Series: Essentially Essential – Thoughts from the Press box: The Phases

September 13, 2019by Alex Willard0

As a service to my local high school football team and town, my Friday nights are mostly spent in a press box with a headset on. I’m not a high school football coach. I have a pretty neat opportunity to color commentate during the local radio station.  

**In short, a color commentator is someone who assists the play-by-play commentator and adds details or interesting facts about the teamsindividual players, and the game as it progresses.   

With this unique opportunity, coupled with the recent and on-going lessons from co-facilitating Dave Ramsey’s 9-week Financial Peace University course, I’d like to give you my insights from the press box. No, this post is not about a recollection from a specific play or even a specific game, but a realization from a game that our society devotes countless hours to and how you can apply it to your financial life.   

Football fans know the basics of the game – offense, defense, and special teams. To be consistently good, all three must be accounted for. The same applies to a good financial life: 


From springtime, through summer, to scrimmages, and throughout the actual season, a progression occurs. Teams start with the basics. Laying the foundation to get the team moving in the same direction is crucial. The team sets goals, lifts weights, and practices different movements/drills. As the season nears, implementation of the playbook occurs. Then week by week, as new teams are faced, talent is discovered, and game plans change; ultimately opportunities are capitalized on. 

This is what we must do in our financial life. Realizing a good offense doesn’t just happen is a big keyIt begins with intentionality. Laying the foundation by setting individual or joint goals, then implementing a scheme/strategy, taking action to accomplish those goals, maintaining discipline throughout, and adjusting when necessary based on new challenges or discoveries that life introduces. 

In short, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Just as a head coach sets the vision/goals for the team, you set the vision/goals for your future
  • Just as teams adjust from quarter-to-quarter in a game, you have stages in life that you must adjust in to capitalize on opportunities around you 
  • Just as the offensive players practice their plays for the game to score points, you must practice discipline in paying yourself first (contributing money to a retirement plan) 
  • Just as the quarterback manages the play clock by choosing when the ball is snapped, you must manage your budget/spending plan


Defense is about protecting your side of the field, especially keeping the opponent out of your endzoneThe goal is to stop the opposing team from scoring more than your team. Defenses do this by working together as a unit. They take an inventory of their skill sets, they implement different coverages and blitzes, they tackle the ball carrier, cause turnovers, and execute the game plan.  

This is what we must do in our financial life. Just like offense, realizing a good defense doesn’t just happen, so taking steps to be intentional is keyIf we know the goal is to keep the opponents from scoring, we first must study their products, learn their sells techniques, and put a guardrail up for ourselves to stay off their turf. We then take an inventory of our assets and implement a strategy based on an evaluation on what assets should be protected. Nextresearch coverages that make sense and that are most effective (cost and protection). As time passes, reevaluate your defense to determine if it’s effective and make sure it’s helping you win the phase. 

In short, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Just as defenses take inventory of their skill sets to build depth in positions, you should build depth in an emergency fund for unexpected expenses
  • Just like the eleven guys on defense that are working to protect their endzone, protect your large assets
  • Just as a defensive lineman occupies offensive linemen to keep the linebackers free/safe to make a tackle, occupy an appropriate amount of term insurance to keep your family safe if something happens to you
  • Just as defensive secondary change their coverage, review your current coverages and see if they still provide proper protection

The adage, defense wins championships is true, but it also ensures your possessions will be protected and your family will be taken care of regardless of unforeseen events. 

Special Teams 

This phase of the game is most often overlooked or downplayed by spectators until a dynamic play occursMostly focused on the kickersmomentum or even the scoreboard can swing to the opponent in just one kick. Whether it’s a missed point after touchdown (PAT), a 55-yard field goal to end the first half, a punt stopped on the one-yard line by the coverage teamor a punt return for a touchdown, this phase is extremely important.  

Most of the time, people group actions into offense or defense, but I view special teams as financial life occurrences that can significantly multiply your chances of winninggive peace of mind, or be a detriment to accomplishing your goalsSome may only happen once in your lifeso as former University of Tennessee head coach General Neyland put it, “Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.” 

In short, here are a few things to think about: 

  • Just as the kickoff team working hard to get the returner in for a touchdownworking hard at an extra job to maximize your retirement account in the early years can rapidly increase your chances of a successful retirement  
  • Just as a field goal safe or punt safe is called (this means that the rushers do not rush the kicker, but drop back in case a fake field goal or punt is called), have a professionally drafted will to ensure your familyassets, and last wishes are safeguarded
  • Just as a team kicking a twenty-yard field goal at the end of a half producing three points forgoes the opportunity to score a touchdown (which means the ball is on the three-yard line), review your investments at year end to harvest any losses, if necessary
  • Just as a snapper snaps the ball over the punter’s head into the endzone and the punter tries to pick the ball up, but fumbles it to the other team for a touchdownan individual can inherit a bunch of money and change their spending habits and fumble the inheritance away 

Alex Willard

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