Leadership Lessons from Rocky Balboa

I grew up with the Rocky movies. Each time I watched one of the movies, I left the theater inspired to start working out and even got boxing gloves one Christmas so my friends and I could reenact our favorite boxing rounds. Recently, I watched the new CREED movies with my daughters and saw the character of Rocky through a new lens and came away with some leadership lessons for educators.

Go The Distance: People often forget that Rocky didn’t win the fight in his first movie. As an unknown underdog facing the heavyweight champion of the world, he wanted to do what nobody had done before…go the distance. No boxer had ever gone fifteen rounds with Apollo Creed and Rocky’s determination and heart made him the first to do so.  In every way that mattered, Rocky “won” the fight, even though he didn’t win the title. As educators, it’s not about winning awards or having a fancy title. It’s about showing up every day, staying focused when times are tough, and going the distance for our students!

Just Love ‘Em: Other than his wife Adrian, who provides him with love, support, and wisdom, the rest of Rocky’s relationships are more complicated. His best friend, Paulie, is obnoxious, lazy, and even abusive at times. Yet, Rocky loves him, forgives him, and even inspires him by his example to improve his own life. His trainer and mentor, Mickey, originally discarded him and told him he was a “waste of life”. Again, through forgiveness and patience, Rocky formed a life-long bond with his trainer and gained a father figure. Finally, his best friend, Apollo Creed, was once his mortal enemy. From competitors (Rocky I & II) to allies (Rocky III) to steadfast friends (Rocky IV), their relationship evolved as they learned and grew. Rocky is a great example for how we should treat difficult people in our lives…just love ’em. It’s not always easy, but he shows that letting go of anger, embracing forgiveness, and always assuming best intentions makes our path easier and may turn a competitor and even an enemy into a partner and friend.

Have A Soundtrack: Let’s face it. If you have seen the Rocky movies, it’s almost impossible to think of the character without humming the iconic soundtrack.  The combination of music and seeing Rocky train for his big fights is what pumps up the audience and makes us all believe (at least for while) that we can conquer whatever challenges lie before us. When I walk into school each day, I don’t want to drag myself in like I’m tired and exhausted (even if I am). I want to come in like I’m walking in with my own theme song. The next time you walk into school or your classroom, do it like you have your own theme song that announces “I’m here and ready to go the distance!“.

It’s All Heart: Perhaps the biggest similarity that educators share with Rocky Balboa is heart! Rocky is all heart and always gives it everything he’s got.  That’s how he is able to go the distance and beat his opponents….he keeps going when everyone else quits. As educators, we train to be our very best, we dedicate countless hours to find ways to help our students, and most importantly we never give up on them! It takes a lot of heart to be a champion like Rocky, it takes even more heart to be a champion for kids!

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“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.” – Robert “Rocky” Balboa

“Stay in school and use your brain….Sports make you grunt and smell. Be a thinker, not a stinker.” – Apollo Creed

“If I could just unzip myself and step out and be someone else, I’d wanna be you.” – Paulie Pennino


Jeff Kubiak                               Jennifer Lee Quattrucci



  • Monday, January 7: School Resumes
  • Friday, January 18: F&P/ELB data put in Illuminate (K&1-all students, 2-4 Students below grade level)
  • Monday, January 21: No School for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Thursday, January 24: Data Dives to create IRIPs & Intervention Groupings, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM


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