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Leadership_ _I'll gladly go in the middle._

Leadership: “I’ll gladly go in the middle.”

I could tell as soon as they walked in the room that this was going to be a fun group to work with. My task for the afternoon was to take a corporate leadership team of about 40 people through some team building activities. As I stood before the group I explained that our session would include some fun games as well as some activities that would help them get to know each other better. Heads were nodding and people were smiling. I could sense that the culture in this company was healthy and that people were engaged in the development process.

As we began our first game they came alive. This group was having a blast and laughing so hard. After just a couple of minutes, I felt like I was a part of the group and hanging out with old friends.

The game required the group to be in a large circle with one person standing in the middle of the circle. The objective was to get out of the middle by walking up to someone on the outside of the circle and saying one of several silly phrases. The person on the outside had to reply with the correct silly reply. If they said the wrong thing they had to switch with the person in the middle. If they said the right thing they got to stay on the outside and the inside person had to try again. About halfway through the game, a woman was in the middle and she was having a hard time getting someone out. She was a quieter person and after failing to get four people out she said, “this is why I hate games. I’m not good at them.” The group fell silent, you could tell they genuinely felt for her. And then she walked up to a man on the outside and said her silly phrase and he said nothing in reply, which meant he was going in the middle and switching places with her. The room was still silent as he quietly said to her, “I’ll gladly go in the middle.”

At that moment, my point of contact looked at me and said, “and that’s our CEO” and I suddenly understood the significance of the exchange.

Effective leaders understand the value of letting people fight their own battles, the growth often happens in the struggle and great leaders allow this to happen. But great leaders also stay close to their people so they can help when help is needed. They will gladly take the place of someone else when the request for help comes in. That is exactly what this leader did. He was on the outside, but close enough to help, and willing to step in.

Be the leader that lets people fight their own battles, stay close enough to help, and step in when people turn to you.

Take care of your people and they will take care of you.

Good leaders

Can good leaders make bad decisions?

In the last week I’ve had several people reach out with an underlying common question; can good leaders make bad decisions? The conversations have been broached by leaders who have made what they believe to be a bad decision and in turn, are questioning their own ability to lead, as well as by others who are struggling with the decisions of their leaders. I believe that good leaders can and do make bad decisions, but I think there are additional layers to unpack in determining how to feel about those decisions.

Leadership is often about helping a group move from here to there; from where they currently are to where they want to be. This may require calculated risks as you step into the unknown. As a result, there may be decisions you have made that in hindsight are considered to be bad decisions. I would argue that there are two kinds of bad decisions:
1. A bad decision that you learn and grow from with no harm done. There might be a set back in terms of a timeline but ultimately the people you lead are safe and intact as a team.
2. A bad decision that does damage, often that damage is to people.

I believe that bad decisions which do damage can be the deal breaker in a leader’s career. These decisions may cause harm to a consumer, financial loss to franchisees, negatively alter the reputation of your employees, stunt or limit the growth and potential of your staff, or force your people to compromise their values. My experience has been that this is a quick way to sever trust and when trust is broken leaders shift from having engaged followers to people who function as anchors unwilling to move. Bad decisions that do damage often come from leaders who fail to recognize that the collective input of those around them is their most valuable asset. Willfully ignoring your people is simply not an option as a leader. A team, business, or organization can rebound from many things but a loss of trust is not one of those things.

The best leaders I know consistently do the following when making a decision:

  1. They hire great people and trust them when they point out a blind spot.
  2. They listen carefully to the opinions of their people and they ask the necessary questions to dissect and understand how a decision will impact others.
  3. They share the direction they are leaning to allow those around them to share dissenting opinions or to potentially to lean in as well.
  4. They communicate their decisions to reinforce the belief that their people matter in the decision-making process.

Leaders often have to forego what they want in order to move a group forward. Check your ego, it’s not about you. Do what it is best for the team, continue to see the big picture, purposefully consider the impact on others so you can help to move the group from where you are to where you want to be without losing your most valuable asset; your people.

