Nov. 4, 2021

Swiss Army Leadership with Zac Hoffman, Author and Former Pro Athlete

Swiss Army Leadership with Zac Hoffman, Author and Former Pro Athlete

In Episode 54, Zach Hoffman, Author of Finding the Good Life as a SWALeader and former professional American football player in Europe, talking with Phil about intercultural competence, leading effectively in a foreign country, humility, playing...

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In Episode 54, Zach Hoffman, Author of Finding the Good Life as a SWALeader and former professional American football player in Europe, talking with Phil about intercultural competence, leading effectively in a foreign country, humility, playing American football in Europe, mental toughness and resilience, and helping players to overcome adversity. Specifically, Zach discusses:

  • His story, how he developed his passion for football and leadership, his new book, and how he ended up playing football in Europe (2:12)
  • The importance of intercultural competence in our leadership (9:23)
  • Earning respect and leading effectively in a foreign country when speaking a different language (16:29)
  • The importance of a humble, learning posture (20:07)
  • Playing American football in countries that love the other (real) football (23:40)
  • Lessons he learned when he transitioned to “the real world” after he retired from his football playing career (26:50)
  • His personal why (32:11)
  • Mental toughness and resilience (38:21)
  • Importance of coaches helping their players overcome adversity (43:49)
  • What he has learned directly from the game of American football that he has used in other areas of his life (47:13)
  • His recommendation (50:31)

Resources and Links from this Episode


Phil: Welcome back to How Soccer Explains Leadership. Once again, I am Phil Darke. You're host. Very much appreciate you being part of the conversation. And as usual, I'm excited to be here with you. And as usual, because we have a Guest with us again today. And once again, we have a guest who is a little bit outside of the soccer arena.

He is a football player, American football player. That is, he's not the, a European style of that, but he is playing. So it's kind of an interesting twist on what's everything going on. So he's got a unique perspective that not unique, but it's rare perspective of a, of an American playing American football over in Europe.

He's written a leadership book that we're going to talk about today, and he's just a guy that I I've, I've enjoyed getting to know a little bit, and I hope you will enjoy getting to know him too on this show. If you haven't done so already go ahead and rate and review. Subscribe, wherever you're at as well, join the Facebook group because that's the best place to connect [00:01:00] with us.

And there will also be as, as a, probably as when this, whenever this is we're going to be having some special content that will only be on that Facebook group. So I encourage you to go and sign up there. There'll be opportunities for you to dive deeper into a lot of this stuff that will. Somewhat exclusive to that Facebook group.

Also some word of mouth stuff that we'll be doing, but a D jump on there. And that would be a great place. You can continue the conversation. The one other place you can do that really easily is on my email at So without more from me on that, Zach Hoffman, how are you doing?

[00:01:39] Zach: I'm great, Phil. Appreciate you. Appreciate you taking the time to have me on .

[00:01:43] Phil: Yeah, I'm, I'm excited for this too. I'm excited for this conversation because like I said before, it's, it's got a lot of nuances fun, cool stuff. So the first thing I like to do whenever we get a new guest is to let you share your story a little bit. Most people probably don't know who you are.

So if you could just share your story, how you develop [00:02:00] your passion for American football, leadership.

[00:02:02] Zach: Definitely. So basically I am a retired player. I've just stopped playing in 2018. And so now I strictly coach and I really focus my attention to the youth. I've really found kind of my passion coaching, the younger generation here in Europe.

And so I started playing American football. It's kind of a funny story, how I, how I got into football and Europe. I was playing in college in the state. It's a small division division, two school in Pennsylvania. And I kind of hit a point in my life where I realized that my ultimate goal, which is, you know, most athletes goal is to reach the highest peak of their sport.

And I realized that I wasn't gonna, you know, reach my goal of going to the NFL, kind of hit me all at once. And I kind of saw my life going down a path of. Normalcy, I guess you could say, you know, the typical four year degree, FiNet play it, play sports, you know, play football, enjoy your time, get out, start working.

And I always knew [00:03:00] that I wanted more for myself as a person. You know, I guess one of my biggest fears ever since I was young it's fear of, you know, just kind of getting lost in the shuffle of. And so I knew I had it to make a change. You know, my passion was still with football and American football, but I knew a change was needed.

So I made a huge choice, a big risk. I ended up dropping out of school. My sophomore year of of college went back home. My mom had started living and working and going to community college just cause I knew something had to change my ultimate goal. Wasn't going to be reached. Little to be known. I was kind of, kind of stumbled upon it randomly.

And my mom at the time was working for a company that helped foreign exchange students from Europe come to America to study. And she had kind of mentioned to me about, yeah, these kids coming over from Europe and kind of sparked my interest a little bit. I've never, I wasn't, I've never been to Europe at that time.

And yeah, so I just started Googling. I said, huh? I wonder if it play American football near, but just kind of in across me, I knew they played soccer though. And little to be [00:04:00] known. There was a football teams over there and there was actually a website where you can, you know, upload your highlights and film and various coaches can look and, you know, maybe recruit you to play over there.

So I said, what the heck? I did it two weeks later, I had an offer to go to Poland and. Honestly, I was scared to death because I didn't know anything about Poland anything about Europe, really. And so I, I, wasn't going to do it. I said, you know what, I'm comfortable now. I'll just wait another year I work the construction job I was working and I'll see what happens.

But then it kind of hit me that this was the moment I was waiting for. This is the reason why I left, you know, the, my situation in college. Cause I knew that I needed to change. And so. You know, despite backlash from, you know, my parents and other people. I knew that I had to do this for myself and I would have greeted if I did it.

And so long story short, I've been in Europe ever since, since 2012 I've ended up playing in five different countries, Poland, Germany for. [00:05:00] It's Italy, Austria, where I currently live at the moment. And it changed my life in a gave me the opportunity to be where I am now without my those experiences.

