My son decided (at the last minute, per his custom) to try out for the football team at his high school (international readers, this is American football, which is played mostly with your hands).  We’ve played before in recreation leagues – this is our first foray into school teams.


He missed summer workouts.  He missed team camp.  He showed up in time for mini-camp, which are the workouts before practice begins.  So let’s look at the commitment 14-18 year-olds have for a game that only 2% of them will ever play beyond their current team.

  • Spring workouts – three days a week (voluntary)
  • Summer workouts – 3 days a week at 7am
  • Fall camp – three days, all day, live at camp
  • Fall mini-camp – 3 days, run, run, run!
  • A month of pre-season camp, practice is at 7am, before school ever even starts

And most of them aren’t really all that good and many won’t even play.  But they take to the field with excitement and enthusiasm and do whatever the coach tells them to do.  They push their bodies – and their minds – to the limits.  They’ll be ready when – or if – the coach calls.

I wish that was how we all, myself included, prepared for speaking.

I recently had a client call for coaching services for a speech he intends to give in …  2016!  That set the record for lead time (much appreciated!), and I have no doubt he’ll be a success, because he is PLANNING for success.

Perhaps it’s a broken record, but the people who are the best communicators are the ones who WORK at being great communicators.

Here are three principles I’ve learned from a football team’s preparation:

  • You need different coaches

A high school football team may have seven or more coaches.  Line, backs, offense, defense, strength, etc.  Because it’s too much for one coach to do.  You may have a life coach, a career coach, a speech coach, and a personal fitness coach.  But don’t ask me to help you lose weight.  Find the experts.

  • You need lead time

Any skill-based activity will require lead time, and virtually all skills build in sequence.  The basics (strength) lead to the refined (position) before you can put it all together (team).  Don’t expect to put your speaking skills, your content, and your ability to know and connect with your audience together at the last minute.

  • You can’t let up

Even in youth sports, there is pressure to work hard every day (I’d offer that we should encourage our kids to PLAY hard every day, as sport is a subset of play, but I digress).  A day not running is a day of losing cardiovascular ability.  Speakers are the same.  If you aren’t getting better at your skills, you’re only getting better at bad habits.

I’ve got a huge speaking opportunity coming up in late September at Presentation Summit.  While I’ve had parts of this speech done years ago, I can’t wait until the week before to prepare.  It’s too important.  Get the skills and prepare before you need to.  Then you’ll be able to say, “Coach!  Put me in!”

This article was published in the August 2015 edition of our monthly speaking tips email, Communication Matters.  Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today and receive our FREE handout, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  

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