shorts to practice and drilled on execution up the point of the tackle and then stopped.    Drilling over and over again until it was second nature.  No full-contact scrimmaging, just reps. Enough reps that it probably couldn’t have worked if done full contact, lest they hire extra trainers.

The point was to learn sound fundamentals then get down and do it again and again, until you get it right.  By saving hits for Saturday, you ended up not only prepared, but hungry.  Gagliardi broke the mold in terms of how he won. But win he did.  To show his range, the guy even dabbled as the school’s hockey and track coach for a few seasons, also winning titles in each.

The implications of the “Gagliardi Method” go well beyond sports however.  They point to the fact that there is a mental side to every task we do.  There are always fundamentals and always skills to practice.  If you want to be successful in any task, business, relationship or life itself, it takes work.

You can’t just wing it.

Preparation is the key.  The best public speakers do a ton of public speaking, but they also put in their time honing their craft giving speeches to empty rooms and elevator speeches to their dog.  Even successful pastors still do daily devotionals and entrepreneurs invest hours in ideas that die. You gotta get your reps in.  No matter your craft, you need to define your weaknesses and drill on them.

Quantity breeds quality.

It is all about building fundamentals, so that when your “game day” comes, you are ready.  Woody Allen once famously said “80% of life is just showing up”. If you want to end up like Woody Allen, I suggest you to follow his advice.  If you want to end up like Gagliardi, I suggest this alternative approach.

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Christian. Father. Hawkeye. Male pattern baldness survivor.

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