As you move into unknown territory you may still make bad decisions but if your people are valued and protected in the process then a poor decision won’t be seen in a negative light but rather as an opportunity for all to learn and grow.

When you protect and value your people in the decision-making process they will do the same for you when decisions don’t go as planned.

Put your people first. 

 

A special day. (1)

Make today special

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Missouri Special Olympics. My job was to help at the award station. There were about 20 of us assigned to this station. We were all from different backgrounds and different walks of life. We represented several generations and to my knowledge, only two of us had volunteered at this event in the past. We were a team of optimistic rookies.

Before the events began we were given our instructions and then we waited, and waited, and waited. I began to wonder why they had assigned so many of us to the award station and I questioned if my time could be better spent at another station.

And then it happened. Mulitple events finished at the same time and the athletes, their buddies, event escorts, and family members descended upon the award station. They arrived excited and in anticipation of receiving their awards. Little did they know that this ragtag group of volunteers didn’t have a well-oiled system in place.

Before we knew it we were experiencing a slow-moving and unorganized awards ceremony. It took us a few minutes to realize, “this isn’t working” and then we adjusted our plan on the fly and created a much better experience for everyone involved.

But here is why the experience was so special. At no point in the day did anyone express frustration. Athletes and their buddies had to stand in a long line – no problem. Family members had to wait a while to see their loved ones receive an award – no problem. Volunteers were asked to fill different roles to keep things moving – no problem. On some deep human level, everyone just decided that today was going to be special. We unconsciously agreed that we were going to bring our best as well as bring out the best in others.

And here is what I learned; it was a choice to make that day special. We all made the choice to smile, laugh and offer an endless amount of compliments, words of encouragement, and high-fives to strangers.

Every single day you have the opportunity to offer good to the world. The choice really is yours.

Choose to make today special.

Tiny Hands

Tiny Hands

I recently did some leadership development and teambuilding with a high school hockey team. On my closing day, they gave me a gift bag. One of the items included was a pair of tiny rubber hands – I know, I was confused too! The girls could sense my confusion and they started yelling that I needed to put the tiny hands on my fingers and pull my shirt sleeves down to make it look like these were my actual hands. I complied and we all had a good laugh, but I was still a little confused.

The coaches explained to me that during the previous season the term “tiny wins” was their catchphrase. They were building the program and they focused on the little things, the little wins, and fittingly the tiny hands became symbolic of tiny wins.

I strongly believe that healthy cultures focus on the tiny wins. Leaders who do this understand the behaviors needed to create those tiny wins are the same behaviors that create the big wins.

Many years ago I took over a college soccer program that had hit rock bottom. In the previous season, the team had gone 1-18-1 while giving up 84 goals. I knew my first year was going to be about teaching them how to win while not actually winning very many games. It was going to be a long process but I was confident that we could teach them the skills needed to be successful. My plan was to place a high value on academics knowing that winners need good time management skills. We drew a hard line on alcohol consumption knowing that winners have self-discipline. We had clear expectations about what to eat because winners make good decisions. We didn’t just set these as rules for our program, we also talked about how we were developing the skills which would lead to wins. Additionally, we filled our training sessions with competitions and we celebrated each of the victories. We created opportunities for tiny wins in our program.

We also spent an insane amount of hours doing service learning projects in our community. This was a positive experience because of the deeper sense of connection that we made with each other, not to mention the value we added to our community. As a result of our service in the community, we were given an award at our athletic department banquet. The award was a surprise to the team but I’ll never forget the moment. One of our juniors who really struggled with the on-field losses said to me with a massive grin on her face, “it just feels so good to win SOMETHING!”

And our tiny wins added up. The next season we went 8-5-5 and it was the first winning season for those seniors. It wasn’t that we magically became great soccer players, we simply learned how to do the little things. We were intentional about creating moments for tiny wins.

If you want to change the culture you are in think about the tiny wins you can work toward. Invest in those areas and celebrate your success. The tiny wins will develop the skills need to create the big wins.