And without that initial decision to step out of my comfort zone, I wouldn't have never been able to write the book that I did and, accomplish the things that I did that I currently did and that I plan to do in the future. So it's just really opened my mind. And so that experience and that decision, was such an important time for me.

And that's why I encourage other people. You know, if you're going through a time in your life where things are uncertain, It satisfied with comfort because you have to step out of that in order to reach your full potential. And there's so many people, athletes included former athletes, you have potential outside of their sport, but they don't, they fail to realize it.

They're afraid to step out of that realm. And so that's something I just encourage people to do step out of your comfort zone. And that's kind of my short version store. But I just, I'm so passionate about it because it's given me so many opportunities that I [00:06:00] would've never, ever had the ability to achieve.

If I would have limited myself to, simply being a college athlete and then working a job afterwards.

[00:06:08] Phil: Which you know, is a path, a lot of people take, nothing wrong with it. I know you that you're not saying nothing wrong with that. Yeah, but but it's just something that you said you needed that, that next thing, and it wasn't a kind of that norm and that that's fantastic.

And, and you talked about the book that you wrote, which is Swiss army leadership is that available? Wherever books are sold, the typical is on Amazon and anywhere else or.

[00:06:31] Zach: Well, the thing is it's being published by company, a cup publishing house, a small publishing house in the UK account, LL Price Publications.

And it will be out in bookstores in the UK, starting in this, this, this spring, actually. So, this spring summer, so August, July, August and will also be available on Amazon as well. But at the moment, it's not currently available for sale on Amazon, but I mean, AF I've been giving people free digital copies you've ever [00:07:00] interested.

So whoever here is interested, I can send them a copy. If they shoot me a message on Instagram or email, I'd be happy to send it to. But, like I said, it's in the process, but I'm looking forward to, it's released for

[00:07:10] Phil: sure. Fantastic. And what would that what's your handle there for a Instagram or Twitter or wherever they could reach you on?

[00:07:16] Zach: So Instagram, you can reach me at Z Hoff, Z H O F F @zhoff12 on Instagram. Just shoot me a message and like my page, if it's okay. And also my email at

[00:07:32] Phil: Perfect. All right. So folks, you heard it there. You can grab a free copy of that book.

What a great generous offer. Thank you Zach, for that. And if you want, just go ahead and reach out to him there. He'll shoot you a copy of it. And otherwise you can, you can grab that a hard copy of it on Amazon in the next couple of months, so you can grab the hard copy of it there and I encourage you to do so, even if you send you that free copy, support them the other way to, to, to buy that book and give it away to somebody else.

If you've already read the, the digital [00:08:00] copy. So, with that though, I do want to get into the, the meat of it a little bit. You know, you talked about the experiences you had. I mean, five different countries. And if I remember correctly, let's see if I see how I passed the test. You said Poland was a German.

Is that right there? Italy. Yep. Yep.

[00:08:15] Zach: And

[00:08:17] Phil: one more, one more. What was it?

[00:08:19] Zach: One more

[00:08:20] Phil: France. So point being, which is what I thought, all different languages too. So different cultures, different languages, you know, some people will speak English, but it's kind of a you know, a novelty more than anything and they might be working on the English, you know, but what that really is, is shown is the importance of, you know, as a quarterback, which you.

You have to be pretty pretty mobile, pretty agile, pretty quick on your, with the mental thinking. And with intercultural competence, you've gotta be really agile and adaptable as well. Can you kind of just discuss that, that idea that as you're living in these different countries, you're learning all these different things.

You know, you've obviously written a book on this Swiss army leadership. So just tell that general idea of the Swiss army leadership, why [00:09:00] you titled it, that I think we can kind of get it a little bit there. Just if you know what a Swiss army knife is, but can you just talk about the book.

Generally, and just that idea, that general idea of intercultural competence and the importance of that in our leadership.

[00:09:13] Zach: Absolutely. Like you said, the book is based on the metaphor of a Swiss army knife. And those of us who know what that is, it's a tool that's adaptable, you know, it's able to accomplish many tasks.

And what I found is that being in these different countries, you have to be a part of. Who models yourself as a Swiss army knife, I guess you could say you have to be able to reach people and more importantly, earn their respect. And when I say earn their respect, that's done in different ways, from what I've noticed in the countries that I've been in.

I'll give you an example for when I was in Italy and south Italy, I was coaching a youth football team there, and the culture is very laid back. It's a coffee culture. You know, people are. Out all time, the weather's great. And if you attack them as a coach in kind [00:10:00] of an aggressive manner and, you know, try to like a totalitarian kind of strategy, it's not going to work because then they're going to realize that, Hey, this guy is not the type of person we want to be around because it's just not what they're used to.

However, when you go to Germany and Austria, you know, the Northern part of Europe. That's more accepted, you know, they're more business, discipline oriented. And that's something that I learned by, I'd say you could say learning by doing, because as a player, as a former player, you know, I kind of had the mindset when I started coaching as a player.

So I was kind of, kind of the hardcore kind of coach. Cause, you know, I thought that, Hey, this is how I played the game of football. It's a tough sport. So I have to coach that way, but it was totally wrong. because the kids were not kids, the young men were just not, they just didn't take to it.

Cause it wasn't what they were used to. And so this made me really think about, wow, it's really important to before you step into any role as a coach or a player to observe your surroundings first and what I mean by observe. And that's actually part of my book, one of [00:11:00] the tools that. observing, observing the people who we work with if you observe how they take to certain, then adjust and react and adjust your leadership style in order to reach them in the best way possible.

 And what I've learned is to listen to each individual, if it's, you know, it's time consuming, but it's so, so important. Listen to their story, because there's a reason they're playing the sport that you're coaching.

