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Theory Combined with Practice is a Winning Combination in the Boardroom and on the Football Field

This is the third in a blog series from NFL all-pro wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. Follow the links for the first and second blogs in the series.

Atop the list of the most innovative economies in the world are countries like Germany and Switzerland, not coincidentally, those are countries with robust youth apprenticeship systems. (The US is #9, by the way). In fact, countries that leverage youth apprenticeship to prepare their workforces are consistently ranked high on the list. Placing value on the symbiotic combination of theory and practice in training—and further downstream as companies develop new products and services—feeds innovation and growth.

The NFL has known this for a while, too. The best teams are really smart about how they combine classroom theory and on-the-field application. I spent just as much time studying film and playbooks as I did running routes and catching footballs. The more I knew in my head on Saturday, the better I could perform on Sunday. 

Is there a better example of this than Peyton Manning? Everyone knows he had you beat before the ball was even snapped because he not only knew backwards and forwards what his guys were going to do, he knew what the defense was going to do, too. And then he had the practical experience and skills to take advantage of it. 

And just like apprenticeship, the NFL teams progress in instillations of plays, game plans and entire systems.  First, we get our playbooks, have installation meetings and study film. Then, when we take the field, we start with walkthroughs, progress to practices—initially with shells and then full pads and contact. We progress to scrimmages and the pre-season until we’re ready to take the combined theoretical and practical training we’ve instilled to games that matter. The teams that do this the best are the most competitive—these are the teams that find themselves in the playoffs, vying to be the best.

Youth apprentices come to you full of potential. You get to train them how to be pros—in your system, your way. 

CareerWise instills some of the basics before they get to you, like the differences between school and professional environments, but the best place for apprentices to learn professional skills—both technical and essential soft skills like communication and time management—is at work. Those first few weeks are your training camp, where apprentices learn the fundamentals. 

Your apprentices are also students, so for the first half of the apprenticeship they’re typically getting their classroom theory—the equivalent of film study in football—at school. Later, you’ll together select training and certifications that benefit the work they’re doing for you on the job. 

After a few months, your apprentice will be taking on more and more meaningful work that is making an impact for your company. The work they’re performing is building their skill base and providing value to you, both in terms of the project output and freeing up other resources on your team to get to some of that bigger-picture strategic work that always seems to get put off for another day.

By the time the apprenticeship is coming to a close, you have an employee that is operating as a fully integrated part of your team.