Communicating with teams in motion

Communicating with teams in motion

I really enjoy mentoring start-up founders, and I’m happy to call that my avocation these days. Most, but not all, of these founders are young or younger (I took it as a compliment this week when one founder said “we could use some salt and pepper in our founder recipe”). And, with luck and hard work, some of them will grow teams in the hundreds in the coming years, though the majority will not.

That’s why I was struck by this interview with LJ Spinnato, a prep school football coach who gives very few interviews, which seems counter-intuitive for a post about communication. But what LJ has done at Choate was inspiring to honing my craft, though most of my kids are a little older and wouldn’t know what “Double Left- S Low, 70 Sell it Hot” really is. (*answer below)

LJ covered in-game communication, the chain of command, the homework and tendencies that go into every game time decision which is pretty similar to the data gathering that supports a founder in each decision. I was struck by how many inputs he gets before making a decision (play call), yet he alone makes the call as the head of the chain. I was also struck by how he messages the program values to the kids -these are 14-18 year olds!- about how they choose to spend their high school years. The program is full of teaching commitment, timeliness, respect, academic rigor, responsibility and dedication… and challenging people! All this is applicable to start ups. What he did not mention is the dedication he makes to the outside communication in the role of recruiting, parent relations, college placement, etc. Add that to what he does for preparing for the game itself, and he has built an awesome machine.

His opponents must agree- Choate Football is 48-0 in the last five years of New England Championships, with an average score differential of 42-9. We pieced together one undefeated team in my time there, and we thought it could never be done. LJ & Co. have humbled us all, and given us great pride at the same time.

With all the noise on the dangers of football lately, it was nice to remind myself of the life skills it teaches young men. We can all learn from that.


*So…what happens on “Double Left- S Low, 70 Sell it Hot” … Two receivers line up left, (Double Left) slot in motion (S-Low), three step (quick) drop in (70) pass formation, where the tight end and the A-back (7 & 0) are in protection, and the receiver routes are short post and question mark (Sell it) and run to the right (Hot).


LJ’s full interview is here.



I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.