There's a reason they're there in this situation. So it's important to understand their motives and their goals. Because once you understand that you can adjust your leadership strategy in order to help them reach their goals. Because that leads me into another tool relating to people, everyone, every country I've been to, it doesn't matter.

People love. Be related to related to each other in one way or another. And what I mean by that is they want to know. If they're struggling with something, there's been someone [00:12:00] else who struggled with that as well, and who can sympathize with them. And I believe as a coach, as a player, when you can sympathize with your, with your, with your players and your teammates that earns respect, and once you have respect, then you know, the possibilities are endless because I think that's any athletes, goal, any player at a high level or any coach to have respect from their peers.

And so this book is based on various stories that I've experienced in these countries. Similar to the one I mentioned about in Italy and how I was able to earn the respect of my teammates and my fellow colleagues in various different manners. Some, like I said, some, some ways I had to be the outgoing you know, upbeat guy who joked around and then in some other situation that.

To be this serious guy, discipline and shin to the, you know, their goals. I don't consider myself an expert in leadership, anything like that. I don't even like the term expert because I feel when you say you're an expert, you're [00:13:00] limiting yourself. You're saying, oh, I've reached my potential. So I feel like those who, you know, who are.

Developing or the ones who are constantly striving to, to learn more. So like I said, I don't consider myself an expert. I just I just, you know, the, this book is based on experiences. Yeah, so particularly in the sports field and a sports round, but I believe they apply to all aspects of life.

Because as you know, as a, as a soccer player and coach, you know, sports teaches so much about life and we can learn so much about them and even people who don't play sports, I believe can learn from athletes and coach. And the experience they had, because I believe it was a lot of carry over. And so, like I said, I'm really looking forward to the book coming out.

And I think that it has a potential to, you know, just kind of open people's eyes to the world and, you know, kind of give them a more global perspective on how humans tick at the end of the day. True. We all kind of, you could say we all kind of are made the same, but the way brought up our upbringing, our atmosphere [00:14:00] makes us different.

And so I believe it's so important to recognize. There's difference is and accept them and then adapt your leadership strategy accordingly in order to get the best out of your team.

[00:14:15] Phil: Yeah, that's something we talked a lot about on this show. Actually, the, the idea we, you know, we talk a lot about DISC and the personalities, the different personalities that we have and how we need to really meet people where they are, understand them, study them, understand who they are, how they're wired, and it really it's our job to speak their language.

Right. Same way, going to Poland, your job is not to go in there and just start speaking English and expect everyone to adapt to. You know, you go in there and you learn Polish or, you know, you suffer the consequences. Quite frankly, we don't, we don't see that. Oftentimes I talk and talk about that with culture, with personalities, you know, it's the same thing.

You know, we, we go into a culture, you go into Poland and you don't speak Polish and you don't just try to speak English and go, Hey, how [00:15:00] come you don't understand me? What you getting. Right. You get an interpreter. Same thing goes really. We need interpreters for culture. Sometimes we need interpreters for personalities.

My wife has the opposite personality from me, and I talked to her all the time about, Hey, help me understand this. I'm going. And I'm with someone who is more reserved, I'm very outgoing. And she says, well, you know, you might want to say this. You might want to say that if, and she also says to me after the fact, Hey, do you realize what you just said?

And I go, yeah. I said this. She says, that's not what everyone else. You know, which is really important. And I think that we need to know that we need to have people who care about us for that after the fact, you know, feedback. But hopefully we can learn ahead of time. So can you just talk about that? I want to talk about that and just camp out on that a little bit, you mentioned it briefly, but the idea of really earning respect, you talked about the earning respect.

When you don't speak the language when you don't speak the culture, you know, so to speak and you know, it also goes, the same principles will go to, if you don't really understand the personality of whoever you're connecting with, but there's some [00:16:00] overlap obviously, but there's a lot of differences in each of these countries that you're living in.

So what does that look like to earn that respect, which you have to do as the quarterback, or you're not going to be effective. But also as a coach, you got to earn respect or you're not going to be effective. So how are you able to do that when you don't speak the language? And you're not fluent in the culture either.

[00:16:19] Zach: Yep. Great question. And I'll just say there's in Europe. American football is a little bit different sometimes. You'll have to be the quarterback and the coach. I remember I had 1, 1, 1 season. It was actually in Poland where the coach quit halfway through the year and there's like they said to me, okay, Zach, you're going to also call the place and you're going to coach the team.

Wow. So for me, the biggest thing, going back to your initial question, body language is huge because they're, they're observing your movements and your actions, how you react to adversity when, when something goes wrong, how you react to when things are going well. I, I noticed that even though probably half the time, they didn't [00:17:00] understand what I was saying.

They read my body language and my tone of voice. And you know, that goes to posture, enunciating your, your voice because that portrays confidence. And when you portray competence, even if you're faking it sometimes. You know, they're going to be more confident as a result, even if they don't know what you're saying.

I believe body language is so crucial and even more when you're working in across culture, because oftentimes there's going to be guys who, you know, don't understand what you're saying and you can't expect them to. And I believe the biggest mistake is to go into a situation, right?

Kind of expect people to just adjust to you and how you were born. And I believe what I've seen. I'm not trying to, you know, say it to everyone, but a lot of American players that come over here, that's exactly what they do. They come over here and like you said, they just expect people to speak their language, expect people to know what, what they, what they eat when they wake up, what they like to do, their hobbies.

And it just doesn't work like that. And so [00:18:00] that comes back to observing, opening your mind. And even if there are times when you don't feel as confident or you're unsure, portray, portray the, with your body language and your voice, that things are in control because they recognize that they're, they're smart too.

You know, they're smart people. And so they, they they're just like us. They read the things we read. We look at body language too. We look at how people talk. We look at eye contact, you know, handshaking, portraying confidence. With your body and go along the way. And that's something I learned. And, you know, there also were times where I didn't portray great body language and I was, I did get down and I did get frustrated and they immediately recognized it.

