Friday, November 8, 2013

Stanford Football: No Compromise

Perhaps it was last night after their 26-20 upset of the #2 ranked team in the country. Maybe it was this morning when you heard your colleagues spending an inordinate amount of time talking not about Oregon's uniforms but the system that David Shaw put in place. At some point in the last 7 years (when the Cardinal won 1 single game) sports fans everywhere have confronted the question: What's up with Stanford football?
In 2006, Stanford was 1-10
Sportswriters, coaches, sports fans and pundits each have their take. Rather than wade through them, I exercised my academic training and went to a primary source for the answer. I decided I should hear it from the man who can tell me about Stanford football with more authority than any other—Coach David Shaw. The Ted X talk "Can Football Change the World?" was my resource (with a thank you to head football coach at St. Ignatius, John Regalia for the tip). And what I learned from it is worth viewing above and beyond my question as well as his own.  Can Football Change the World? Watch and decide! 

Shaw, an alum and former player, informs the audience that Stanford was unwilling to compromise its standards. They would not be a school that took the word "student" out of "student-athletes." They were not willing to sell-out in order to compete. One need not be at the cost of the other. 
Head Coach, David Shaw knows Stanford Football
I immediately thought of a poignant conversation from "Chariots of Fire." Eric Liddell, the Christian runner, training for the Olympics confronts a conscience qualm; competing on the sabbath would be a violation of God's commandment.  His father told him "you can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel if to perfection. Don't compromise. Compromise is the language of the devil. Run in God's name and let the world stand back in wonder."

Make no mistake about it. Compromise in some realms is absolutely necessary—in a marriage, in our government and more. But the compromise of which both Liddell and Shaw speak is of that of upholding a standard you set and maintaining it with integrity. What is the principle by which you live your life? What is the foundation that grounds your decisions and governs your work?

That standard set by Stanford University is one of excellence. Finding a great student athlete requires nothing less than what excellence demands—hard work, patience, wisdom and insight. Shaw and his staff committed to traveling far and wide, high and low to find the athlete who is as competitive on the football field and he is in the classroom. He reveals that the type of student who is interested in Stanford is inherently competitive and the best way to motivate him is to tell him he can't do it. He believes Stanford can. They have. 
Shaw gives credit to Dennis Green and Jim Harbaugh for the program of success down at the Farm.
Football is under a lot of scrutiny right now—from questions of concussion, to the culture of bullying, and more. But Shaw offers us another perspective. Football players from Stanford know one thing—the importance of teamwork, responsibility and the pursuit of excellence. Not only that, 100% of them graduate; two first round draft choices graduated with a degree in engineering. Not bad. In fact, that's excellent!

The world will tell you to compromise, but we need to see the examples that will help us to consider otherwise. Thank you David Shaw. Go Cardinal (except for on November 30 vs. ND!)

Photo Credits
Coach Shaw

Stanford Football

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