Leadership and Rally Sports

By | August 12, 2019

[August 12, 2019] In the early 1970s, I took my turn to compete in several motorsport races that took place on rarely-traveled public roads in West Texas. The favored name at the time was Rally Sports.1 These were grueling races that tested the limits of the automobile and the driver because of long distances, varying terrain, and non-stop except for gasoline. It was my first introduction to rally leaders and how they made a calling of the sport.

Only a few years later, I would join the U.S. Army and take upon myself to ask for Mechanized Infantry as my calling. Both rally sports and Infantry as professions have much in common. They are both exciting (due to the dangers), unforgettable, and winners are held in high regard by those in the know. To me, it was the thrill of driving against 20 or as much as 40 other drivers in a variety of cars and on-road circuits that could lead anywhere. The goal was to beat the time of your competitors. You had to be good at map reading since there were no GPS devices invented at the time.

Preparation for the race was essential. Usually, there was a team leader who ran the overall operation. That wasn’t me, but my friend Jonnie, who had rally sports running in his blood, had volunteered to do all the coordination and oversee the special preparation for the car. I was the driver and simply loved the rush of air past my helmet and speed of my car; a 1965 Ford Mustang.

None of my relatives knew I was doing this and they would have objected, surely. That’s why I never told them. My maternal grandmother, bigmama, was opposed to any “dangerous” activity of mine, and although I told her a lot about what I was doing, this activity was close-hold. There wasn’t much money in rally sports. The costs exceeded any winnings that we earned on the team. I never played any sport for the money, just for the excitement to be on a winning team.

That is what leadership is about and why Jonnie did what he wanted to do. He was great. He kept us laughing (or crying), pumped-up for the next race, and would occasionally give us a boot in the rear whenever he thought we were behind in our readiness. Jonnie was the kind of man who you would follow anywhere. He was a kind man with a large family. He would do anything for you, just for the asking. Jonnie was a leader, and I am honored to have known him.


Rally is a form of motorsport that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. It is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages. Excerpt taken from Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rallying

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Leadership and Rally Sports

  1. Mr. T.J. Asper

    I have a similar story except I raced dirt bikes over long distances but did so off-road. This type of races really required tremendous strength and endurance. Maybe that is why today I love sports so much.

  2. Walter H.

    Gen. Satterfield, I like the way you weave your personal stories into the idea that leadership is difficult but also necessary. Well done. Please keep these articles coming our way.

    1. Gil Johnson

      That’s what many of us have been writing for a long time. This is one of my favorite leadership websites. You can get a fast dose of leadership; usually takes less than two minutes to go through the article and comments.

      1. Willie Shrumburger

        Same here Gil. I am also a long-time reader of this blog; I think since the beginning. I didn’t comment early on but figured out that this is a great forum to run ideas by and let others comment on them. That way, I don’t have to embarrass myself too much when around my colleagues at work.

    2. Jonathan B.

      Walter, this is why we come to the site and read these articles. I also recommend that you go back and read some of the earliest articles which will give you some additional background. Have a great day.

  3. Eddie Ray Anderson, Jr.

    Another great article to start my day off right. Thank you.

  4. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, I think you are onto something when you made the connection between your rally sports car racing and your military service. Something, perhaps, about being manly. Be careful – I warn all men – because doing this can get you killed. But, I might add that the respect gained is tremendous.

    1. Georgie M.

      Max, “respect” yes but something deeper than that attracts men to do dangerous and often very stupid things.

  5. Kenny Foster

    Today’s article reminds me of yesterday when you wrote about the primordial basis of leadership. I think we all (men any way) love the danger and the wind blowing through our hair. This is the kind of sport (or any activity for that matter) that makes us feel alive. Great article today. Oh, and it’s good to learn more about what made you who you are.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Good logical link between the two, Kenny. Why else would someone do something dangerous that threatens to kill or harm them?

    2. JT Patterson

      At first, I thought, ‘this is a strange article.’ Then after Kenny’s comment, I got to thinking maybe he is onto something here. Much of what we do is based on millions of years of evolution; and no, I’m not a Darwinian. I do believe biology does make a difference, however, and that is rather obvious to anyone who is honest about it.

      1. Danny Burkholder

        Good comment, JT. It adds to the overall worthiness of the article when we can discuss the logic of it and double-check to ensure Gen. Satterfield (and the rest of us) are on track.

  6. Army Captain

    Involvement in sports of any kind teaches you about leadership, teamwork, and what people are like. I find that those involved in sports make better people in general and they are more likable.

  7. Nick Lighthouse

    Cool! I had no idea you raced. Very dangerous and very high payoff.

    1. Darryl Sitterly

      We find out more each time we read his articles. Today’s kids one day will be able to say they played video games on racing cars. Ouch!

    2. Eric Coda

      Young men today are truly different than young men of yesterday! Today’s men are emasculated and feminized. When you need someone to be strong and make a good decision, don’t call on a snowflake from college to help you out. They will pee their pants.

      1. Dale Paul Fox

        “Pee their pants.” What a great line. I nearly spit up my coffee thru my nose with that comment. Well said and a true observation of today’s “men.”

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Well said. That is also why I live in Texas in contrast to New York. The former has real men, the latter effeminate ‘men.’

        1. The Kid 1945

          Why is it that men want to be women and women want to be men?
          This is the philosophical question of the decade!
          The answer is simple, they want to be accepted as a victim and that is EASY!

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