And then who then sinks the atmosphere of the team and the, and the mood of the team. So it's, you could say the same thing happens in the states, except, you know, we communicate a lot through, verbally and, words. [00:19:00] I would say in Europe and across culture, it's really through body language.

It's emphasized to another level. Cause sometime that's all you have to communicate with.

[00:19:08] Phil: Yeah. And, you know, I want to ask this. I wonder if I want to know if it's, if you've seen the same thing in, in Europe, but I also know when I've traveled the world and talk to a lot of different people and a lot of different countries, and I've gained respect through what you've talked about, you know, That confidence that that ability to show via body language and whatever other ways you're able to exude that.

But I've also found the other side of it also gains respect, which is in, it's similar to here in the U S as well. But the showing that humility, that humble learning posture as well to say, I don't know. And I don't understand. And can you help me? And it's not a, it's not out of weakness. It's actually out of strength to go.

I know what my strengths are, but I also know when, I don't know, I don't want to fake it. And reap the consequences later. Do you see that as well?

[00:19:57] Zach: Absolutely. And it, may you bring up [00:20:00] something, a memory to me too in Austria? It's really because there are a lot of players who are no, they come to practice.

They're coming from soccer. A lot of players come from soccer. And they try American football and you tell them to do a drill for catching. And they say, well, why am I doing this? And you have to explain to them why. And there are some times someone asked me you certain drills. And I'm like to be honest with you, I don't have a, an honest answer right now.

I can't tell you why. And there've been times that, like you said, it's the worst thing you can do is try to fit. Try to be fake with what, you know, it's best to just be upfront and honest. And if you don't have the answer say, Hey, listen, I don't have the answer now, but I'm going to get it for you for the next practice.

I'm going to find that out for you. That that goes so, so much of a long way. And like you said, it's not easy because you have to humble yourself as an individual. Who's maybe been playing the sport or coaching for a long time. And I think that's exactly what you were saying. The worst thing you can do is try to.

You know, facts fake with fake things [00:21:00] that you don't know and just say, say things because they realize it or they'll go do the research themselves. If they realize you're not giving a straight answer. So that humility is so huge. You're absolutely right. And I, and especially here in American football, I think in with soccer, it's the opposite, but there are so many American players who come.

And they have much more experience. They've played the game of football, much longer American football. That is, and so they come here and with a sort of cockiness and the best thing you can do is show that, Hey, I'm one of you. Yeah. Maybe I played the game longer. Maybe I'm here as a professional getting paid, but I'm one of your teammates and.

The same level. And I think that's been a really powerful thing, too. That could be as something as little as cleaning up after practice picking up the cones or anything like that, little things that show you're part of a team. And that humbleness really, really goes a long way. And it's something here with American football that a lot of [00:22:00] American players they don't realize at first, you know, they come here with a big ego and understandably so, And they don't realize that they're losing the respect of their teammates, even though their ability may be above, you know, the European players, the fact that they're not humble and that they're showing a bad attitude is going to bring down the vibe of the, of the team.

So that humbleness is huge. Exactly what you said. Yes.

[00:22:26] Phil: Yeah. So, you know, going with that, this is just kind of a fun little question, but in the U S if you're playing soccer at the pro level oftentimes the broadcasters and other people may be saying, well, it's not, it's not quite football. It's kind of a lesser sport, blah, blah, blah.

Right. In Europe, it's probably the flip side of that, I'd imagine. Absolutely. It's, you know, it's kind of like this, what in the world, and what I say to people is you. You dog on the things you don't understand. Right. And I think there is a lot of that, That the Europeans just don't get the full extent of it.

Same way a lot of Americans don't get the full extent [00:23:00] to the sport and that's why they don't like it is because they don't really understand it. To say it's boring, you don't understand the nuances. It's like, if you talk to a baseball fan, they'll say, well, you just don't get it. And I go, no, I get it.

I just. I think it's exciting most of the time, but that's okay. I can appreciate it. And I appreciate why people do. But how does that feel over there in, in Europe playing this sport that is clearly an American sport and it's one that a lot of people not only don't understand it, but they're, they're kind of.

Stick their nose up to it. What does that feel like?

[00:23:30] Zach: Yeah, I guess you could say karma, because I remember when I was in high school, we would for the American football team, when we would practice, if it was always, we would have first dibs on the field. So if the soccer team was practicing. We would, it was okay to just kick them off the field and go on.

However, here it's the exact opposite. If you want to practice American football, either have to pay for the field. The club has to pay, or you get maybe like an hour time slot before the field, before the soccer team comes. But I [00:24:00] will say that. The, that I've really came to appreciate about soccer in Europe is just how passionate people are about it.

It's amazing how people it's really a part of their life. They, they re. Prioritize their, their local team. Like it's, you know, a family member or her wife, it's really, it brings people together. And it's an amazing for me, like I said, I was one of the, you, like you said, I always thought soccer was.

However ever since I've been here, I love watching it. I'm looking forward to the Euro cup. That's coming up this coming year, hopefully this summer. And so I just, I love how it brings people together. And you're exactly right about American football. It's the exact opposite. You know, you come here and people were, you say, oh, American football.

Cool. But you know, isn't that kind of only crazy people play that because it's too aggressive. I've had many people say that to me. But in the end, it's a. Yeah, you're exactly right. It's the exact opposite. But I see it, like I said, as karma from all my [00:25:00] years of living in the states, playing football, American football, I come here and, you know, you get kind of the treatment that you gave the soccer player, so yeah.

[00:25:07] Phil: Yeah. So maybe he can relate a little bit to them. I coach soccer at the high school level, so I know the feeling of not being able to use the stadium field because football is there and our football team is really good. So they usually go to state finals, which, you know, You don't ever want to root against your team, but sometimes we were looking at the stadium back, you know, that's something, that's every soccer coach out there in America, shaking, you know?

