Fallston Group

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Organizational Muscle Memory Saved Damar Hamlin’s Life

Cal Ripken, Sr., widely known as the professional ballplayer turned coach who created The Oriole Way, joined Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles as a minor league ballplayer in 1957. He went on to coach, spending 36 years with the organization. Of the many “Seniorism” phrases I’ve heard from Cal Jr. & Bill Ripken, the one that most resonates with me is “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” I never thought of it that way, but Cal Sr. was right.

Another mantra floating around the universe is “Amateurs Practice Until They Get It Right; Professionals Practice Until They Can’t Get It Wrong.” While hard to find appropriate attribution, this phraseology also shaped my thinking as it takes optimal performance to another level. Whether a musical performer, professional golfer, or keynote speaker whose livelihood depends on making audiences think, feel and act differently, true pros relentlessly rehearse, so they are ready to meet the moment.

Let’s take it one step further when lives are undoubtedly on the line. My Dad was a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger who found himself in numerous jungle warzones during his career. Part of the Ranger Creed reads, “Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight, and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some.”

When I reflect upon these core beliefs, the following comes to mind:

  • Commitment
  • Excellence
  • Ownership
  • Winning

What looked like a routine tackle as millions tuned into that week’s Monday Night Football game quickly escalated into a life-or-death moment. The National Football League’s Buffalo Bills Assistant Trainer Denny Kellington’s quick and decisive actions saved Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s life on January 2nd. Kellington administered CPR and is credited by many for saving Hamlin’s life and preserving his cognitive health. Simply put, Denny Kellington is a hero.

How did Kellington so effectively spring into action at 8:55p that horrific night? Unquestionably, the 30 minutes he and others who cared for Hamlin during that crisis positively changed the trajectory of many lives. From the training staff to first responders to coaches to the continuum of healthcare providers and many more, there are many to credit with Hamlin’s survival and remarkable progress.

Point blank, Kellington did what he and his staff were trained to do. They didn’t feel their way through the situation, try to figure it out on the fly, look up a series of policies or protocols to see what to do next, or even phone other professionals for advice. They’ve been training for this moment for decades – Kellington recognized the situation, responded with conviction, and fully committed himself to Hamlin. Much like every NFL team has a playbook, so does the training staff – it’s called Organizational Muscle Memory.

Whatever team you’re a part of, learn from Kellington. Be predictive, relentlessly train and always be ready to meet the moment…you never know who might need you during life’s most critical times.


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