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Book Summary: Move the Ball – How the Game of American Football Can Help You Achieve Your Life Goals

Life isn’t easy, and neither is American football. Both require discipline, hard work, sacrifice and dedication to your short-, medium- and long-term goals. To win in football, as in life, you must make hard choices. Success in both endeavors requires developing a smart game plan, organizing an inventive playbook and effectively executing your plays.

In this book summary, executive coach Jennifer A. Garrett insightfully details how you can leverage the game’s lessons to win big in life.


The parallels between winning in American football and winning in life are striking. In football, you must prepare fully for each upcoming game. In life, success also requires preparing extensively. Jennifer A. Garrett, an executive coach and attorney with extensive corporate experience, dissects football and insightfully details how readers can leverage the game’s lessons to win big in life. Garrett says she knows “football inside and out.” She clearly has vast knowledge, though you might not always concur with her opinions. For example, giving credit to perseverance and practice, she believes talent isn’t what makes the difference between average football players and superstars, yet anyone who played against Bo Jackson, Lawrence Taylor, Randy Moss or Jim Brown might disagree. We recommend Garrett’s informative, motivational ideas to all those who believe American football demonstrates a lot about how to succeed.

Book Summary: Move the Ball - How the Game of American Football Can Help You Achieve Your Life Goals


  • American football is rough and tough. So is life.
  • Football is just like life – and life is a lot like football.
  • To win in football and in life, you must have discipline, you must work hard and you must make sacrifices.
  • The goal in football is to score more points than the other team. Your personal goals must be just as definitive.
  • To achieve your goals, make smart choices.
  • Enlist the support of a strong team.
  • Decide which lifestyle changes you need to make to get ahead.
  • Success in football and in life requires having a smart playbook.
  • Review your playbook regularly. Adjust it as necessary.
  • Make careful plans, take the right actions and believe in yourself.

Look to American Football for Life Lessons

Life isn’t easy, and neither is American football. Both require discipline, hard work, sacrifice and dedication to your short-, medium- and long-term goals. To win in football, as in life, you must make hard choices. Success in both endeavors requires developing a smart game plan, organizing an inventive playbook and effectively executing your plays. In football and life, you must be a team player and you must do all you can to win.


Even when resilient teams are down by a few touchdowns, they can still bounce back and win. You need the same resilience, persistence and never-say-die spirit to manage your life, at home and at work. You must beat your opponents and overcome obstacles to come out on top. This means becoming the tough quarterback of your own life and making gutsy plays.

“Football is an honest game. It’s true to life. It’s a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life.” (Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath)

As in football, to be a winner in life, you must believe in yourself. You need to be enthusiastic, energetic and confident. This means never quitting, no matter how tough things may get. To achieve your objectives, write down your goals, develop your playbook and execute it with confidence and spirit.


The quarterback plays a vital role, but no player can win the game alone. Only strong efforts by the whole team will get the ball into the end zone. Since passing dominates the offensive strategy in a modern football game, the quarterback must connect with the wide receivers to put points on the board.

“The principles football teaches both on and off the field are the same ones we need to achieve our personal and career goals.”

Consider these famous NFL quarterback–wide receiver tandems: the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, the San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, and the Dallas Cowboys’ Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. Like a quarterback, you need a team of supporters to help you move ahead and win. They help you stay grounded and keep you accountable.

Lose the Dead Weight

Having winning people on your side is essential, but it’s not enough. To come out on top, you also need to separate yourself from people who purposely or inadvertently hurt you, discourage you or tear you down. Kick these people off your team. Sometimes they are so detrimental to your best interests that you don’t want them anywhere on the playing field – or even in the stadium. You can’t develop a winning strategy with poisonous insiders tearing you down. Don’t waste time; cut them from your roster now.

Develop Firm Goals

In football, players understand the goal that drives all their efforts and hard work: score more points than the other team. Each player must sacrifice and work hard to achieve this target. Football players’ objectives are both tactical (win the game) and strategic (win the league championship). Your personal goals in life must be just as defined, tactical and strategic. You can’t get anywhere in life if you don’t have a firm destination in mind. Whether you are working on a short-term tactical goal, a mid-range goal or a long-term strategic goal, make your goals SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound.

“In life, you are the quarterback. You control the ball. But you’ll need other players to be with you. A team of supporters is required to win.”

In football, the playbook is the execution plan for winning a game. You need a similar action plan to win in life. Be creative and bold in your planning. Step out of your comfort zone. Take risks. Know your rivals and their strengths and weaknesses. Figure all this information into your planning. Move away from the crowd to differentiate yourself.

“Winning life’s game involves hard work. You do not achieve your goals without continual improvement.”

Success in football and in life relies on planning, executing and scoring points. This means your job is to move the ball down the field and into the end zone. To do so in life, you may need to change your behavior, reset your priorities and make tough choices. Don’t expect this to be easy. Winning takes sacrifice and hard work.