Yep. I know what you're talking about. Absolutely. 100%. So we absolutely know that's the case. But you know, to kind of go back to a little bit of what, what you mentioned earlier too, that you, your career ended a couple of years ago, playing career. Not your football career because you're coaching still, but you know, what, what have you really learned about life?

That's, that's a, that is a moment that every athlete, you know, not remembers exactly where they were, but you remember [00:26:00] finishing playing at that highest competitive level. And football is one of those sports that when you stop playing football competitively, you're pretty much done playing tackle football with pads.

Most people don't just pick it up and go and play an adult league someday. Like you do a soccer or tennis or golf or softball or whatever it may be. Right. So what have you learned about life and leadership, from that transition from the end of your playing career? You know, especially since your career didn't, as you said, it, wasn't your plan.

When you were growing up. So as it comes to an end, you realize that's never going to happen and you learn these lessons. What were some of those lessons and what did you learn about, you know, just yourself and leadership from that?

[00:26:40] Zach: Yes. A great question. And yeah, this is definitely, you know, there's two sides to this.

A lot of people say, you know, don't have a plan B because it takes you away from your plan a which, you know, I can understand. However there are so many of us. Simply aren't going to play at the highest level, even if we're striving for that [00:27:00] our whole lives. And my biggest mistake is I didn't have a plan B I didn't set myself up for when I was done playing football.

I kind of considered myself as a privileged guy, a privileged athlete, where I kind of said, Hey, I played in these countries. I was a quarterback. I was the leader of my team. Someone will hire me, I'll get a job. You know, it kind of is blind faith. And I, and I didn't set myself up. I just knew, I said, okay, 2019 is going to be my last season and we'll see what happens.

However, I stopped playing. I was 27 years old, never really worked a real job outside of, you know, the jobs I was playing football. And I went through a very difficult time for about two years trying to reinvent myself. And one of my biggest mistakes was identifying and limiting myself to simply my athletic ability.

I identified myself as a, as a football player as an athlete my whole life. And that's all I ever really wanted to be. And I didn't really have any other hobbies, but that's really all I [00:28:00] concentrated on sacrificed a lot, but it was a mistake in the end because it put me in a situation. No, I was finished playing.

I knew I was coaching, but you know, it wasn't the, it didn't give me what I needed, you know, financially and the fulfillment I was looking for. And so it was a very difficult two years that I went through and the lesson I learned from that is how important it is to be a leader of yourself before you can lead others.

And what I mean by that is if your life's not going in the right direction and you're not prioritizing your. You know, mental, physical health, how can you expect to, to be a leader of others? And I was kind of doing that though, because I was still coaching these these young players. As I was going through this difficult time.

And it made me realize that, you know, I went to practice a lot of days and I had to fake the fake, you know, being a leader, being an effective leader because I just simply wasn't in a place to do it. I had too much stress trying to [00:29:00] figure out what I was going to do with the rest of. And so I think that that process, as we speak is still kind of ongoing what I, I've kind of, you know, kind of focused my, my attention towards this leadership development and writing.

It's something I've really taken to and I really enjoy. But what I hope athletes learn that I work with. And whoever's hearing this is it's great to have goals and athletics, but understand. It doesn't last forever. Your body's going to fail you at some point. Someone's going to eventually tell you, Hey, you're too old.

You can't play. You're too slow. Your body's not at the level it needs to be anymore. So what do you do next? What do you do next? So start building those habits and start finding those interests. Now, even while you're playing careers going on There are a lot of players who are great players, but it doesn't mean you're going to make a great coach. And so there's gotta be a plan B. And so that's why I believe you know, it's so important to just understand that you have to put yourself in a position [00:30:00] to succeed outside of athletics.

And that's what I call leading yourself. Lead yourself first. On and off the field. And then when you're done, you can focus. The off the field part even more because you're going in the right direction. And then you're in a position to step into another leadership role, whether that's in the sports realm or business, whatever, but your habits that you've developed in your passions have been in progress the whole time you've been involved with whatever sport you were.

That's something that I failed to do, and it. I mean, it's hard to say I regret it because you know, it kind of forced me to hit rock bottom and grow from it. But I think a lot of people, a lot of young athletes, a lot of young players can get a headstart on their future outside of sports. If they kind of adapt that plan B mindset.

[00:30:48] Phil: Absolutely. Like you said, a lot of people say don't even have that, but it's a wisdom there's wisdom in there. It's not to not go and put everything toward that plan. A and [00:31:00] that goal and whatever you really want to do and put everything you have toward it. That's not what it's saying. It's saying that it's 1% of 1% that's going to go play pro.

I think it's even less than that, but it's, it's a ridiculously low number. So to be wise. And to say, and it may be that you have the ability to, and you just choose not to as well. So that's. That next, you know, and don't even call it a plan B, just say, here's the different things I can do, right. Ideas, and just be dreaming about what life can look like.

But I think before that though, even more, even, even as foundational as, as that idea of just planning is the idea of knowing your. Knowing your purpose, knowing what you're here to do. And, you know, it seems to me that a lot of it, you talked about leading and re you know, writing and so on. It's impacting others with leadership skills to be able to help them to flourish, which is my why, but it sounds like you have a similar wiring there would that, would that be a correct assumption [00:32:00]there, as far as your behind what

[00:32:01] Zach: you're doing here definitely Phil and exactly what you said.

What I realized is, you know, we live in a society where we prioritize physical things. You know, whether that's, you know, earning a solid income, having a nice house, the comforts of life. However, if you continuously work in your life and it's all about you and it's all about, you know, improving your life, you're eventually going to hit a point where you realize, well, I'm a believer of this lease.

