The Super Bowl Champion head coach of the New York Giants recently released a new book, Earn the Right to Win. Muscle & Fitness spoke to Coughlin about what earning the right to win really entails.
Muscle & Fitness: Your new book, Earn the Right to Win is not just about success in football, but about success in any field. What made you want to write it?
Tom Coughlin: We [Coughlin and co-writer David Fisher] wanted to write it because we thought we had a strong message with universal appeal. If you have the goal of being the very best that you can be and are willing to sacrifice and pay the price, then this is the book for you. Preparation is the key to success and David Fisher did a nice job of weaving through this entire book, principles that are most important to me. We illustrate them with anecdotes, which speak directly to the message that we want to portray. So, it is a book about discipline. It’s a book about sacrifice. It’s a book about self-denial. It’s a book about organization. It’s a book about paying great attention to detail. It’s a book about structure.
What do you mean by the phrase “earn the right to win”?
We equate this particular phrase to a weekly process in the NFL where we sell our players on a protocol to win and if they follow that protocol, at the end of the week they will have earned the right to win. And, as I said prior to Superbowl XLVI, because we have demonstrated through our practice, our diligence, our focus, our concentration that we have earned the right to win, are we guaranteeing that we win? No. But, we are guaranteeing that will play well.
You’re a big fan of [legendary basketball coach] John Wooden and the Pyramid of Success. How influential was Wooden’s Pyramid when you sat down to write this book?
My favorite book of his is the very first one. It talks about life, makes observations. It relates to a lot of things about life. One particular aspect of the book is about the Pyramid as simply the building blocks to success.
One thing that impacted me more than anything was in John Wooden’s later years, he said that the top of the pyramid—competitive greatness—that love should substitute competitive greatness. I believe sincerely that in great football teams, the players love each other, they respect each other and without that there is a big piece of the puzzle missing. The one thing, regardless of what era you’re talking about, what sport, whether you are talking about the military, whether you are talking about the business world, whether it deals with men or women who are trying to be the best that they can be, in order to be successful, you’ve got to have the opportunity to share the bonds which grow between people who aspire to accomplish something very meaningful and that’s where love comes in.
What other influences can you cite?
I have spent a lifetime trying to grow and learn. I’m a fan of everything that was written about Vince Lombardi. One summer was my Eisenhower summer, I read about George Marshall just this past summer, I’ve read all I can get my hands on about Churchill, FDR, Truman—all of these things. John Wooden said it: “You learn as if you’re gonna live forever.” The moment you stop learning you’re really done. You’re finished.