Decision Making When It Matters Most With The Los Angeles Rams
Thousand Oaks, CA
A cool, summer Los Angeles day provided a welcoming reunion for leadership development company Prime U, and the Los Angeles Rams alongside their director of player engagement, Jacques McClendon. This June was the second year Prime U visited the Rams organized team activities (OTAs), and spoke to their incoming rookie class. A class that features some potentially impactful players including: University of Washington’s standout safety Taylor Rapp, Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, Texas Tech linebacker and alumni of Netflix’s popular T.V. Series “Last Chance U,” Dakota Allen.
As coach Sean McVay swayed throughout Lucas Oil Stadium for this year’s NFL Draft Combine, clearly focused on the future. He would repeat a mantra to those seeking the coach’s plans: “Learn from the past. Produce in the present. Prepare for the future.” That same phrase coach McVay mentioned several times at this years Draft Combine, also boldly appeared on the brightly painted walls of the Los Angeles Rams facilities at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. The slogan seemed to echo what would be a tone hymned by Prime U’s founder and CEO Jarrod Barnes over the course of two days that included several workshops and group activities that reverberated the message of the Ram’s head coach.
LEARN FROM THE PAST
”Break down your tendencies, formations, and patterns,” said Jarrod Barnes to on looking group of young men beginning a largely uphill battle. He continued, “When we’re not aware of our own habits, routines, impulses, and reactions, then we no longer control them; they control us.” The room seemed to break into contemplation and reflection, which subsequently provided the room with great conversation. Data from a baseline assessment administered to Ram’s rookies found that, 80 percent of the players believe that their decisions are governed by their “ principles or beliefs,” highlighting the importance of Barnes’s next point, understanding one’s “personal scouting report.” Barnes challenged the men to evaluate themselves, and find what was important to them as people, and as athletes. Understanding that as an athlete, problems that derive off the field, can affect on field performance. Barnes elaborated, “knowing what you are not willing to compromise on,” disallows indecision that can cause personal distress. Barnes spent part of the session aiding players realize what these uncompromisable values could be to them. The focal point of the intentionally personal message looked to serve the underlying mental aspect of being a rookie in professional sports.
Produce in the Present
The unfortunate reality of professional sports is that production, or lack thereof, is what determines the fate of many hard-working men and women. However, stress and other inhibiting factors can add to the already difficult task of playing in the N.F.L. In the final day of the two day series Prime U emphasized the importance of stress management, defining personal success, and “radical forgiveness.” Identifying these stress “triggers” and coping with them, is a critical part of becoming “successful.” Arguably the greatest coach in the history of sports, John Wooden, described success as a “peace of mind,” and with OTAs coming to a close, Barnes encouraged the players to take their time away from the game, to identify what “peace of mind” looks like to them. As the conversation shifted, it became apparent that this "peace of mind", accepting the failures that come with being an athlete, would not come easy. Especially at the professional level. However, Barnes, again adding to the players vocabulary coined the phrase “radical forgiveness,” a way of accepting these inevitable failures and being kind to oneself. The term was used to describe an inviolable tool that the young players should start to learn, and practice in their lives. Sports, much like life, has ups and downs, but as long as you produce, every day, to get better, you will always be in the game.
Prepare for the Future
“You have to see it before it happens, in order to be ready when it comes.”
As players casually laughed off a Boyz-In-Da-Hood reference, Barnes would offer a perspective that would once again parallel the reigning N.F.C. champion’s slogan, and reduce the laughter in the room. “You have to see it before it happens, in order to be ready when it comes.” Barnes, repeating himself, then points to “ The Essentialism Model,” a model presented in, “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown. The model depicts a path to prepare for the future by choosing your essentials, “carefully, to do great work.” “Great work” is the goal of any professional, and as Barnes scanned the room, players seemed to acknowledge the personal sacrifice that would take, and began a conversation among themselves on what was essential to that preparation as an athlete, and as a man.