Also, you should buy some tiny rubber hands to serve as a reminder of what you are working towards 🙂

Do I lead from the front or the back-

Do I lead from the front or the back?

The old-school model of leadership says; the leader is always in the front, at the top, and the first to be seen. As I work with groups, I teach a different model of which leadership which asks leaders to shift from a model of hierarchy to a model that views leadership as influence. With this model, we can, and should, lead from a variety of positions.

I recently had a Skype sessions with three young college leaders as a part of my Leaders In Action program. These three leaders are “all in” when it comes to understanding leadership as influence. In our last session, they asked something like, “So how do put this new understanding of leadership (leadership as influence) into practice when there might be times that we need to step in front and lead the way?”

My answer was that we need to lead from many places because we can influence others from any position. There are times when we need to get out in front of the group, times we need to walk with our people, and other times when we need to go last. Great leaders are willing to lead from any position.

I want to share a video with you that so clearly demonstrates these points. In this short clip, you will see a young man in a wheelchair who is competing in a Tough Mudder competition. He reached an obstacle where he needed some help. Here you go:

Let’s look at a few things:

  1. Some people led from the front: In this clip, we can see that he needed some help from those who were leading from the front. They had cleared the way and were willing to help him get to that same place. In order for a leader to be able to serve those who are behind us, we have to be willing to do two things: stop and turn around. Too many leaders who lead from the front fail to stop and turn around. We can’t take care of our people if we aren’t able to really see their needs.
  2. Some people led from the back: We can also see that he need help from those who were behind him. They were able to provide the push and support he needed to accomplish his goal. If we only want to lead from the front we will miss some wonderful opportunities to help our people. In order to lead from behind we often have to sacrifice our own agenda and go at the pace of our people while offering whatever support they need to push forward. 
  3. Sometimes we join others in leadership: One of the great truths showcased in this video is the idea that we need leaders who will support other leaders. What I mean by that is this; when someone steps up and leads (the first person who was helping to help push this young man) we need others to support that leader (the second leader arrives to help the first leader) because it validates their decision to lead. When that happens others (an entire group) join the first few leaders and now the entire group is moving in the same direction. So look at that clip again, do you see it? One leader helps someone else, and then a second leader joins that effort, and then others quickly join the leadership moment. It takes one person stepping up, someone else supporting that leader, and then the magic happens.
  4. Sometimes we need to let others lead us: This moment wouldn’t have happened without the young man who was willing to let others lead him. Too often as leaders, we assume that we can never be led but we need to be open to the moments when we let others lead us. At the heart of leadership is a desire to develop more leaders. When we allow others to lead us we are directly participating in the development of more leaders.

So do you lead from the front or the back? It’s both for sure. And it’s also a lot of places in between …

*If I can be of assistance in your own leadership development journey please use the Get in Touch form at the bottom of this page.

Let Them Lead

Let them lead

A few months ago a well-respected college coach reached out to me about working with her team. She said they were coming off a good season but she was concerned about who her team leaders were going to be next year. The graduating seniors had been the core team leaders for several years and she wasn’t sure who was going to step up because they had relied on that class for so long.

After talking we came up with an action plan for the spring season. The plan would expose her team to a new way of thinking about leadership and it would give them opportunities to put their leadership skills into practice. She recently called me and the excitement was bursting through the phone! She said something like, “you’ve helped us to think differently about leadership. We now see leadership as influence and we understand that everyone on our team has influence. In light of that, I think we are going to shift from traditional Team Captains to a Leadership Council!” I agreed with her decision. This is the right move at the right time for her team. They had all bought into this concept, so why not allow a large number of players to have a voice at the table?

