What is Industry Standard?

As succinctly as I can define it…

At my first press conference as a head coach, I introduced the vision of our football program at Dordt College.  It is summarized by the tagline “Industry Standard.” At that time, I knew my audience was curious about the new direction of Dordt’s football program, but time was short and there was no way I could do justice to the breadth and width of the vision for our program in that setting.  So, I asked my audience to watch and see a program develop over the next few years and then everyone would have a better idea of what I meant by Industry Standard.   In appropriate moments I do my best to deliver a clear picture of the meaning of this concept.

I read and podcast extensively in the business world where this term is often used.  It refers to a set of best practices and standards that pave the way in a particular industry.  As I’ve studied different organizations and teams that seemed to best embody an industry standard I made some interesting observations:

  • Organizations didn’t become the standard by duplicating competitor norms, they rewrote the rule book, they innovated, and they changed the playing field
  • Leaders of the organizations did not necessarily have a cult of personality appeal, but they had a blend of humility and fierce resolve in their character
  • Successful organizations and teams had visions that were appropriate to their unique context

I came into this role despite coming out of an intense place of professional burnout and frustration.  There was no build up in my 15 years as an assistant coach just waiting to apply the industry standard vision when I finally got my chance.  It came out of a place of surrender and dependence on God.  I was hired into a football program that was as fatigued and burnt out as I was and together we embarked on the journey.   I think the vision is authenticated more when it comes from a place larger than the leaders own creativity or drive.

So what are we getting at with Industry Standard? What is this all about?  Industry Standard football at Dordt College is about pursuing the very best version of college football we believe God intended.  We seek to participate in God’s redemptive work through this game and compete fiercely to stay engaged in the fight when we fall short.  Specifically we seek to be the standard in:

  • God Honoring Football
  • Building Men
  • Competing Fiercely
  • Having Kingdom Impact

Industry Standard means that we have changed the playing field.  Great college football in our rule book is bigger than just a score after a game, or a record after a season.  In our rule book we have a multi-faceted definition of success.  Our goals are legitimate, but our purpose is ultimate.

We have a goal display in our locker room just like many other programs.  Goals include winning conference titles, being the top statistical team in a variety of categories, attaining a certain team GPA, having a negative-incident free semester, etc.  As we pursue our goals, we stay in the fight to keep perspective on the fact that ultimate success is staying true to our purpose.  So, we might achieve success in our legitimate pursuit of a particular goal, but we might fail in our ultimate pursuit of staying true to our purpose.  Or, we could potentially fail in the pursuit of a goal but succeed in staying true to purpose.  Goals are legitimate, purpose is ultimate.

I have exposure to and respect for others who have espoused other models for success and winning.  Others have created an “either – or” model where you have to decide if you are sold out to winning or to other aspects of competition.  Our version of competitive excellence differs from many others in that rather than choosing one or the other, we will navigate the tension between seeking to win and making winning an idol.

When it is all said and done, Industry Standard football at Dordt College will boldly pursue a version of football that has God’s glory at the center.  Staying true to our purpose will be our ultimate competitive challenge and we will celebrate the achievement of our goals along the way.

-Joel Penner

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