You're gonna hit a point in. This isn't enough that this isn't, this isn't all there is to life. Life is about impacting others and living a legacy and leaving a legacy. Because at the end of the day, we were all on this earth for a very short amount of time when we put that in comparison with, you know, time.

And so what are you going to be remembered for when, when you're no longer here and for you, it's gonna be teaching these skills to teaching these leadership skills to the next generation so they can hopefully take [00:33:00] part of it and then carry it on again. That's true legacy. You know, a lot of people talk about heroes and legends in sports.

But I think they be more of just stats and, you know, you know, breaking records on the field. However, what I've come to learn is it's so much more than that. Because at the end of the day, people are only going to remember what you've taught them and, you know, the type of person you were and that's true fulfillment, you know, I'm not saying.

The other things aren't important, obviously financial, that finances are important in life. We all need that. That's how the world works, but if that's what your limitations are, you're going to be a very empty person at some point or another. From my experience, just talking to people and even as personally, and I, that's what I realized now.

Coaching for me is now a platform and sports has become a platform. You know, I don't coach to teach people to teach kids how to play American football. I teach it because it gives me a platform to teach them lessons that will therefore help them in life and in [00:34:00] their leadership roles and their future roles.

And I think that's when you really get it as a, as a former athlete and as a coach and as a person, you realize that. This life is more than, more than just about me. It's got to be, you know, long lasting and reach. My impact has to reach others and then therefore their impact will reach others. And so it just carries on and that's what I feel like a true legacy is.

And I feel like those of us, those of us who are really striving. For, you know, really, really becoming satisfied with ourselves and our, the way our lives are going are the ones who are, Hey, obviously, like I said before, leading yourselves, but understanding that it's gotta be more than just about me once in my set.

Once I have my priorities, my habits. Then, okay. I need to step out and I need to teach us to others so they can therefore carry that on. And that for me is true. A Shrew legacy. And that's also what I write my book. I say, leave it legacy. That's the main [00:35:00] catchphrase you could say, because that's what I truly believe it is about legacy is so much more than what society says it is.

You know, it's not just about stats. It's not just about, you know, what you have the physical things, you know, It's about what you give emotionally. And I think you can relate to as well, being a coach, you work with a lot of young athletes, so I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about.

[00:35:23] Phil: Oh, absolutely.

Absolutely. I mean, it's why I do what I do. It's why I coach, it's why I do this. It's why I do everything I'm doing is. Others to, to understand these principles and to be able to flourish themselves. I mean, that's the thing you talked about there. I mean, you talk about leaving a legacy and having it be about others.

You also talked about self-leadership and a lot of people think, oh, well that yourself leadership, you're just talking about narcissism. It's all about you. And that's to the contrary. Right. And you said that, and I wanted to make sure that people hear that, that the distinction is you are leading self so that you can lead others effectively.

If you aren't healthy yourself, then you can't [00:36:00] healthily lead others. It's just, it just won't happen. You will, you will do more damage than you want to do, and you won't even know you're doing it. If you're not healthy yourself and you'll burn out and then you're no good to anybody. So that's what they say.

I mean, it, that's the whole analogy of the, the airline, when the oxygen mask comes down, put on yourself first and then put it on that. People around you because you can't, you're no help to them if you pass out and you're useless. Right? So, and that's the reality with us. A lot of us are passed out and useless as coaches and as people, because we're not taking care of ourselves, we're not getting the sleep we need.

We're not getting the healthy, we're not getting our exercise and the eating and everything else that we need, as well as reading the good books, you know, as a sake drink, drink deeply from good books, John Wooden, a phenomenal quote from him. So. Those are the cool things. Cori Close, who was recently on our, on our show said, you know, the things that matter are not the national championships in the title.

And this is coming from a woman who coaches at UCLA. So they know national championships. And she [00:37:00] said it's and the cheer this from somebody else. And she got it from somebody else, but it's who you are impacting and who you're becoming. That's what matters and how you're doing it. That's what matters. So with that, I want to move on a little bit here or not move on a little bit.

I want to move on to the idea of, and you talked about it. It really goes to the conversation we had about moving on the end of your playing career. That's one area where you need mental toughness, but also during the game, as you're going through this in practices, in games, in different air at times of life, when you're hurt, when you may not get the start, when you may not get that letter from the school you wanted, whatever it is.

What talk about the importance of mental toughness and resilience in sports, really at every level. And particularly when life throws you those curve balls, but even when it's just going the normal life, the importance of resilience. And I I've said recently to several people, I think we have a pretty soft culture here in the U S [00:38:00] especially.

And I think Western Europe is probably similar that we don't use this as well as we should. So w why is it so important? How can we do it better? And what does it look like?

[00:38:11] Zach: Yeah. Yeah. So definitely mental toughness is a huge thing, especially in American football because there's gonna be times you're gonna be in pain you're going to get hit uh, you know, an American football.

He was saying, you know, everyone can throw in catch, but until you put the pads on and take the first hit, then you really know the sports for you. And that's, that's so true because the physical pain we're going to experience in this sport. It has to, it has to eventually it has to be mind over, over body eventually.

And I believe that that translates a lot into, into actual real day life, because maybe not physically, but there's going to be situations where you're going to lose your job. Hopefully not, but it could happen. You're going to lose a family member. There's going to adversity, hits us in life. And I believe that [00:39:00] sports go a long way and they can be a platform to prepare us to better, you know, kind of.

The situations that real life comes. Obviously I'm not trying to compare them because at the end of the day, we play a game. Whether whatever sport you're playing, it's a game. However we can use. Is is I guess, kind of a trial run for life's adversity. And so mental that's one way mental toughness can really, from what my experience is really kind of transfer over into real life.

And another thing with me, I will say, I always kind of consider myself an underdog. You know, I'm kind of a small guy. I'm not your typical. I'm, you know, I'm 5'9", 170 pounds. Not a guy you would think is, wow, okay. He's a quarterback or he's a football player. And so I kind of use that is a I said, okay, I'm lacking in physical, not ability, but lacking in physical stature.