She also shared the plan to have the team select a leader from each of the four classes to serve on the Leadership Council. In the past, I have heard other teams share concerns over young players having a voice on a Leadership Council because the team feels like the young players don’t yet know the culture of the team. Here is why I think it is a great move to allow your new freshman to have a voice in your program:

  1. They know more than you think: Your new players may not have much experience with your team culture but they examined it in great detail when making their college decision. They listened to you as you were selling your team culture in the recruiting process. Odds are, they have researched, (AKA stalked) your current players online and because of that, they know more than you think they know. You recruited these players because you thought they would enhance your team culture, so why do they need to be silent for a year to learn the culture? If you’ve done your job as a recruiter then you are bringing in players who will move your culture forward. Asking them to be silent for a year only delays that process.
  2. They provide fresh eyes: I would venture to guess that within one week of arriving on campus your new players will be able to call your team out on some really important cultural issues. For example, if you claim that family is one of your core values, your new freshmen will know very quickly if that is accurate or not. They will either experience family or they won’t. When we exclude them from the conversation we miss the opportunity to have fresh eyes on our team culture and we create a culture that is void of accountability.
  3. They are recent leaders: While your freshmen might be new to your program they certainly aren’t new to leadership. Most of them spent the last year leading and in some sports they may have spent all summer in a high-level league where they were asked to lead the way. Depending on your team culture your seniors might not have practiced their leadership skills since high school and those skills have now atrophied. Your new recruits are in tune with their own leadership skills because they have put them into practice recently. Asking recent leaders to press pause on using their leadership skills only hurts your team in the long-run because their leadership skills will deteriorate.
  4. Don’t be a hypocrite: If you value leadership then you took into consideration which recruits had the ability to be leaders on your team. While many recruits may not want to be “the” leader their freshman year, it would be hypocritical of you to silence them for a year when you claimed that you valued the leadership ability they would bring to the team. By going back on your word you destroy the trust that is needed between a coach and a student-athlete.

You wouldn’t recruit a five-star player and then ask her to sit the bench for a year just because she is a freshman.

If their skills are the best on the team, then let them play.

If their leadership skills are the best on the team, then let them lead.

 

*If you need help in developing your team as leaders please reach out. We have some great programs and options for you.

FindYourNextFoothold (1)

Find Your Next Foothold

Find your next foothold is good advice when you are climbing Mount Everest and when you are climbing through life. That concept was recently put to the test in my own life. For the last four years, I have been based in Springfield, Illinois. As my business has grown I have found myself in the car driving to work with my St. Louis-based clients on a regular basis. Additionally, St. Louis is the closest major airport. I knew at some point I would need to move to St. Louis to continue to grown my business, to be closer to my St. Louis clients, and to be near an airport for my clients who are outside of my driving distance.

A few months ago I asked a Realtor to give me some advice about what I needed to do to my condo before I tried to sell it. She came over, suggested a few changes, and told me to let her know when I was ready to list it. I was in no rush.

My Realtor recently called and said she knew of someone looking for a two-bedroom condo in my Association. She also said there were no two-bedrooms for sale and she wanted to know if I was ready to list my place?  I said, “Sure, why not?” (Note to self: Answer your own rhetorical questions.) She came over the next day and I signed the listing paperwork. The following morning at 9am we had a showing and from that one showing, I had an offer that I couldn’t pass up – when does that happen?!

For about 24 hours I celebrated and then I had my, “oh no” moment when I realized I had about 30 days to pack up and move and in that process, I needed a new mortgage lender, a St. Louis Realtor, and I also had to find a new home.  I got in my car and headed to St. Louis to work on my to-do list. For about 48 hours I was convinced I had made a tragic mistake. Nothing was going as planned. When Plan A failed I moved to Plan B, and then Plan C, and then Plan D… the next day after I had left my own self-pity party I found myself on the phone with a close friend who I think was more stressed about this than me. She said, “so WHAT are you going to do?” I simply replied, “find my next foothold.”

