Reading notes: The Score Takes Care of Itself

If you're inclined to learn from books about business and about sports management and coaching, this is a good one. (And I think those books are underrated.)

The sections are, happily, very short. This makes the book readable and digestible. It feels a bit like reading a blog. The largest barrier to the book's digestibility is its reliance on less-vivid nouns and general description. When there are examples, they vivify the material--but those examples are rare. I don't associate football coaches with the tendency to avoid specifics, and it's worth speculating why the book reads like this. Conjectures:

  1. Some high-performing people have the knack of reasoning about things at a more abstract level than the rest of us (while retaining the ability to act on that reasoning). Perhaps Walsh was one of them.
  2. It's just how the ghostwriter writes.
  3. The politics of football (and of a potential return to the NFL) prevented Walsh from discussing more people by name.
  4. Walsh's grasp of those abstracta is in fact quite poor, and his success has more to do with "X's and O's" and less to do with character, management, and so on than the book describes. I strongly doubt this is the correct explanation here, but it's important to keep in mind when reading autobiographical material. There's a lot of autobiographical poker material, for example, in which success that actually came from doing a few basic things correctly is attributed to a profound understanding of psychological nuance, game theory, and so on.

Other notable bits from the book:

  1. Walsh claims he might do less strategizing for a Super Bowl, because sticking to fundamentals becomes more important as the pressure and distractions intensify.
  2. Part of his training of coaches was to make them practice coaching on each other.
  3. The Walsh 49ers had a motto of "Commit; explode; recover (if you're wrong)!"; this is remarkably close to certain mottos of agile software development.

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