Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Philosophy of Bo Schembechler

While interviewing Fritz Seyferth, we talked about the philosophy of Bo Schembechler. According to Fritz, Coach Schembechler believed that the nature of man is lazy and that he can always do better. And, that it was Bo’s mission to develop the player by practice, practice, practice. Let’s take a look at the notion that individuals are lazy. Is it true that man is generally lazy? If we take a look at individuals who are employed in manual, white-collar or semiskilled labor positions, i.e. assembly-line, fixing a machine or working in an office, we likely see individuals who are perhaps alienated, and bored  as evidenced by tardiness, absenteeism, illness, etc. individuals in these occupations are more accurately described depressed, as evidenced by their own spotty  productiveness.

Coach Schembechler also believed that an individual can do more. I agree that an individual can do more but that may or may not be in his best interests. The cliché practice makes perfect fits in this case. Yes, practice is good, but there comes a point of diminishing returns. Yes, the players can run more wind sprints. However, when running wind sprints, individuals get tired as expected. And sometimes when tired and exercising, the result can lead to and develop muscle overuse and /or injury. So when there’s physical exercise there needs to be a proper amount of recovery through hydration, nutrition, and rest. I’m not sure that Bo personally knew when to quit or stop thinking about football. He certainly placed stress on his heart and had a cardiology issue.

Find an individual, who is employed, interested and was passionate about his work in a productive environment and you have one highly motivated person. Bo Schembechler was not the least bored, lazy, alienated or depressed individual. He was anything but that. In other words, Coach Schembechler did not fit his own description or assumption about man being lazy. Mike Keller was another example and one of “Bo’s Warriors.”  Mike was initially recruited by Coach Bump Elliott in 1968. Keller was anything but lazy, bored or alienated. He was involved in sports, from an early age, and even had, at age 4, foot races with his mother, whom he described as the drill Sgt., He began competing and played for his elementary school teams. He said he’d rather be out playing sports than being at home because his mother would put him to work. He even practiced shooting baskets in the dark because he rationalized that if he made the basket in the dark, just think how good he would be in the daylight. It was certainly in Mike Keller’s character to improve and get better.

In explaining Keller’s motivation to succeed, his insecurity was one factor. Even though he was a big fish (an outstanding athlete in every sport) in a little pond in his high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mike Keller did not have a big head. He wondered whether or not, how he’d rate on a national stage at the University of Michigan. Even perceived himself as a student, first and a football player second. He knew that the   University of Michigan was a prestigious institution and that he would be in a good position for the rest of his life by getting that degree.

A second factor relating to Keller’s motivation is called “intrinsic” which fit his perception as being an extremely terrific athlete. This perception fulfilled his need for achievement. As a result, he didn’t require anyone to prod him or get on his back about improving his running speed. He ran, and conditioned himself to become faster and he accomplished that very well. When it came to running sprints or hustling on a play, he put it into high gear and his speed was one of his strong points. Also, a third factor is called “extrinsic” motivation. Mike Keller knew that by playing well, both at practice and in the game, that this would please himself, but also Coach Moeller, Coach Schembechler ( external praise, pleasing others or reinforcement) and his teammates because then, the team would also be in a better position to win the game. Also, each player was graded per game, and Mike Keller achieved the highest ranking during his sophomore, Junior and senior years of any player in the University of Michigan’s football history. Extrinsic motivation is therefore performing a task for reasons outside of the task itself. Mike Keller was therefore a product of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

A third factor relating to Mike Keller’s motivation to achieve was being reared in a competitive household. Although, Mike was not the oldest, he wanted to beat his older brother on any occasion. It didn’t matter if it was playing the card game of war or at golf.  Keller wanted to win every time, and generally he did. His mother, a college English professor, got on him about his learning. And he became an expert on Beowulf at an early age. He was even sent to parochial schools to reinforce the notion that learning-his education was important. He knew about being yelled at, as well as about being responsible and about authoritarian discipline.

When coach Schembechler became head coach, number 90 was eager to learn and eager to perform. He did not at all fit Coach Bo Schembechler’s assumption that man is lazy. That is not to say that coach Schembechler didn’t motivate Mike Keller. However, Mike Keller was a perfect example of a highly motivated individual ready to achieve and he did with the Wolverines, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, etc. etc. etc.

For an opportunity to meet  Mike , Fritz, Jim  Brandstatter, Jim Betts, Thom Darden, Dan Dierdorf meet them at the  signing  of Bo’s Warriors at Sesi Motors in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on September 17 from 6 to 8 PM along with other teammates. Join us there.

Go Blue!

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