Christian Ponder tells the story told to him by his father about legendary Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, who coached the Seminoles to two National Championships during his tenure from 1976 to 2009. On the Friday evening before a game, said the elder Ponder, a defensive lineman at FSU, Coach Bowden always held a meeting with his players.
“He began these meetings by talking about life, about one’s relationship with God, about becoming a man and about the dignity with which we should carry ourselves every day,” reflected Ponder the younger. “Only after he’d talked in this vein for a while did he turn to football. He had his priorities.”
When it came to Bowden’s powerful influence on his players’ lives, Ponder didn’t have to take his dad’s word for it: Christian followed suit and played quarterback for Bowden and the Seminoles before going on to be the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. But the deeper lesson he and his dad received from their coach really hit home only after Ponder made the decision to retire from football, a decision that forced him to search for who he was and why he was put on this Earth.
“I likened it to scouting during my football days,” he explained in the podcast. “Except now I was scouting myself. I asked myself four questions. First, who was I, once I stopped being a football player? Second, what was my purpose in life? Third, what would I do with all the time I suddenly had? And fourth, where would I find a new community now that there were no more practice fields, games, and locker rooms to go to?”
This line of questioning led Ponder to co-found an organization called The Post with his partner and former Under Armour President Justin LaRose. The Post is dedicated to the proposition that athletes offer a unique set of experiences and skills that make them promising candidates for leadership after they’ve hung up their cleats. (We couldn’t agree more!)
The Post offers athletes a network in which they can pursue the answers to their big four questions just as Ponder did. It seems safe to say The Post is based on a premise of which Coach Bowden would surely have approved: he never let athletes forget they were multidimensional beings. In the podcast, Ponder shares lessons learned through a lifetime in sports about finding a sense of identity, purpose and community, including such gems as these:
• Why hating to lose can be a better motivator and teacher than loving to win.
• What you gain when you view your team as a puzzle rather than an organizational chart.
• The joy of getting “obsessed” with a problem and then with the search for an answer.
“Preparation breeds confidence,” said Ponder. “As I think back to my life as a quarterback and apply it to the present as a business leader, that’s what we teach our team. You have to prepare so you can step into that environment, that competition, wherever or whatever it is, and feel confident. And the best way to feel prepared is to constantly seek feedback and improve little by little.”