Stop Punting & Go For It

Kevin Kelley, football coach at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, made a crazy decision. His teams stopped punting. Following a failed conversion attempt on third down Kelley didn’t send in the punt unit. His teams would go for it. Every time. Why would he do something so fundamentally counter to what every single other football team in the country did?

“Everyone says football is a game of field position, but it’s not,” Kelley maintains. “It’s a game of scoring points, which only happens when you possess the ball,” Gregg Easterbrook reports.

Kelley’s insight cuts through the process to the end result. Number crunchers demonstrate he’s right. Of course you won’t always convert on fourth down, but the odds are in your favor. Those who argue punting is taking the long view of field position aren’t really right. Going for it on fourth down again and again, it turns out, boosts your chance of winning.

So you don’t play football, or maybe even like it. “So what?,” you ask.

You should stop punting.

You punt when success becomes hard. You’ve tried, tried and tried again, and the defense has stopped you. Every single time you’ve tasted the dirt.

Your novel, your business, your sermon series, have not gone as hoped. You’re frustrated. Trying again seems futile, possibly humiliating. You imagine that trying exposes you to ridicule. But in reality going for it on fourth down is the path to success.

That fear of humiliation, the desire to escape blame, is why football coaches punt even if they know the right thing to do is to go for it.

Again from Easterbrook’s article: “When coaches go for it on fourth-and-short, announcers call that a huge gamble,” Kelley says. “It is not a gamble, it is playing the percentages. The gamble is punting! But coaches are afraid of criticism, so they order punts.”

Kelly is not just talking a good game, he has backed it up with results. The last three years his teams have reached the state semi-finals, then the state finals, then won the state championship, all while following his no-punting philosophy.

Just imagine what you will accomplish by throwing (misplaced) caution to the wind and going for it each and every time. Stop worrying about field position and focus on putting points on the board. Focus on winning the game.

Stop punting.

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