I am not an expert at mountain climbing, but I do have a lot of experience at overcoming mountains and walls in my own life and here is what I know:

  1. Footholds matter: A foothold is where you place your foot in order to leverage your next move. People often assume that climbing is all about your hands and arms since those are the parts that reach the top first but without a foothold, your hands and arms have too much weight to carry. When you are planning to move you need to find a foothold before you try and push yourself forward. If you want to reach forward in life you first need to find a foothold that will support you securely.
  2. Know where you are: You cannot plot a course until you know where you are. While the temptation may be to always look forward there is a time and place to look at your feet to gain a clear understanding of where you are. This will also help you to determine what your next move needs to be. You can’t move forward until you know where you are. 
  3. Climb with silent feet: When you climb with silent feet it forces you to be intentional about every step you take. You can’t climb a mountain, literally or figuratively, with loud feet. When you think about keeping your feet silent you have to think about every step you take which forces you to be intentional. No matter where you are headed be intentional and climb with silent feet. 
  4. Take small steps: Any expert climber will validate the idea that we need to take small steps. Our bodies can only cover so much ground at once. When a climber gets near the summit of Mount Everest they don’t run to the top because they know they are pushing their bodies to the brink of death, so they take slow, small, deliberate steps. The same is true in life, the more we push ourselves the more we need to focus on taking small steps. 

Climbing is all about your feet. You need to find your next foothold, know where you are, climb with silent feet, and take small steps.

And last but not least, your feet, move them often.

Dear ADs

Dear Athletic Administrators …

Dear Athletic Administrators, this post is for you. I’ve been in and around the world of organized athletics long enough to have experienced firsthand how important this topic is. I recently had the opportunity to speak on this issue to a room full of Athletic Directors and I wanted to elaborate on my thoughts here.

I strongly believe that great leaders take care of their people. That concept is rooted in my definition of leadership and how I choose to live in the world. One of the first questions I ask any leader is, “how do you take care of your people?” When we take care of our people our people will do anything for us. This includes staying in a coaching position when other offers may prove tempting.

The coaching profession is tireless and the rate of turnover at all levels is noticeable. The hours, minimal pay, time away from family, the pressure to win, entitlement issues, and parental involvement are all factors we hear as coaches choose to leave the profession or as they choose to pursue a coaching opportunity at another institution.  Athletic administrators need to be intentional about how they take care of their coaches. When you take care of your coaches they can take care of your student-athletes.

Retaining good coaches is a key to success. When we keep good coaches in our system everyone wins:

  1. Student-athletes develop healthy long term relationships: I absolutely believe that a coach has the opportunity to be the single most significant influence in a young person’s life. When we retain good coaches we allow student-athletes to develop healthy relationships with their coaches. This provides student-athletes with the opportunity to learn how to address and navigate conflict successfully. If a student-athlete has a new coach every year they never transition out of the “honeymoon” phase to address real life issues. When you have the same coach for three or four years that relationship is “real”. By experiencing healthy relationships with a coaching staff student-athletes develop the skills necessary to be successful in the real world. 
  2. Programs establish team culture: With every new coach, a new team culture is set in motion. While I do believe that coaches need to assess and adjust the team culture each year, keeping a coaching staff in place allows team culture to take root. When this happens student-athletes know what to expect from their coach and what is expected from them as student-athletes. When there is a pattern of new coaches every couple of years the team culture is never fully established. 
  3. Programs establish a style of play: When a program has the same coaching staff for many years student-athletes are able to anticipate what skills will be expected of them when they enter the program. This allows future players to focus on the skills needed to be able to contribute to the team. When a new coach is hired the previous system of play, or style of play, might become a thing of the past. This can be a difficult transition for players who are accustomed to a certain style of play. The retention of a coaching staff also allows time to focus on skill development. When a new coaching staff takes over much of their time is spent teaching new tactics and skill development becomes a secondary point of focus. 
  4. Expectations are known: When a coaching staff returns for another season expectations in term of fitness, style of play, leadership, and culture are known. This reduces tension and makes a team less susceptible to drama and parental interference. Parents tend to become hyper-vigilant when they feel like they don’t know what is going on or that their child is being treated unfairly. By utilizing the same coaching staff each you are able to provide clearer expectations and reduce unwanted tension and interference. 

