I was in Shipshewana yesterday and was asked what I thought of Notre Dame’s rise to the top of the college football ranks.
Being a SEC football snob, I dismissed the success story. But, if you read about their turnaround, there is much to be admired.
Coach Brian Kelly took over the program three years ago. Notre Dame has a storied past and had experienced two decades of mediocrity. Many thought that Notre Dame would never live up to its past success again.
Kelly says that three things set the team apart:
- Mental toughness. When he arrived, he saw decent athletes but they lacked “mental toughness.” The lack of toughness meant that off-season workouts were completed without achieving results. Poor habits in practice transferred into poor habits in the games. Thus, execution would break down at critical times. Kelly and his staff drove the team through rigorous work. They responded. Over two years, they moved to “mentally tough.”
- Team cohesion. The process to mental toughness proved challenging. The members of the team worked hard together and, as they achieved better results, they became closer. The experiences they shared together created a confidence and trust. The individuals became a team of players who believed in each other.
- A will to win. The toughness and cohesion created a common belief that they had the ability to win. When setbacks came up, they rebounded. When extraordinary plays were needed, they came up with them.
At the top levels of college football, the athletes have similar ability. Intangibles like mental toughness which enables unparalleled execution, team cohesion which causes trust amongst teammates, and a belief in their ability to press to victory sets the elite apart.
I admire those intangibles when I see them. Notre Dame has much to admire.