Gridiron Business: 5 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From American Football

Here's an inside look at winning business lessons on and off the field.

Simon Crompton, freelance Journalist and entrepreneur; Source: Courtesy Photo
Simon Crompton, freelance Journalist and entrepreneur; Source: Courtesy Photo

For many, football is deemed America’s greatest sport.

“American football as a whole is the most popular sport in the United States; … As of 2012, nearly 1.1 million high school athletes and 70,000 college athletes play the sport in the United States annually. The National Football League (NFL), the most popular American football league, has the highest average attendance of any sports league in the world.” (Wikipedia)

Meanwhile the Super Bowl championship game ranks among the most-watched club sporting events in the world, bringing in an estimated $10 billion in annual revenue. (Bloomberg Business)

It doesn’t matter whether you are the founder and CEO of a fast-growth Fortune 500 company or working on the latest version of code for your startup, football can teach entrepreneurs a lot about business.

Here’s a look at 5 business lessons in particular:


  1. Teamwork

    No matter what position a player takes on a football team, whether you are the starting quarterback or the third-string center, you have a job and everyone else on the team is counting on you to do that job.

    Making sure you understand the role you play for the team, or the role you have in your business, is critical. It takes time and practice to build team trust, but without it, you will never have more than an assembly of individuals.

  2. Discipline

    The road to growth and improvement is filled with setbacks, ruts and many opportunities to abandon it. It takes real discipline to keep moving down that road. Football requires discipline, as it is a sport that evaluates players at each and every stage of the game.

    Every move and every play is evaluated by coaches and fellow players using TV replays from satellite TV more and others. What is done right is pointed out, alongside the mistakes that were made. This same process works well in business. Evaluations and careful play-by-play scrutiny helps you individually and as a team player. When done correctly, it can instill the discipline to keep moving forward.

  3. Perseverance

    Not everyone can be the starting quarterback, linebacker or safety on the first try. Although each and every member of the team is important, personal goals are not limited to the first position the person fills.

    Team players who work hard and succeed can go from third-string to second and first as they improve. But you have to be willing to put in the work. During a season, each week brings new challenges and new ways to succeed. Playing the same old plays against every opponent guarantees that you will lose. This same line of thought holds true in business.

  4. Goal Setting

    In sports, goals are easy to judge. If you need to become faster, the coach will give you a time you have to complete the 40 yard dash in. You work hard until you have reached the goal and then the coach assigns a lower time or sets a different goal. It is an ongoing practice that keeps every player working hard to improve himself. The same can be done in business.

    Granted the metrics are not the same, but it is important to allocate assigned resources to a task in a logical and efficient way that is geared to succeeding at goals and supporting the rest of the company at the same time.

  5. Integrity

    Winning at any cost is not winning at all. No matter what you are creating, you have to be able to earn the respect of your employees and your peers.

    Cutting corners and risking unethical behavior will not earn you any respect from anyone. Think about the damage done with NFL scandals. Reputations are damaged by allegations and camaraderie is lost. Integrity is vital on and off the field, in team sports and business.

This article has been edited and condensed.

Simon Crompton is an entrepreneur running several online businesses. Currently focusing on his marketing firm, Threecolors.blue, he is also a trained journalist sharing his knowledge via several internet blogs. In his spare time he’s an avid programmer and videographer. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.


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