So I have to accommodate that with being tough physically and mentally. So every time I step on the field, whatever I'm lacking on the [00:40:00] field, I make up. You know, a mental toughness and you know, the heart that I have when I play the game and how I try to lead others in my teammates, because at the end of the day, you know, mental toughness is it's easy to talk about it and say it, but until you're in that situation, you're never really gonna know how you're going to read.

And that goes to what I said before, about stepping out of your comfort zone. It's the same with sports. You know, there eventually comes a point where you just gotta go for it. You know, as you know, as a coach, the players who are passive and are afraid to make mistakes are likely going to make mistakes.

And those who say, you know what, listen, I'm just gonna go all out and we'll live with the results are the ones who reached their full potential. And it's the same in life. And that's easier said than done because a lot of times you're going to go all out and you're going to fail. You're going to in soccer, you're going to turn the ball over and football.

You're going to throw an interception. You're going to make mistakes and you've got to react from that. But until you, until you put yourself in a position to make mistakes, you're never going to know how you [00:41:00] react. And that goes back to society too. There are so many people. From my experiences who are comfortable in their, their life, you know, they sit back and they're afraid to, you know, go all in.

And that's why they're not mentally tough because they're never in a position to be. They're just they're content with being comfortable. So when adversity does come like it does for all of the. They, they're not ready to handle it because they never stepped out of their comfort zone. And so that's what I mean, going back to sports, use it.

And I know it's hard to say this as you're playing. Cause a lot of people just enjoy playing and they want to have success. But when you really step back, you can really prepare yourself for life and what's to come. And a lot of times I think we realize it as athletes, after the fact, you know, probably during the time we're playing, we're just focused on.

But when we, you know, when our careers are over and we sit back and maybe we observe as a coach or other players, we kinda noticed those situations more when the time to become mentally tough is right. [00:42:00] Like I said, that's why sports to me is, is, is just an amazing, regardless of the sport they're playing because it's really a preparation for, for the real world.

And that's why I love working with the youth because they're kind of at that stage where they're growing up, they're becoming men and they're going to start experience this kind of adversity. And so I believe I take responsibility to try to emphasize that, that. You're going to, you're going to get tackled.

You're going to get injured, but how are you going to come back from it? Because life goes on and it's the same, the game goes on and it's the same with life. Life goes on.

[00:42:37] Phil: Yeah. And the reality is you said it earlier. I mean, we're playing games here, so it's soccer, football, baseball, whatever, right. We're playing a game.

If we can't handle the adversity and overcome the adversity there, what's going to happen. When we, you know, lose money later in life, where we lose a job and it's, you know, our family's on the line and we have, a house mortgage [00:43:00] payment and other things going on and you get that unexpected. And if we can't deal with.

And the game it's gonna be really hard to do it later in life. And so we can learn these lessons. In the game so that when they happen and the stakes, like really, really matter, like we're talking life or death sometimes, and we're talking your family being on the street versus being in shelter. That's when the rubber really hits the road and that's where we can practice.

We're basically practicing through our life, through these games. And if we, as coaches, don't see that, I think we're missing a massive part of coaching and of being able to do what we can possibly do.

[00:43:39] Zach: Yeah, absolutely. Just what you said there. I was just going to tell you, I, I C I, I looked back at, you know, previous coaches that I've had and other coaches, and a lot of them are missing it because they, they don't emphasize that they they're so concentrated on wins and losses where they don't understand the big picture.

and they're, they're stressing, you [00:44:00] know, the game so much to these kids and how important it is. But at the end reality, it's not, it's just not that important. You know, I wish I could say it was because I've dedicated my whole life to playing sports, but it's just not that important. It's important in the sense where it teaches you for what's to come later in life.

And like you said, if you're a coach and you're not doing that, then you're doing your kids and your, your players are just served. Because, like we just talked about before, there's a, there's a, there's a very good chance that none of them are going to become professionals in that sport. They're going to become professionals and, and other aspects of life.

And so I believe that it's really important, even as a coach to tell your, your players that, Hey, listen, at the end of the day, we're just playing a game guys, you know, give your best ever. But at the end of the day, this is just a game. You know, life is much more than this. And obviously I get it at the professional level.

It's different. Cause they're, their livelihoods are on the line. So I get it. But I'm talking, you know, at the developmental stages of the sport I think [00:45:00] we as coaches need to do a better job and there are a lot of coaches who, who do get it, but we need to do a better job of letting our players know.

You know, the realities of life and that, Hey, this is a game it's important because you're investing your time and energy and your passions. But at the end of the day, it's going to be eventually you're not going to play this game anymore. And life is going to come at you.

[00:45:23] Phil: Yep, definitely. And what does the teaching you about that when life does come out yet?

And I can tell you you, one of my great friends, he's like a brother to me and, and he he played eight years in the NFL and had an amazing. The thing I'm most proud of him about him though. He's an amazing husband. He's an amazing father to four kids, and he's now a math teacher and he's going to impact so many lives.

And I just love, I love him as a brother. I loved watching him do that. He's basically like a big brother to my, to my son. And, and that's what, [00:46:00] honestly, if I'm looking at him and I know. All his achievements. Those are the ones that I look at and go, he gets it.

[00:46:06] Zach: He's a success. Exactly.

[00:46:10] Phil: Yep. And so, you know, and I look at my kids and I go, what am I most proud of?

You know? And there's a lot of things. There's tons of things, but is it because they're a really good player or is it because they're a classy player with character and when my daughter just decided to stop playing and how she did that made me so proud. And just hearing, she's thinking about what she's passionate about and she's pursuing those things.

