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Surviving at the Top: What Coach Saban Can Teach Us About Tests Pt. 3



Surviving at the top: Interview with Nick Saban

Surviving at the Top


















So Clemson pulled off the win over Alabama and won the championship. Yes, I admit it, I was wrong in my prediction that Bama would win. To me, betting against Bama seemed like betting against the Yankees or the Patriots. But this year, Bama wasn't the better team when it mattered most. 

Although I picked Bama to win, I was cheering for Clemson the whole time. As a Pitt grad, I really wanted to see Clemson win because Pitt was the only team to beat Clemson in football this year. That being said, there is a lot we can learn by analyzing how coach Saban handles games like this.

For one thing, Saban swears by a 24 hour rule that entails moving on from a game emotionally within 24 hours whether you win or lose. This doesn't mean he never looks back on games after 24 hours to review what went well and what didn't; it means that he doesn't dwell on the results emotionally, and he certainly doesn't let it impact his preparation for the next game. 


What if you were to adopt a 24 hour rule in your life? What if after you got a test back with a lower grade than you hoped for you only gave yourself a 24 hour period to gloat about it before getting back to work? What if you applied the same concept after getting a good grade as well?

In organic chemistry, the second test is notorious for separating the As from the Bs (and also the Ds from the Fs). Several of my classmates in undergrad who aced the first test with flying colors went on to bomb the second test for not treating it with the respect it deserved. 


I'll admit I found myself in a similar position during the second semester of organic chemistry, but I still finished with a good grade. At competitive schools, breaking away from the curve can be very difficult. Just getting to the top is hard enough, but staying there is another story altogether. 

Have you ever noticed that there always seem to be some students in every hard class who just seem to "get it," and almost always score above the curve even though they don't seem to be working hard?

Or that whenever these same students earn a bad grade or two, they are able to quickly get back on track and stay there consistently?

Is the answer that some students are just naturally smarter than others? Perhaps this is a factor, but in my opinion it doesn't play nearly as big of a role as most think it does. 


These are some questions that unfortunately nobody can ever really answer, but I some ideas that may shed some light here. Slip ups will always happen, but the best always find a way to finish strong in the long run anyway. Consider the college football championship winners for each year since 2009:

2009 - Alabama

2010 - Auburn

2011 - Alabama

2012 - Alabama

2013 - Florida State

2014 - Ohio State

2015 - Alabama

2016 - Clemson

We see that Bama won 4 championships. Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State, and Clemson each won a championship, but none of them won more than one during this time. 


In 2010, Auburn pulled off an exciting upset over Bama. Auburn reached the top that year, and although they've had some good years since, they've been unable to stay up there. The same can be said for Florida State, and Ohio State, and the same will probably end up being true for Clemson.

Now, I openly and freely admit I'm the farthest thing from a football expert you'll ever meet. In fact, while I'm a sports fan, there are many people out there who are much more into sports than I am. 


There are plenty of logical and well reasoned arguments you can make against my claims here, but the point I'm trying to make is so simple that it doesn't require any logic, reason, or extensive football knowledge to see: Coach Saban knows how to reach the top, and also knows how to survive there.

Although Bama has had losses since 2009, they've always found a way to get back to the top when others haven't. A great question to think about is how do you handle the loses, upsets, and disappointments in life? Do you dwell on them, beat yourself up, or make excuses for them? Or do you reflect on them, learn from them, and profit from them to win again in the future?


Consider this quote from Saban after Bama's loss to Clemson:

"It was a tough way for the team to lose, but we had our opportunities to stop them and didn’t do it. They made some plays down the stretch and some great catches. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”

Also consider this one:


"But I will say this: That you have to give a lot of credit to Clemson, because they made some really good plays down the stretch. They made some great catches, and we never got the ball down and we never got done what we needed to do. We had our chances, and there’s nobody that we can blame but ourselves."

Saban is clearly not making any excuses for the loss. Also look at how he treated Clemson's head coach Dabo Swinney after the loss. It's said that Saban searched the whole stadium full of screaming fans after the game until he found Swinney to shake his hand. Here's what Saban said about Swinney after the game:

"I have a lot of respect for him as a person. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. He has a really good team, and I have a lot of respect for their team."

What can we learn from this? Hopefully you can see here how Saban refused to make excuses after the loss, and also paid great tribute to the accomplishments of coach Swinney. 


Now, this is saying nothing against Swinney because he is undoubtedly an outstanding and top-level coach, but many Clemson fans themselves are saying right now that Clemson probably won't have a team like this again for a long time. 

Even though they lost this year, Bama is already looking like they will still be a powerhouse is the years to come. Will Bama pull off the win next year? Who knows? But Saban's record of success gives us reason to believe they will be back at the top soon, love them or hate them.

Saban's faith in "The Process" is another reason why I believe Bama will be back at the top for many years to come down the line. 


One of the cornerstones of Saban's Process philosophy is that methodical daily preparation leads to longterm success. Saban is a firm believer in being process oriented rather than results oriented. What exactly does this mean for college students?

I believe studying and test preparation can be approached as a process where time management, organization, effort, focus, discipline, attitude, test taking skills, and study methods are all vital components. 


Sure, the end goal is to get excellent grades, but in my opinion daily focus on the achievement process is more likely to bring about excellent grades consistently than focusing solely on the grades (the result).

If you're a student reading this right now and you feel like you're studying really hard but your grades aren't reflecting it, I implore you to take a step back and really examine your study process. This means think about opening yourself up to some self-reflection, and really take a serious look at your daily study process. 


Perhaps the problem has nothing to do with your study methods, and maybe you just need to revamp your time management strategies, or work more on staying organized (putting papers in folders, etc..). Whatever it is, know that sometimes just a few small tweaks can make all the difference!

As I've said throughout this trilogy, I'm not an Alabama fan, and I'm not even a big fan of Nick Saban as a football coach. Also remember that I cheered for Clemson despite my prediction Bama would win. However, I still have a tremendous amount of respect for Saban's accomplishments, and understand that there's a lot to learn from him about how to win. 


You don't have to be an Alabama fan, or even a sports fan to still learn a lot from studying coach Saban and his methods for success. I really hope you've enjoyed this series, and have found it interesting and helpful! Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you as you go after your goals! I'll leave you with one final quote from coach Saban: 

"Improvement is a steady march and you have to be committed to it."


If you're new to this series or want to read the earlier posts again, here's where you can find them:



  • What Saban Can Teach Us Part 1

  • What Saban Can Teach Us Part 2

  • Part 3 Promo




This post first appeared on Test Prep Champions, please read the originial post: here

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Surviving at the Top: What Coach Saban Can Teach Us About Tests Pt. 3

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