Toward the end of the book Trillion Dollar Coach, the authors discuss the ingredient Bill Campbell believed made a great team great. In their explanation they use the words of Steve Young, one of my favorite football players growing up.
Love is part of what makes a great team great. Yes, this was a natural part of Bill’s (Campbell) personality—he was way more ebullient than most of us! But it was also something he likely learned from football. Steve Young, a Hall of Fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, spoke of team love at a conference honoring Bill in September 2017. “Great coaches look beyond,” Steve said. “[49ers coach Bill Walsh] would get the team together every year and say, ‘Hey, guys, we’re going to integrate this team.’ There were all these little cliques—the safeties hang together, guys from different schools, socioeconomic backgrounds, geography, language, religion. He says, ‘I’m going to break all of those . . .’ “He wanted us to get integrated with each other so when you’re at Lambeau Field, down by four, with a minute and a half left and it’s third-and-ten, it’s sleeting, you’re soaking wet and the wind is blowing and eighty thousand people are screaming at you. Human nature is saying get me out of here, I just want to get to the bus, get this over with. “Now you’re in the huddle and it’s that moment. Everyone looks at each other and it’s like, we are integrated, we have a reason, we have a depth, we have a love for each other, a respect . . . “Why did the 49ers do so great from 1981 to 1998? It’s because we had a love for each other.”
Young talks about being wet and cold with 80,000 people screaming, and the natural inclination was to get to safety. I think everyone would have the same initial feeling in that situation. What was the factor that helped the 49ers withstand both the physical and emotional obstacles to success on the gridiron? It was love. Great teams have a bond that’s formed before stressful situations occur, and it’s that connection that aids people in reaching a goal. To use popular verbiage within the field of education, it’s collective efficacy.