When Walsh took over the 49ers in 1979 they were a rag tag bunch that had gone 2-14 the previous season. He immediately implemented his own performance standards which included: "no shirttails out," "positive attitude," "promptness," "good sportsmanship (no strutting, no posturing, no cheap shots)," "never sit down while on the practice field," "no tank tops in the dining area," "control of profanity," "no fighting," "treat fans with respect and exhibit a professional demeanor," and many more.
It was not a quick fix. The 49ers went 2-14 again in his first season. The next year started better with three wins but then they lost eight games in a row. Their eighth loss was in Miami. In his excellent book with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh The Score Takes Care of Itself Walsh describes his plane ride home after the game:
Coaches aren't supposed to cry, but I'm not ashamed to admit that on the night flight back to San Francisco I sat in my seat in the first row of the plane and broke down sobbing in the darkness.
Most debilitating of all—devastating—was a gnawing fear that I didn't have what it takes to be an NFL head coach. At one point I actually decided to hand in my resignation the next morning; then I changed my mind.
Coach Walsh decided to go with his mantra: Stand and Fight Again. In his book, he goes on to list his rules for dealing with disappointment:
MY FIVE DOS FOR GETTING BACK INTO THE GAME:
- Do expect defeat. It's a given when the stakes are high and the competition is working ferociously to beat you. If you're surprised when it happens, you're dreaming; dreamers don't last long.
- Do force yourself to stop looking backward and dwelling on the professional "train wreck" you have just been in. It's mental quicksand.
- Do allow yourself appropriate recovery—grieving time. You've been knocked senseless; give yourself a little time to recuperate. A keyword here is "little." Don't let it drag on.
- Do tell yourself, "I am going to stand and fight again," with the knowledge that often when things are at their worst you're closer than you can imagine to success. Our Super Bowl victory arrived less than sixteen months after my "train wreck" in Miami.
- Do begin planning for your next serious encounter. The smallest steps—plans—move you forward on the road to recovery. Focus on the fix.
MY FIVE DON'TS: 1. Don't ask, "Why me?" 2. Don't expect sympathy. 3. Don't bellyache. 4. Don't keep accepting condolences. 5. Don't blame others.
What's your checklist to: Stand and Fight Again?