Coaching rugby can be as hard as playing it, but coach Larry Gelwix, around whose experience the movie Forever Strong was based, has a different philosophy than most coaches. He focuses on three anchors of success: making players great, putting game plans in place, and providing good coaching. Recently, Gelwix shared his strategies with more than1000 educators attending the recent Leadership in the 21st Century conference.

Though a coach, Gelwix expressed over and over again that his strategies work in all walks of life—especially education. He shared what he referred to as five winning strategies for sustainable success.

  1. Provide horizontal leadership
  2. Don't play with snakes
  3. Hit the field running
  4. Expect to W.I.N.
  5. Focus on the final score

Gelwix demonstrated how horizontal leadership multiplies down the line. He sees no difference between himself and his players, just a difference in their responsibilities. Gelwix stated that “when we believe in a cause bigger than ourselves, anything can happen—whether it be faith, community, or family.”

"If you want to be a champion, don’t play with snakes."

Stressing the importance of positive motivation, Gelwix said, “There is no such thing as negative motivation. He referred to diminishers—those who try to challenge their team members by negative talk. “There is a difference between multipliers and diminishers: Diminishers get 20 to 50% of what their employees can give. Multipliers get 70 to 100%,” said Gelwix.

“If you want to be a champion, don’t play with snakes,” advised Gelwix. He gave the example of a 14-year-old boy, Mike, who picked up a rattlesnake to play with. The snake bit him. “If you play with a snake, it will bite you,” Gelwix affirmed.

“Most of the decisions of ethics and values really have a right and a wrong,” Gelwix explained. “I tell my players that telling the truth or telling a lie has nothing to do with what you do, but it has everything to do with what you believe.” He concluded the thought by stating that if you really want to know what or who I am, look at what I do when no one is around.

Third, Gelwix believes in hitting the field running. “Attitude is more important than natural smarts or natural ability,” he said. He tells his team that he wants them to be better people today than they were yesterday, and to do their very best. He acknowledges that telling people to change their attitude is ineffective. “The way to change attitudes is to change behavior,” he taught. “Behavior will always change attitude.”

Gelwix expects to W.I.N.— or to ask himself—“What is Important Now?” “It is so easy to go into autopilot,” he said. “But what a champion player does is play every down, every game, as if it is a game changer.” By focusing on each play, his players avoid going into autopilot and losing important opportunities on the field.

Finally, Gelwix encouraged leaders to focus on the final score. “Never give up,” he encouraged. “The most important question is ‘who do I want to be?’ and the who is the final score.” He stated that who we are is much more important that what we are.

“These things don’t happen by wishing, wanting, or hoping,” Gelwix said in conclusion. “They take work in our personal and professional lives.”