What Can We Learn from the NCAA Championship?

First, I have to confess that I am not an avid basketball fan, so you are not going to get any great sports analysis about Monday’s game. I have been to the Final Four and watched my team, the Kansas Jayhawks, win the title, so I am a huge fan of the event itself. (I know what some of you are thinking. Step up, haters.)1396931697002-2014-04-07-UConn-Kentucky58

There is nothing like college basketball, and to be in that stadium with my father and brother is something I will never forget. It’s just fun to be around a bunch of college students rooting on their team, and to watch athletes play for something other than an extension on their contact. So how can we learn something from what we saw? Let me give it a shot.

  • Experience matters. Kentucky was starting five freshmen against a veteran Huskies team. Don’t get me wrong, those freshmen are incredibly talented, but having a team with more games under their belt did make a difference. When you are filling key positions in your company, it may take you more time to find that perfect candidate and it may cost you more, but you get what you pay for, so consider a proven player for the spot.
  • Be brilliant on the basics. Kentucky shot 13 of 24 from the free throw line. UConn was 10 for 10. They were perfect. I have heard it said so many times that free throws win games and you can see the impact here with only six points separating the two teams in the end. What could you be working on that would make the difference in your company? Are you good at writing thank you notes to customers? Do you plan your business strategy well or just run around putting out fires? Are you the best out there when it comes to telling your own story? These are the things that matter and the good news is anyone can be great doing them. Are you?
  • Top dog doesn’t always win. Never before has #7 played #8 in the championship game. You heard a lot of talk about fans losing early in their brackets because nobody expected these teams to be playing in the final game. It is very easy to sit back and think the larger companies you compete against are going to win by default because they have more resources. The underdog can win and, in this case, did.
  • Team over the individual. In the NBA there is a lot of talk about franchise players like LeBron James or Kevin Durant. In college it is much more about the team performance, NOT the individual. UConn has a few stars, no doubt, but the team unit is where the focus is placed. If you have someone in your company that thinks they are more important than the team, you have to give that a serious look. If you as a manager shine the light on a single person too often, it will have a negative effect on the total outcome. Celebrate an individual’s success but remember that the supporting roles are just as important.

2014-bracketHow did your bracket do; were you a winner? Is your business’ team ready for the Final Four? Tell me in the comments section and congratulations to both teams for a great season!



2 thoughts on “What Can We Learn from the NCAA Championship?

  1. Great analogy Mark. I especially like #2 -Be brilliant on the basics. But I’m going to throw in the big “C” word also- Culture. The Husky PROGRAM has a certain CULTURE that just seems to control their DESTINY during crunch time. They (the men’s team) are a good (not great) team during the regular season. However, what separates them from their competition is; is their culture which kicks into high gear come tourney time. The Huskies really embrace and understand the fact that it is “win or go home”. They do this better than any other team. UCONN understands how to put into place all those above mentioned pieces- skills, fundamentals, teamwork, and experience. But most importantly they know the game at hand is the only one that matters. They don’t look ahead to other sales, oops I meant games. They take one game at a time. I know it sounds cliché , but that’s just what laser focused teams do.

    1. I am with you Andrew, the culture piece of the puzzle is a HUGE one to get right. I am not that familiar with their program so it is interesting to hear this. It is funny that you mention other teams and their tendency to look past their current opponent which is common practice by many businesses. My daughters softball team competed in a big 12 and under tournament this weekend. A team we played threw their second string pitcher because they wanted to save their starter for a bigger game and didn’t give a bunch of 11 year olds a chance. We kicked their butt. They went home. 🙂

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