The reality is, everyone wins when you keep good coaches in your program. Letting a good coach walk away from a program might seem like a simple fix, but the truth is the process can be very difficult and very painful. It isn’t easy for a new coach who needs to learn the culture and expectations of a different athletic department. It isn’t easy for student-athletes who need to develop relationships with the new staff, understand new team culture, learn a new system and style of play, and adjust to new expectations all in a stressful competitive environment. And it isn’t easy for parents to watch their kids struggle with this transition. 

For those who believe this is “the real world” and we need to teach kids to adjust quickly, I would challenge you to think about your own stress level if you had a new boss every year … did that just make your blood pressure rise 😉

Athletic Administrators, please, take care of your coaches, they are your people. Give them a gift card after a tough loss. Ask about their family. Celebrate engagements, weddings, pregnancies, and adoptions. Help them to find the funding for professional development. Give them free gear – coaches love free gear! Let their families into home games for free. Ask, “how can I help?” Share with them the good you see in their program. Nominate them for awards. Write handwritten thank you notes for no reason other than to say thank you. Listen, just listen. Think outside the box to help solve problems. Express your support for coaches to take time off to recharge and get to know them as people. 

When you take care of your coaches they can take care of your student-athletes.

* A big thanks to Jen Brooks for helping with this list!

Voted

“I don’t know who our leaders are because we haven’t voted yet.”

One of the first questions I like to ask a coach is, “who are your best team leaders?” I recently asked that question to a coach whom I was speaking to on the phone for the first time. I am still haunted by his reply.  He said, “I don’t know who our leaders are because we haven’t voted yet.”

If I had asked this coach who his best players were we’d still be on the phone talking! He would have been able to talk in great detail about his leading goal scorer, his blue-collar defensive player of the year, or his freshman who is a little raw but has unstoppable speed. He would be able to answer that question because he is in touch with what makes a great player. So why couldn’t he tell me who his best team leaders were?

I believe there are three logical reasons why a coach might not be able to answer that question right away:

  1. Recently hired: If a coach was recently hired it would be difficult to know who your team leaders are because everyone is on his or her best behavior and trying to make a good impression. Also, how you define leadership might be different from what they have experienced in the past and it might take some time and intentional effort on your part to develop your players as leaders. In this case, I would expect your answer to be, “I’m not yet sure who our best team leaders are. I need to get to know each of them better and see whom I can develop to match my expectations of a leader.”
  2. A great group of leaders graduated: If you have seniors who have served as team leaders for several years it may take time some time to figure out who your next round of leaders will be. I am working with a team right now that is in this situation. Because the graduating class was so strong in leadership it is taking some time and space for the next round of leaders to surface. With this team, the coach is being very intentional about creating space in the offseason for those leaders to surface. If this describes your team I would expect your answer to be, “I’m not yet sure who our best team leaders are. We need to use the off-season to create leadership opportunities to see who will step into that role for us.”
  3. Transfers are added to the roster: Teams often assume that older players are the team leaders (I don’t always agree with this) but transfers who join your team mid-year might make an impact as leaders. In this situation, you may simply need time to see how your team responds to the new players and how that impacts the different roles people will play. In this case, I would expect your answer to be, “I’m not yet sure who our best team leaders are because we have added some transfers and they are changing the dynamics of our team culture. I want to spend a few months getting to know the new players and seeing how they try and lead our team before any formal decisions are made.”

Notice what it missing in each of those examples? Not once was a vote the reason why you can’t answer that question. As coaches, we obviously have a pulse on the skill of our players and since leadership is a skill we should also know who our best team leaders are. Additionally, we should be active in recruiting and developing leaders. While we might not know who our players think the leaders are, we as coaches should have an opinion based on our observations of active leadership moments.

There are three good reasons why you might be able to answer that question and in each of those examples, you need a plan of attack. If you need help with a plan please reach out, I’d love to help you identify your team leaders.

