Going for it on fourth down, every time

I’ve posted about maverick Arkansas high school football coach Kevin Kelley before, and now Andy Staples of SI writes about seeing his team, the Pulaski Academy Bruins, in person where they ended the opponent’s 84-game home winning streak.

Kelley’s team is famous for going for it on almost every 4th-down, opting for onsides kicks on every kickoff, and now building laterals into many of their passing plays. Here’s Staples’s take on why this is so successful:

The Bruins don’t win because they don’t punt or because they attempt onside kicks every time or because their receivers routinely lateral on plays that aren’t the last one of the game. They win because of the attitude Kelley’s approach instills on Pulaski Academy’s sideline and the mindset it instills on the other sideline. The Bruins always play as if they’re down 10 with 90 seconds to go. Think about all the points you’ve seen scored in that type of situation. The offense plays as if it has nothing to lose. The defense tightens, playing to protect the lead rather than to advance the cause. That’s every minute of every Pulaski Academy game.

Wouldn’t you love to play on a team with that kind of bold philosophy? Wouldn’t you love to work on a team with a disregard for convention, with an attitude of curiosity and boldness that defies the caution that restrains most organizations?

The safe thing is to do what everyone else does: Build a resume that looks like everyone else’s. Produce work like everyone else does. Avoid artistic risks and leaps of faith. Accept the conventional wisdom and common assumptions because they’re conventional and common and safe.

But caution is the devil.

What if you had the courage to go for it on fourth down regularly, to try the uncommon path, to follow your reason and your creativity in a different direction altogether?

There is a lot of elbow room out on the edges. Not many have the chutzpah to go there. The competition for average levels of success is way stiffer than it is for extraordinary success because so few aim that high. It seems counterintuitive, but it might be easier for you to achieve a crazy, scary dream than to achieve the safe, sanitized middle class American dream.

Even if you regularly fall short when you defy convention, you’ll have a lot more fun than if you had just followed along with the crowd. And you’ll be strengthening your courage muscles and making yourself even more willing to be bold.

Don’t punt. Go for it.

2 thoughts on “Going for it on fourth down, every time

  1. […] I’m a big fan of the high school football coach, Kevin Kelley of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, who is famous for defying the conventional wisdom about how to play football. He rarely punts on fourth down and almost always calls an onside kick when his team kicks off. And he’s remarkably successful, with six state championships and many appearances in the state playoffs. He was recently named USA Today coach of the year.  […]

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