All we are guaranteed is an opportunity; an opportunity to create something new, to sustain excellence, to create an environment. It’s easy to try and short-cut the process; to get something for just being there – reward by association. I’ve never felt completely comfortable when I have found myself in those situations. I have always felt like I really had to work harder than the people around me so I could contribute. The reality of working and living in a great organization is that the people that are already there got there because they understand what it takes. They are hard to outwork. The challenge for successful organizations is to sustain that success, and not be consumed by all the things that success can bring.
I believe that what our program really offers is opportunity. I think these opportunities have always been here – the quality of faculty, the success of our alumni in every field, and maybe our most unique quality, New York City. I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that proximity can affect opportunity. What we are creating is an environment that is conducive to each player being able to take advantage of the opportunities that are available. That said, it’s not just the reward at the end of the journey, but it’s the journey itself. We can never assume that everyone is aware or even capable of recognizing the opportunities that are available. Professors create an environment for learning, but each student has to take advantage. They have to do the work and take the test. As coaches we create an environment for physical development, but each player has to lift the weights, practice with a purpose, and play the game.
We are looking for the guy who understands that the “process” of becoming good at anything is what has the most value. Once you figure out how to become really good at something, once you get it, you have created a roadmap for future success. This is the basis on which we recruit: What has this young man done in his life that leads us to believe he gets it? Is he really good at something – or just a participant?
Of course we look at football skills, performance, grades and test scores, but there is more. We want guys with the self-awareness and confidence to be accountable and never satisfied. We want guys who are committed to making their teammates better, and being part of something bigger than just themselves. We want players who, when they get to know us, realize that their opportunities will be increased because the people they will live with, and play next to, are here for the same reasons they are. Coach Bryant used to say “be able to recognize winners, they come in all forms”, there is way more to this than height, weight and speed.
I came to Columbia to win, but I learned something from Dan Reeves years ago, “goals are no good without methods.” I have an outstanding staff. Our challenge is to create an environment that facilitates the growth of our players as students, players and people. We have the play books, we have the buildings, weight rooms, classrooms, libraries and playing fields. Our most valuable assets are the people who use those facilities with the intention of being the best they can be. Give me the guy who recognizes the opportunity, and understands that the journey is as important as the destination. Give me the guy who understands how important the environment is to his development, and is motivated by his obligation to be a part of something bigger than himself.