So coach, “who are your best team leaders?”

playing your role

When your role on the team isn’t what you hoped it would be

I recently had a conversation with a talented spring sport college athlete. Her team has been in season for more than a month and the roles on her team are starting to become clear. This player is very talented and she gets a lot of playing time, but she is struggling with the voice in her head during the rare moments when she is on the bench. She is disappointed that she is starting to think things like, “If my teammate makes a mistake then I will get to play” or, “if my teammate gets hurt, I’ll get to play.” She shared that she genuinely wants her teammates to be successful and she doesn’t want anyone to get hurt or make a mistake, but that voice is stuck in her head and she doesn’t know what to do about it.

I understand where that voice is coming from. If she is on the bench with a player’s mindset then she feels robbed because she can’t do her job from the bench. But I asked this student-athlete to spend some time writing her own job description as a teammate rather than a player.

As a shortstop, she knows what her job description is, but as a teammate on the bench, she needed a new job description to focus on. This shifted her mindset from, “I’m a player and because I am on the bench I am not allowed to do my job” to, “I’m a teammate and I’m fully committed to my job description today.”

Players aren’t the only ones who have shared this struggle with me. Several coaches in the last week have reached out to talk about their frustration over players who aren’t embracing the role they are being asked to play. At this point in the season, players are seeing a pattern. Some players who hoped to be starters are coming off the bench. Others, who hoped to come off the bench aren’t making the travel roster. It is always difficult when what you hoped for isn’t coming to fruition.

As coaches, we need to be intentional about helping our players to shift from a player’s mindset to a teammate’s mindset when they are on the bench.

We can help our players with this transition by doing the following:

  1. Clearly define their role: As coaches, it might be very clear to us what role someone needs to play, but we can’t assume that our student-athletes know what we need from them. Remember, they aren’t able to just “figure it out” on the field, so we need to help them off the field as well. We need to have hard conversations to define roles and we need to be specific about those roles. When we teach our student-athletes a technical skill we get right to the point and we need to approach defining roles with the same intentional clarity. Additionally, you should give your student-athletes some time to process their roles but at some point, you need to ask if they are willing to play the role you are asking them to play. If the answer is no, then you need to be prepared to part ways with that person for the good of the team.
  2. Articulate their value: If we are going to ask our student-athletes to shift from a player’s mindset to teammate’s mindset then we need to articulate the value they bring to the team in their defined teammate roles. Be intentional about articulating their value both publicly and privately.
  3. Continue to develop them as players: The best student-athletes I ever coached were willing to play their role as a teammate but they didn’t want to stay there forever. While someone’s role may be defined for the rest of the season make sure you continue to develop all your student-athlete in practice, during film, or in one on one sessions. Most people are willing to make a sacrifice for the good of the team when they feel like their coaches haven’t given up on them.
  4. Provide opportunities: It’s expected that you’ll need to play your starters or key reserves, but when the opportunity arises to give playing time to players who are further down the depth chart you should take advantage of those moments. This lets your players know that while you value what they bring to the team as a teammate on the bench you also understand that being a player matters to them.

As you talk with your student-athlete about their role please be sensitive to presenting false hope. The reality is false hope isn’t helpful or hopeful because it’s a lie. We can be compassionate without lying to our student-athletes.

If you find yourself at “that point in the season” when roles are shaking out and players are disappointed I highly suggest that you help your players to write their own job descriptions as teammates so they can spend every minute “on the job.” When game days rolls around your student-athletes can either be players on the field, a player who isn’t allowed to play because she is stuck on the bench, or a teammate who is ready to clock in and do work. If you can remove the mindset of being a player who isn’t allowed to play you will see a big shift in your team culture.

Sidenote, the player I mentioned earlier is now proud to serve as the President of the Positivity Club when she is on the bench. Her job description is awesome and she is fully committed to filling that role when she is asked to.

*If you need assistance in helping your team to value their roles please reach out. I have some great activities that will help your team to embrace their roles.