I read an interview today with Eli Manning on Giants.com.
Manning was asked, “When you return as a World Champ and you know what is ahead and how difficult it is to look back, where does the motivation come from when you know you will be getting a ring next month?” I was intrigued by his answer:
I think the motivation is always trying to improve; always trying to get better, always trying to become a better player. Sometimes you can’t worry about winning a championship next year. You know how difficult that is; you know that a lot of things have to happen. But you can’t always control that. You can control making sure you are doing everything you can to be prepared–to get your workouts, to be in shape. Make sure you are doing everything you can to try and stay healthy and get your teammates mentally and physically ready for the season. So that is what we are doing right now. We are working hard. We are getting prepared and figuring out ways to get better.
If there’s one thing I noticed about Manning last season, it was the way he worked with his weapons in the offseason. He ran “Camp Eli” in Hoboken during the NFL lockout. He took young and inexperienced players like Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard and worked close with them to help improve their game.
Manning said the key factor to motivation is trying to improve. He spent the offseason trying to help his teammates step it up another notch.
Making a move like this, to run a camp when coaches couldn’t, and to motivate young players when no one else could, is the definition of leadership.
Sure, the goal every team wants to accomplish in any season of any sport is to win the championship. You’d be crazy not to. Being a defending champion can make it difficult to NOT thinking about repeating.
Manning is making it clear that even though that will be the focus down the line, that shouldn’t be the focus right now. Now is the time to focus on preparation for the season. Manning is pretty much saying let’s get to Week 1 first and work from there. Let’s not get over excited and expect more than you should.
The focus right now is improvement. Without that you won’t be better.
There are many questions players should be asking at this moment:
I was injured last season. How do I stay healthy? I scored a lot of touchdowns last year. How do I score more? I ran for 2,000 yards last season. What do I need to do to get 3,000? I have decent speed. What training do I need to get faster?
Manning wants his guys to ask themselves how they can take what they did last year and make it better. There’s plenty of time before Super Bowl XLVII.
Manning has very unique leadership skills. He’s not the outspoken loudmouth that you read about in the paper everyday. He keeps his discussions with teammates behind closed doors.
He is also physically and mentally tough and it splashes to his teammates.
Anyone that says Manning isn’t tough is out of their mind. Let’s compare him, let’s say, to Tom Brady.
Don’t get me wrong, Tom Brady is a great quarterback. Probably top five in NFL history. He has the looks, the model wife, and the insane stats. What he also has are veteran receivers, tall and fast tight ends, and a strong offensive line. That’s what makes him great.
What does Manning have? He has a weak offensive line. They don’t protect him enough and he gets sacked on average four times a game. The second Brady’s line crumbles…he crumbles. When Manning’s line crumbles…he gets up and keeps going. Brady complains to the officials. Manning takes the hit and moves to the next play.
Teammates recognize the fact that the leader keeps calm, cool, and collected. When they see this, they follow.
Antrel Rolle put it simply last season: Manning doesn’t always get up in front of his team to speak, but when he does, they listen.