Provision #346: Be Persistent

Laser Provision

Work is a lot more than performance and productivity. It’s also learning and enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less work! Work takes determination to get started and persistence to see things through to the end. Using some of the personalities involved with last Sunday’s Super Bowl game, this Provision will inspire you to make persistence a daily habit for success.

LifeTrek Provision

For the second time in three years, Adam Vinatieri kicked a last-second field goal to win the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots. Dubbed by the media as “the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history” and “the most consistent,” Vinatieri makes it look easy. But it wasn’t always that way.

Behind his success are two profiles in persistence, the kicker and his coach. You may have never heard the coach’s name, and you certainly didn’t see him pacing the sidelines during the game. He probably wasn’t even there, and if he had been he would have been doing his pacing in a wheelchair.

Vinatieri’s coach, Doug Blevins, has never walked a day in his life, born with the crippling condition of cerebral palsy. Yet, from the age of 4, it’s been his heart’s desire to work in American football. He watched games, reviewed tapes, and talked with coaches to figure out how someone in a wheelchair could find his way in America’s most celebrated sport.

The problem, of course, is that no one had ever coached from a wheelchair in the NFL. The sport is not exactly disability friendly. But Blevins was not to be deterred. He set out to master the position no one really understood: kickers. It became a lifetime pursuit.

Upon matriculation to the University of Tennessee in 1982, Blevins volunteered to work with the kickers as a student assistant. His success at coaching not only the fundamentals of kicking but also the personalities of the kickers led to his being named kicking coach at a small college in Emory, Virginia in 1984. From there one position led to another until, in 1993, he started his own kicking consulting company.

That’s how he got started with the NFL, landing consulting and coaching contracts with the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins. That’s also how he got started with Adam Vinatieri.

But had it not been for Vinatieri’s own determination, they never would have found each other and Vinatieri might never have risen to the upper echelon of NFL kickers. In college, Vinatieri was the best kicker in the history of South Dakota State, but he was erratic. Especially in pressure situations, you never knew what to expect. So the NFL scouts passed over him in their recommendations for the draft.

That did not deter Vinatieri. He wanted to be in the NFL as much as Blevins did. So he persisted in calling every contact he had, asking for advice and strategies to improve his skills for the big time. When he was given Blevins’ phone number by the punter for the New York Jets, back in 1994, he called immediately and sent Blevins a videotape, who promised to look at it but tossed it aside.

Vinatieri was persistent. He called every day for three weeks, until Blevins finally looked at the tape • primarily to get Vinatieri off his back. What he saw was a kid who had as much raw talent as he had form problems. Take care of the form, Blevins told him over the phone, and the rest will follow.

That was all Vinatieri needed to hear. You can imagine his surprise, however, when he got off the plane two days later to discover that his new coach was confined to a wheelchair. This was the man who was supposed to teach him to kick? Had he been less desperate, or less determined, he might have turned around and gone back to South Dakota. But persistence dictated a different way.

Vinatieri worked like no kicker Blevins had ever met before. He gave it his all. A Daily News reporter writes, “A few weeks into their time working together, Blevins got up early one morning only to discover Vinatieri had parked his truck in his driveway and was sleeping in the cab. That’s when Blevins realized the kicker had given up everything for this chance at the NFL.” And so the relationship grew.

Together they worked on form, timing, placement, and field position. Blevins had Vinatieri kicking “from every conceivable spot on the field, creating every game situation they could imagine. Always, they ended with the same thing: a 47-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl.” Then they would buy a pizza and go over to Blevins’ house to break down the day’s performance. It became much more than a business relationship. “My wife and I,” notes Blevins, came “to love him like family.”

These two are “super stars” not because they have “super egos” but because they have persistence. That has been the key to their success in life and work. We have spoken before, during this series, of Tim Gallwey’s work triangle. He makes it clear that “work” is not a dirty word. It takes commitment, energy, and an occasional push to achieve an outcome, but that doesn’t make it bad. The process of working • at its best • is an educational and enjoyable process that moves us forward and makes life worth living.

The relationship between Vinatieri and Blevins epitomizes Gallwey’s definition of work. They focused on performance, but learning and enjoyment also infused their work. They took pleasure in the process as well as the outcome. They developed a relationship of mutual trust and tenacity. In the midst of the hard work, persistence and perspiration, they had a great time together.

Two years ago, when Vinatieri kicked the winning Super Bowl field goal, Blevins was sitting with his wife in a restaurant near the campus of North Carolina State, where Blevins was scheduled to speak to the athletic department. From the moment Vinatieri addressed the ball, Blevins knew the kick was good. The form could not have been better. As the ball sailed through the uprights, Blevins threw his arms in the air and screamed as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Hearing the commotion and seeing the tears, a waiter came over to see if everything was all right. “He’s fine,” Nenita Blevins assured the waiter, “he’s just Adam Vinatieri’s coach and…” she stopped right there as the waiter looked incredulous. A thousand miles away from the game, with her husband sitting in a restaurant in his wheelchair, Nenita realized just how ridiculous that must have sounded.

Last Sunday the finish was, if anything, even more dramatic. Vinatieri may have developed himself into “the most consistent” and “the greatest clutch kicker in NFL history,” but even he had to be rattled after missing two field goals during the first half. One was pulled to the right as he tried to avoid the outstretched arms of the defense, while the other was blocked.

What did it take for Vinatieri to successfully address the ball, once more, with virtually no time left on the clock, for a 41-yard game-winning field goal? It took persistence and determination. The same persistence that got him into the game, against all odds, was required for him to win the game last Sunday.

That’s the way it is with persistence and determination. We have to exercise it, day by day and minute by minute, with each and every choice we make. The more we exercise that muscle the stronger it becomes, enabling us to face and overcome adversity.

Our challenge may not be winning the Super Bowl and our paycheck may not be in the millions. But when we proactively decide on a course of action, follow it through to a successful conclusion, and then maintain our performance over time • when we persist • we will have no less satisfaction than Vinatieri had in the closing seconds of last Sunday’s game. And we may even share tears of joy with those who have joined us along the way.

Coaching Inquiries: Are you exercising the determination muscle? What is it that you want to do? How could persistence assist you to get it done? Would a coach enable you to get and stay on track? Where could you find the resources you need to succeed?

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

Thanks for such “authentic” inspiration. Great article and so true.

I LOVED your Provision on authenticity. Great work.

Thanks, Bob, for speaking with me about the Wellness Coaching opportunity. It was really nice to hear your voice, as I am reading your Mastering Your Money E-book today!

I would like to be considered as a client for the wellness coaching opportunity in the weight area. I own a busy insurance agency and my stress level is extremely high at time. I have gotten off track with my fitness routine. I read and enjoy every word of every newsletter that I get from you. Thanks.

Although I cannot make the financial commitment to pay for coaching at this time, I do spend time with great sources of inspiration such as your weekly Provisions and other self-help literature. You really provide excellent tips along the way. Keep up the good work.

I read Provisions on my PDA and very much enjoy the content. Thanks. 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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