X Is For X-Factor: The Secret Of Success


Please join me for a fun series.  My mission, and I’ve chosen to accept it, is to write a post based on each letter of the alphabet.  The English major inside of me is very excited about this project…and my inner nerd is even more fired up!  Keep checking back as I tackle the intangibles of sport…from A to Z.


X-Factor:  “An unknown or hard-to-define but important special property.”

Much like Judge Potter Stewart famously said about another “x” word (x-rated movies), I may not be able to intelligently describe what the x-factor is…but I know it when I see it!  Young folks might call it swagger.  Coaches may call it confidence.  If asked, John Wooden may have called it poise.  Whatever it is…I know it when I see it.  So rather than talk about what the x-factor is, let’s talk about what it looks like.

If you’re a …, then the x-factor looks like…

Player.  Years ago, I had a player on my team who was tall, but she wasn’t my tallest player.  She was good, but not my best player.  She could hit, but she wasn’t my best hitter.  She was a good defender, but her technique (despite my efforts) wasn’t stellar.  She wasn’t a lot of things, but she was a winner.  Whether it was practice or live competition, this young woman elevated herself and those around her to play at a high level.  She played with a focused intensity that simultaneously frightened and motivated her teammates.  Her x-factor: Confidence in who she was as a player and an unapologetic requirement for those around her to step up.

Administrator.  God bless those folks who want to be athletic directors and hold other administrative positions within athletic departments.  I used to think that I wanted to be an administrator until I saw what their jobs entail.  Every institution is different, of course, and will require a different x-factor to be successful.  If you operate a club team, your x-factor might be an ability to shamelessly promote your club and your members.  If you work at an elite prep school, your x-factor would entail the amazing ability to put out fires from entitled athletes and parents.  The ultimate x-factor for an administrator would be to find the right institutional fit for you and your skill set.

Coach.  I like watching coaches coach their teams.  It doesn’t have to be my own sport, I just enjoy watching the different ways in which coaches can manage their program.  Back in the day, I was friends with a soccer coach who was a goofball type of guy.  His teams were successful and, quite honestly, I’d attributed his team’s success to players coming in with a high level of skill rather than his “coaching ‘em up”.  Since I’m a coaching nerd, I asked to watch one of his practices to see what he was doing.  It was wonderful!  His drills weren’t anything different than any other soccer coach would use, but his manner with the players was masterful.  His players hung on his every word and responded enthusiastically to what he said.  He ran an organized practice (just like I’m sure we all do), his players were quite skilled (like most of ours are), and I could tell he knew his stuff (as I’m sure most coaches do)…but there was something different about his practice.  His x-factor: He was connected with his team.  They spoke the same language and they had a high level of respect for him.

Every now and then, we run into someone who impresses us…though we just can’t put our finger on why.  That person just might have the x-factor.  I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it!