I'm like, that's what it's about, you know, and she learned a ton through sports and she learned a ton about resilience that she learned a ton about. You know, character and who she wants to be and who she doesn't want to be and all those things, which are, we can, we can absolutely learn these teamwork and leadership lessons.

So, so on that note, what have you learned directly from the game of American football in this case, or from soccer, since you have experienced that quite a bit in the amazing European football world. But what have you learned [00:47:00] directly from the game that you've used in your other areas?

[00:47:03] Zach: Yeah. Yeah.

So, I'll, I'll start with soccer cause we're in Europe. So what, one thing I learned from soccer is just the power. It has as far as bringing people together who are maybe different religious beliefs, different views on life. But you know, when they look at they watch their team play they're there there's a sense of together.

And I would just wish that that would go beyond soccer. You know, I wish that we could find that kind of common ground with each other and not need a sport to bring us there. But that's one reason why I appreciate soccer so much is because the way it brings people together and it connects people from all over the world, really, because we all know soccer is the global sport, you know, and every country it's played and it's.

And the people want to watch it. And when people cheer on their team, you know, they forget kind of the other problems that are going on on their disagreements. They're focused on this togetherness aspect. And that's why soccer has really [00:48:00] taught me about just, you know, the power it can have and the impact it can have as far as American football.

What I've learned from it is is that it's not. It's not who I am. I always thought it was, I always identified as a football player and I thought I was born to do this, but I wasn't born to play football. I put that, I put that on myself because maybe I love the game or I think I put it on myself because I knew I wanted to help my family.

Eventually when I got older, I wanted to, you know, my mom was a single mother. She raised us as a single mom and I wanted to give for a better life. And so I think a lot of times I played the game for the end game, the end result, even though it wasn't what I was ever meant to do. And while I'm thankful I played American football and I've learned so many things like talk about with mental toughness, physical toughness, adversity that have helped me in my journey.

I realized that it's not who I am and it's not what I was meant to do. What I was meant to do is still in the process of being. [00:49:00] And I hope, I feel like I'm headed down the right. And I'm thankful because you know, football has taught me a lot of things in life, like I just mentioned, but the most important thing it's taught me is it was just a part of my life.

It wasn't my life. And it's not what I'm meant to be. It's just my platform at the moment. And I don't know if that will continue to be my platform. But I think we can all kind of a. You know, all of us would never made it to a professional level or a high level of professional can take on that mindset and not put limitations on ourselves.

Like I said, it just realized that the sport you play is not who you are, and you're so much more capable of, of everything.

[00:49:40] Phil: That's a really good word for folks out there. And if, if parents of kids are, are here listening you know, play that back for them. It's, it's not who you are. It's what you do.

And. Yeah, that's, there's a big difference. It's a really big difference. And, you know, and it, it, it can be something that is an amazing experience, but at the end of the [00:50:00] day, if it's your identity there's something wrong there there's something wrong there. So, The last question we have this question, those, these last two questions we ask everyone.

I always love hearing these answers for different reasons, but what have you read, watched or listened to recently was interpreted, impacted your thinking and understanding of how soccer, American football and other sports really do explain life and leadership.

[00:50:21] Zach: I would say there's a, there's an influencer out there. His name's Ed Mylett. I'm not sure to be heard of him. He was a, he wrote a book it's called 10x Your Life. And essentially it's a very, very short book about maybe less than a hundred pages, but I really took to his story because it was similar. He was a very, he played division one baseball.

He was a great baseball player and then he had an injury and it kind of took his career. And he went through a period, kind of what I went through of self exploration and self finding, I guess you could say. And the reason why I love his book is because I can really relate his story to mine.

And he's kind of in a position now [00:51:00] where I hope to be in the future. He's able to. You know, reach people from all over the world with his message and you know, he's an author as well, obviously successful financially, but the impact he's been able to have on others, especially athletes, I believe if you read his book, you'll you really realize it connects with athletes because he was one himself and he kind of went through this adversity as well.

And he came out on the other side of it and. I kind of use that as motivation to write my book, but there are times where I didn't want to do it, or I didn't have the energy or I was just had other problems financially, mentally, physically. It just kinda said, Hey, he can do it. If he did it with his injury at a young age, then what's my excuse.

So I encourage, it's a really short book. It's on Amazon. Very cheap as well, but any athlete is who's looking for a good, quick read. That's a great book by ed my leg. It's called 10 X your life.

[00:51:56] Phil: Fantastic. We'll have that in the show notes. We'll also have your book in the [00:52:00] show notes with the way to get ahold of you to get that that copy that online copy.

So, but thanks again. The for being a part of this Zack, thanks for for who you are. Thanks for what, what you're doing to impact lives over there in Europe. I'm really glad that we were able to meet and I look forward to continuing our conversation someday.

[00:52:20] Zach: Thanks, Phil. Like I said, I appreciate you taking the time and wish you all the best.

[00:52:25] Phil: All right. Well folks, thanks again for being a part of this. Thank you for again, thanks for the download as always. But what I really hope is that you do engage this conversation deeper. Like I talked about at the beginning, we can do that at a Facebook, the Facebook group also email me

I've said it before. I'll say it again. I really hope that you reached out to me to let him not only let me. What really stood out to you in this interview and the other interviews, but how we can make the show better other guests that you think we can we can have on the show, even if it's you, I mean, that's how Zach got on here.

He reached out to me and he said, Hey, you know, I'd love to share [00:53:00] some stuff with, with, with your people. And so we were able to do it and I'm, I'm very glad we did. And I assume you are as well. So I look forward to those conversations online and hopefully offline at some point. But as. Most importantly right now, for today, I hope that you took what you listened to, what you heard today.

And you're able to use it in your life to help your leadership, to help in all the relationships that you have, and that you're able to use it to help you understand that soccer. And in this case, American football really do explain life and leadership. Thanks a lot. Have a great week.