How to Treat Your Team

You want great people on your team. To keep them on your side, treat them courteously. Don’t be an ego-driven prima donna. Always be relaxed and natural with your team members. No one likes to work for bosses who constantly brag about themselves. Stay humble, classy and positive. Never cop a negative attitude, since that will bring other people down.

Don’t Look for a “First-Down Marker”

In football, everything is straightforward: You get four downs to advance the ball 10 yards. Do so successfully, and you get another four downs to move another 10 yards. Do this enough times, and you’ll eventually reach the end zone and score a touchdown. In life, unfortunately, you don’t get first-down markers. You have to establish your own milestones and then achieve them. On the upside, instead of getting four plays to move to the next milestone, you may get 40 plays – or even more. It’s up to you and how much heart, determination, stamina and self-discipline you have.

When You Get Knocked Down, Get Right Back Up

In football, defensive players play as well as offensive players. The blitz is a great play for the defense. A defensive squad can utilize a variety of blitzes. The goal of most blitzes is to pressure quarterbacks so they will leave the temporary safety of the “pocket” of their blockers and rush their passes.

“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.” (Steve Young, MVP of Super Bowl XXIX) ”

Whatever kind of blitz the defense uses – single-edge zone blitz, inside-zone blitz, safety blitz, you name it – the object always is the same: Shut down the offense. Keep it from moving the ball and scoring. In life, others will use blitzes to try to shut you down. Just like tactical offensive players, you must recognize a blitz of any kind and be ready to counter it with your own smart moves.

“If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.” (Ronnie Lott, defensive back) ”

The blitz is dangerous to any offense, but blitz players are right up front: At the snap of the ball they do their best to flood the pocket and sack the quarterback. More insidious is the blindside hit: The quarterback gets sacked out of the blue by a defensive specialist. In life, unexpected events you can’t predict can blindside you and push you down. If you get knocked off your feet, jump up and get back in the game. That’s when character counts.

Take Risks

A football coach has a big decision to make at fourth down: whether to punt or attempt to make the first down. Many coaches will punt; they’re too scared to go for it. In contrast, coaches with gamblers’ hearts often take a chance and try to run or pass their team out of trouble. Of course, what kind of fourth down your team faces informs your coach’s decision: Fourth and inches is a much better bet than fourth and eight yards to go. In life, when it’s time to make a tough decision, what level of risk do you face? If it’s a fair gamble, go for it. You can’t get ahead in life if you don’t embrace some risk.

Play for the Entire Game

In 1989, Jimmy Johnson joined the Dallas Cowboys as the new head coach. During Johnson’s reign, the Cowboys were a dominant team; they won two Super Bowls in a row. Things changed for the Cowboys after the millennium. The team lost its mental toughness. The players lost their pride. They didn’t give 100% for an entire game. They quit on themselves and on their fans. Never let yourself down. Stay in the game. Play every minute. Never quit. As long as time remains on the clock, no matter what the odds may be, you still have a chance to win.

Keep Moving Ahead

A football coach can have the greatest game plan in the world, but things rarely work exactly according to plan. That’s the way it is in life, too. Even if your plans become undone, no matter what you run up against and no matter how tough things may get, keep pressing ahead. Work hard. Stay disciplined. Be relentless. Keep surging down the field. Advance the ball. Score your touchdown – and then another and another and another.

“Mad Pride”

In football, greatness is not merely a function of talent. Other elements are important. Taken all together, these elements constitute Mad Pride, which you need to achieve greatness in life. Consider each component of Mad Pride:

  • Mental toughness” – You need mental toughness to come out ahead of your competition. In the words of physician David Yukelson, the coordinator of sport psychology services at Pennsylvania State University, mental toughness is a “natural or developed psychological edge” that enables you to cope with life’s challenges more efficiently and effectively than most other people can. Mental toughness comes from conditioning your mind, your body and your emotions.
  • Ambition with attitude” – Great football players obsess about winning. They always want to come out on top. A “winning attitude” distinguishes great athletes. It spurs their ambition and helps them achieve their goals. Think of this as ambition with attitude. Vince Lombardi, the former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, wanted to win more than anything else. He communicated this desire to his players. Each week, in every game, the players worked as hard as they could to win – so they wouldn’t disappoint their coach. They played with heart. Motivate yourself to do the same without a Coach Lombardi to encourage you.
  • Determined balance” – According to former UCLA assistant basketball coach Craig Impelman, “Balance is one of the most important words in the dictionary.” Great football players maintain steady, admirable balance in their lives. You see this in the way they allocate time for family, for personal and professional growth, for football practice, and for other important activities. Strive for this kind of balance in your life.
  • Practice with purpose” – Football is a team sport. Practice is necessary so all the players on your team learn to work in unison. Frank Leahy was Notre Dame’s head football coach during the 1940’s and 1950’s. While Leahy was in charge, Notre Dame won four national championships. Leahy believed in the value of practice. “Lads, you’re not going to miss practice unless your parents died or you died,” he told his players. He made sure they practiced with purpose.
  • Relentlessness to rebound” – Dorial Green-Beckham had a horrible youth. He never knew his father, and his mother was a substance abuser. He became a foster child, moving from home to home. Green-Beckham didn’t let adversity slow him down. At the University of Missouri, he earned recognition as USA Today’s offensive player of the year for 2011. No matter what knocked him down, he rebounded relentlessly.
  • Improvement-focused” – Great football players have superior focus – or they learn it. They work to improve themselves and their performance. They eat right, stay in good condition, strengthen themselves through weight training and practice hard. Develop and execute a plan to address any areas of your life in which you need to improve.
  • Dedication to a healthy diet” – You need the right fuel to operate with total efficiency. This includes superfoods like nuts and berries, apples, whole grains, and cocoa. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Cut back on sugar, saturated fats and sodium.
  • Energy that energizes” – Cheerleaders play an important function at football games. They spark excitement and help create the home-field advantage. Cheerleaders energize the fans in the stands and they, in turn, propel the players. The best players charge themselves up and spark each other. The same energy that wins football games helps people win in life.

You Have Only One Life to Win

Your life is your game, the only one you’ll ever have. Don’t waste it. You control your destiny. You are your own quarterback. It’s up to you to move the ball down the field. No one else will do it for you. Strive to become the “go-to player” in your world. Win your game now and in the future. The most basic truth of football is that great players don’t play for themselves. They play for their teammates, so everyone wins.

About the author

Executive coach, corporate consultant and motivational speaker Jennifer A. Garrett, JD, serves as a Judge Advocate in the Army National Guard. She has five children, holds seven degrees and won the GE Women’s Network Hall of Fame “Real Life Hero” Award. Her experience includes working for the US government and for Fortune 50 Companies such as Boeing and GE.

Jennifer A. Garrett is an internationally recognized author, life coach, and motivational speaker with a passion for writing and for helping others. She enjoys showing others how they can achieve their dreams and achieve greatness. As an only child, Jennifer fell in love with the game of American football at age four. While she uses multiple subjects to teach people how to accomplish their goals, she often uses the game of football to show how the principles needed to win football games can be taken off the field and applied to one’s career, business, and the personal setting to be successful in life. Jennifer’s story is inspiring to those who meet her. She plays the game of life hard and has completed seven college degrees: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Electrical Engineering, B.S. in Biomedical Engineering, Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), Master of Arts (M.A.) in Communication and Leadership Studies, Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Business Transactions, and LL.M. in Taxation. She completed her graduate degrees while working and raising her five children. In the business world, Jennifer is recognized as an outstanding leader. She has worked in many challenging positions, where she demonstrated that she could lead teams, inspire others, and deliver results. She sets high expectations for herself first, never making excuses and always holding herself accountable. Jennifer currently works as an executive coach, corporate consultant, and Judge Advocate in the Army National Guard. As a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of challenging the status quo, Jennifer helps her clients drive organizational efficiency, close large-scale business deals, and exceed targets. Jennifer’s broad experience includes working for the federal government, and Fortune 50 Companies such as The Boeing Company and General Electric. Her expertise spans many areas such as legal, sales, marketing, branding, engineering, program management, and strategic planning. In December 2012, Jennifer received the GE Women’s Network Hall of Fame “Real Life Hero” Award.


Self-Help, Personal Transformation


Move the Ball (2nd edition, 2018) draws parallels between American football and life. The principles needed to win the game of football are the same principles needed to win the game of life. All sports highlight the importance of teamwork and leadership. But other sports don’t teach you about being aware of the blindside, focusing on getting the next first down, thinking before you punt, and more. These are some of the unique principles that football shows us and each of these strategies are applicable both on and off the football field. No matter what the situation, football provides you with the tools necessary to scramble through a field of defenders, move the ball forward, get into the end zone, and achieve life’s goals.Accomplishing your goals comes down to this: hard work, teamwork, discipline, and dedication. Defenders on your personal field intentionally want to stop the ball and limit your movement. You must recognize these defenders exist and have a plan to outmaneuver them. This book teaches you how to recognize the blitz, adjust to the blitz, and beat the blitz.Both in football and life, the players need to define the goals, invent the playbook, and execute the plays. Move the Ball draws upon the football playbook to show you how to do this and realize your dreams. Great players don’t settle for being ordinary. They have a strong belief in themselves and strive to be extraordinary. They have M.A.D. P.R.I.D.E. This book shows you how you can use M.A.D. P.R.I.D.E. to overcome any obstacle and win. The time is now to realize greatness. Are you ready to move the ball?

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