Sportswriter Martellus Bennett shared an incredible story for leaders this week. He was talking about the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady who has accomplished literally everything in the NFL. He's a three-time league MVP, a six-time Super Bowl champion and a four-time Super Bowl MVP.If you’re like me, an ordinary person, you speculate about how much influence a coach actually has on an athlete with the capabilities of Brady. The athlete makes more money, is better known, and likely has a record the coach never came close to attaining.I can imagine it's not easy being a great player like Brady and having a coach tell you that in a particular practice or game you performed poorly, or you let the team down, even telling you that you need to change something. But Brady is one of the most coachable athletes of our lifetime. He understands that no one, even a player with a tremendous resume and career like he has, is above criticism or improvement.Bennett knows Brady firsthand. He played one and a half seasons with the Patriots and won Super Bowl LI with him.On the FOX Sports 1 show, First Things First, Bennett talked about his friend’s coachability: "One day we were at practice and the defense is crushing us. We can't complete any passes. Sometimes they do the install and it's just the right install. So we come into the meeting and Bill (Belichick) always had bad plays of the day and he's just calling out Tom, ‘We have quarterbacks that can't make throws.' I'm like ‘This is Tom Brady. He can make all the throws.'”"I've never seen coaches really call out the quarterbacks in group meetings. I sit right behind Tom because I'm the quarterback whisperer. I like to whisper in their ear when I see things. So, after the meeting, I go to finish my workout or whatever and Tom is in there doing drop-backs. He's just throwing drop-backs. He's pissed off. The next day we go 33 for 33 or something like that at practice, and from then I was just like, ‘Oh, we're gonna be great.' I've never seen anyone that didn't shut down. He was like, ‘Alright, I'm gonna show you tomorrow.' He just picked them apart. ‘Take this, take that!’"Bennett said it is rare for players in general, let alone a veteran celebrity like Brady, to take this kind of criticism. Not every player takes this kind of criticism well, especially in a group setting "You'll see a lot of guys retreat," Bennett said. "Why are you pointing me out? Why are you doing this or doing that?” He said it was great to be in an environment where no player was put on a pedestal based on talent or career achievements.Coach Belichick clearly isn't afraid to get on anyone's case, and he always calls it exactly as he sees it, no matter how big their name or important to the game. "He'll call out anybody," Bennett said of Belichick. "I try not to laugh sometimes because, like, the way he does it is funny to me. I find Bill to be hilarious. But he calls everybody out. That's the first team I've been on where I felt everyone was equal."Belichick is not the only coach who will do this, but it’s not overly common in coaching today, either. Another player/coach duo who had a similar dynamic to Belichick and Brady was San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. Duncan became known as one of the most coachable players in NBA history. Popovich never excluded him from the critique other players received, despite his value to the team and his news-making achievements.Belichick and Popovich made inestimable contributions to the success and longevity of their players, as they helped Brady and Duncan stay motivated to press on to new heights, regardless of their success to that point. As coaches for our teams, we can never afford to pull back in leading our people, no matter who they are. Everyone is always a part of the team, and no one is beyond improvement. For ourselves as players, we need to see that willingness to accept coaching, learn from it and use it as personal motivation is among the many reasons why both players kept winning at a championship level in the latter stages of their careers. Too often we let criticism or coaching make us defensive or discouraged, when it is essential to keeping our edge and staying in the game.Speaking of staying in the game, Tom Brady is doing it! At 41, this quarterback could definitely win a few more titles. He’s so coachable, he is a picture of the old adage “not getting older, getting better."
top of page
bottom of page