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"It's not the plane, it's the pilot!".....Maverick

Updated: Jan 21, 2023


I imagine everyone reading this post has seen Top Gun Maverick this summer. What an awesome way to spend a couple of hours! The takeaways that we as football coaches can get from that movie are almost endless. The building of a team, the development of a great plan, the attention to detail, the sense of ownership the teacher had for the pupils, etc. My favorite was the idea, "It's not the plane, it's the pilot."


Many of you have spent the last 6-8 months installing a "new" defense. You have attended Zoom meetings, studied a playbook, completed Google classes, watched tons of video, and asked countless meaningful questions. All of that is AWESOME! But at the end of the day, "It's not the plane, it's the pilot." Granted, the movie is ficticious but nobody can argue that Maverick's confidence (borderline arrogance) was why he was such a great pilot. At the end of the day, he was flying the same planes as everyone else but was just better at it. His skill is what drove his confidence, and his confidence is what allowed him to do things other people with the same training couldn't or wouldn't do. Why do some people turn out to be a Maverick and others turn out to be far less? Maybe the Mavericks of the world see opportunity to be great in every problem, while most focus on the problems within all opportunities.


I would say that we as defensive coaches (not everyone of course), have been raised to see potential problems with our system and sometimes fail to focus on opportunities. We spend our time making sure we can line up to every formation we have seen from an opponent and even some we haven't. We want to cover each route perfectly and heaven knows every run fit has to be precise. Often, we start each week by identifying all of the things we will have to do different based on this opponent. Our existence becomes one of "defending" while rarely "attacking" and therefore we can become prisoners of our circumstances. We sometimes let the offensive guys be the ones attacking. Defensive guys change systems way more than offensive guys do, always based on wanting something that "fits our players."


There is no MAGIC defensive system or fighter jet. There are, however, great systems and fighter jets that when in the hands of a great pilot are magical. What if Maverick was not willing to take the chances he was willing to take in that jet. Then he becomes just another pilot. Heck, he stole an enemy plan and flew it like his own! What if when he goofed something up or something broke, he decided it was just too risky to be great? Certainly makes for a dud of a movie.


I worked as a consultant in the business world for several years. I served independent contractor agents running there own businesses. There were generally 2 kinds of business owners. First, there were those who only reacted to the business environment as necessary. These people played defense all the time and were consistently unhappy in their careers. They had a victim mentality, only saw the problems, and their income was never what they expected. The team members in these offices were miserable and turned over at a high rate. Then there were the "Mavericks" of the business world. They were constantly attacking all opportunities, leading an aggressive business model focused on winning, loving their careers, and making more money than they imagined each year. Those teammembers loved their jobs! Both businesses were flying the exact same jet. The pilot was the difference!


Many of us are going to start 2022 with access to the exact same fighter jet (defensive system). Just keep in mind that "It's not the plane. It's the pilot!" You are the pilot now. What you choose to do and how you choose to fly is on you. You are not equipped with a crop duster. The system you have spent learning is tried and proven. There have been many crash and burns that you have had the opportunity to learn from without doing it yourself. What a waste it would be to have spent all of this time to just see potential problems and go back to the days of not attacking opportunity every Friday night! It would be terrible to take the investment in yourself, your program, and your players and not lead with confidence. The one takeaway I hope all of you have taken away from all of this work is...GO BLOW STUFF UP! Also, as many of you rave...KIDS LOVE THIS STYLE OF PLAY! TURN THEM LOOSE AND ENJOY THE SHOW!


As for me, I'm going to always try to blow stuff up! There will be mistakes and crashes but then I'll get right back to firing missiles and flying upside down. It is a lifestyle, it is a choice. For all of you, lead with incredible confidence and never lose focus on the fun and opportunity of playing some Eat the Captain defense.


I'm including a short video regarding confidence. Leading with and instilling confidence is the greatest gift you can give your players this season.



Remember "It's not the plane. It's the pilot." And be sure to bring your suitcase for the grand prize trophy...DUH.




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