How Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney Made His ‘Extravagant Dreams’ Come True
You’ve got to be a champion on the inside before you can build a championship team.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Clemson coach, Dabo Swinney, doesn't just have a goal--he has a dream. And not just any dream. If you're going to dream, you might as well "be extravagant" about it," he once said.
Swinney's Clemson Tigers put on an extravagant win against Alabama to win the college football 2019 National Championship. Clemson's 44-16 victory is Swinney's second national title in three years.
Ten years ago, when Swinney took over the head coaching position, the school's football program was still thinking small. Swinney transformed the program by first changing the mindset.
In an interview after Clemson's victory on Monday night, Swinney recalled walking into his first board meeting as Clemson's new head coach in 2008. One of the members told Swinney, "We just want to be a program like Michigan or Florida." Swinney tried to keep his mouth shut, but his mindset wouldn't allow it. He cut the person off.
"I don't mean this disrespectfully," he said, "but that's not my goal. My vision is for other schools to be like Clemson. My vision is to build a model program."
For ten years, Swinney says he's been "intentional" about achieving that purpose. In an interview for the Clemson Insider after winning his fifth ACC championship game in December (ten years to the day he was hired as head coach) Swinney talked about these dreams.
"I've never been a small dreamer," he said. "I had a lot of time as a kid to dream. There wasn't much else left to do."
Swinney grew up in a poor family with few contacts, resources, or money. He had something money can't buy--the mindset of a champion.
He dreamed of attending the University of Alabama. And he achieved it.
He dreamed of playing for the Crimson Tide. And he achieved it.
He dreamed of becoming a head coach. And he achieved it.
"You got to be a champion on the inside. You got to be able to see it and have a vision for it. Then you got to go act upon it," Swinney said.
Dabo Swinney and Starbucks' Howard Schultz Share The Same Mindset
The Clemson Tigers might not have anything in common with Starbucks--on the surface. But dreamers started both organizations. Swinney's attitude reminds me of a conversation I had several years ago with then-Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz. "Dream big. Then dream bigger," he said.
Schultz grew up poor in public housing in Brooklyn, New York. But, like Swinney, he didn't allow anyone to place a limit on what he could accomplish. When he had the idea for Starbucks, his business partners at the time thought he was crazy. They were content selling coffee beans. That dream was too small for Schultz.
"The reason I'm here is because I dreamed big dreams. I dreamed the kind of dreams that other people said would not be possible," he said.
Schultz also galvanized a team around his vision to create a third place between work and home. Schultz told me, "When you're surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible."
Now listen to coach Dabo Swinney after Clemson beat Alabama:
"When you get a young group of people that believe, are passionate...and committed to a single purpose, you better look out. Great things can happen." Sound familiar?
Plenty of people will line up to place limits on what you can accomplish. They're not dreamers. You are. Great things can happen when you dream bigger than other people.