Bear Bryant Always Made Sense in Few Words
Legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant probably gets credit for many more philosophical statements than he ever actually uttered. Still, having just passed another anniversary of his death in January 1983, I’m reminded once again just how succinct and powerful the college coach’s actual words and winning philosophy were. And how easily they could be applied to success in life as well as to winning football as played by his beloved Crimson Tide.
In my book THE BEAR: THE LEGENDARY LIFE OF COACH PAUL “BEAR” BRYANT, I give several examples of Coach Bryant’s insistence that preparation and hard work were the real keys to success. One maxim that stood out—and one I know he actually said—was, “It is not the will to win that leads to success. It is the will to prepare to win.”
I believe it is especially important to the current generation to realize that success is not necessarily something that comes through good fortune or because of a desire for it to happen. Yes, you may win the Power Ball millions, but consider the odds against you. You may desperately want to be the next “American Idol,” but wanting to be is not enough. Everyone wants to win and be successful. Not everybody is willing to do what it takes. As Coach Bryant says, you have a much better chance to succeed if you work hard, learn, practice, and excel. That is, you are willing to do the hard work to prepare to be a winner rather than sit back and wish and hope.
Near the end of THE BEAR: THE LEGENDARY LIFE OF COACH PAUL “BEAR” BRYANT I talk about a conversation the Alabama football coach had with a sports reporter. Bear admitted that he was sick and no longer able to continue the brutal coaching schedule he had followed most of his adult life.
“When I give up coaching I’ll probably croak within a month,” he told the writer. What he was actually saying was that once he was physically incapable of the hard work he knew he needed to do to assure the football success of the Crimson Tide, he would quit the only job he ever wanted. “I ain’t never been nothing but a winner,” he said. Once that was no longer possible, it was time for him to step down. That was exactly what he did.
Bear Bryant’s comments proved to be prophetic. He suffered a fatal heart attack only a few weeks after his last game as football coach at the University of Alabama.
Don Keith is author of THE BEAR: THE LEGENDARY LIFE OF COACH PAUL “BEAR” BRYANT and more than two dozen other books, fiction and non-fiction, on subjects ranging from sports to history to broadcasting. His web site is www.donkeith.com.