On the inside of the championship rings worn by the Clemson University football team at the White House on Monday, there's a depiction of a tiger climbing a mountain and the inscription "A little bit more." It's a well-worn motivational sentiment, and one that any coach of any championship team pulls out of the bag at times.
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney undoubtedly barked that very phrase at his players during that unseasonably chilly Florida night in January when the Tigers took down reigning champion Alabama. It was a last-second pass from superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson to former walk-on Hunter Renfrow that led them to win the school's first National Championship in almost four decades. It was a play and a game for the ages as described by many. President Trump said as much in his remarks as he introduced the winning team and coaching staff during their traditional visit to the South Lawn of the White House.
Next to speak was Coach Swinney himself. His eight-minute speech, which culminated in the presentation of a Clemson jersey to the president, did more than just check the normal boxes of any acceptance speech. The National Championship coach chronicled the core value blueprint that drives him and his program to success. As he delivered this simple plan, his players behind him nodded, as if to confirm their buy-in one last time.
Dabo's plan, nine years in the making, has brought a storied football program back to prominence, culminating in a National Championship. But it's not just about football. It's a collection of core values that can serve any purpose. As delivered on the South Lawn of the White House, here it is for you.
Run the Race to Win
In this phrase, lifted from Corinthians, Coach Swinney reminds us that "Everybody runs, but only one wins first prize. So, run your race in such a way as to win."
In this almost too simple reminder, he establishes a clear value-based goal of victory. Additionally, it implicitly sets the table. We're about to hear Dabo's advice on the way to run this race.
Do Common Things in Uncommon Ways
"Do the common things in an uncommon way, and you will command the respect of the world." --George Washington Carver
Coach Swinney pulls this quote from the great statesman as a way to push his players to focus on the process. To do the little things right on a daily basis. There is perhaps not a more recurring theme to his message. Focus on the process. Focus on the little things. He went on:
"Yeah, we've got good players and good coaches, but we did the little things better than anyone else."
The Moments in Between the Special Moments
Coach Swinney described winning the National Championship and visiting the White House as two of many special moments that form the markers in life. He included future special moments to look forward to such as buying a house or becoming a parent. But he urged his players to focus on and cherish these "moments in between the special moments." These moments, according to Dabo, are the formative moments in our lives.
"Life is not about those (special) moments. Life is truly about how we live in between these moments. Doing the little things in a great way."
The Windshield Mentality
"No matter what's behind us in the rearview mirror, it's always about what's next."
This idea serves not only as a guiding principle but a tactical, in-game approach. By urging his people to learn from but not dwell on the past, Coach Swinney keeps them sharp, execution-focused, and goal-driven.
Take These Values With You
"Continue to do common things in an uncommon way. Continue to be 'all in.' Continue to apply 'best is the standard.' Continue to be a person of excellence in everything you do."
In this not-so-subtle pivot to the future, Coach Swinney reminds us and his players of the role these principles serve in life. It's a code of success that applies to business, marriage, parenting, and just being a good person.
Dabo concluded his remarks by simply telling his players that he loved them. And you could tell, without a doubt, the sentiment was returned.
Expressed in his typical aw-shucks drawl, this Dabo speech delivered a simple framework for success. Simple and proven. As witnessed by anyone who has watched the rise of the Clemson program under Coach Swinney's watch and the trophy sitting to his left on the South Lawn.
Perhaps no passage sums up this man's ethic better than this, which served as a closing nod to the journey he and his players traveled on their way to being crowned National Champions.
"Always remember, the goals that we have achieved pale in comparison to the daily commitments it took to get there."