Purposeful Leadership

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about how kids learn things either by being taught what to do or by being allowed to do what they want to do.  My post was aimed at coaches to point out that the kids on your rosters are doing what they do for a reason.  In short, if kids aren’t performing or behaving the way they’re expected to, it’s because those actions are either being taught or they’re being allowed.

Following that post, I received some feedback from readers and had a couple incidents occur locally that made me reflect on what I’m doing as a departmental leader.  It’s easy for us to point at issues with the players and tell our coaches to get it fixed, but…Athletic Directors, are we teaching what we’re preaching?  Are we holding our coaches as accountable as we expect our coaches to hold our kids?

Here’s what I mean using myself with two specific examples:
– I’ve talked many times about how the goals of our department aren’t set around winning and losing.  I believe strongly in the values taught by participation and competition, and I believe that those values can be learned regardless of the team’s W/L record.  I pass those goals and ideals down to our coaches, and I try to pattern my discussions with them to match those goals.  However, I don’t do the work necessary to make sure that the idea of having success is properly defined for our kids.  I recently received post-season survey responses from kids on a team that indicate our coach is doing a great job of teaching those values.  Kids made comments referring to the coach’s daily enthusiasm, how the coach never stopped teaching throughout the season, how they learned to value their teammates, how they fought through adversity, etc.  The comments were everything that I like to hear from our kids after a season.  However, to the question that asks if the team had a successful season, every kid on the team said that it wasn’t a successful season.  With all of that learning taking place, how could they possibly say it wasn’t a successful season???  Simply, because their final record was poor.  It’s pretty clear that although I promote the goals of a successful department, I’m not doing a good enough job clarifying that for all of our stakeholders.

– The second instance I had was related to coaches’ conduct.  When I was asked about the sideline conduct of some of our coaches, I answered very honestly that I’ve addressed the matter with the coaching staff and will continue to do so.  As I thought about the conversation later, I realized that I’ve been saying and doing the same thing for my three years in this district.  I’ve been doing exactly what I wrote about a couple weeks ago in that I’m just allowing the behavior to continue.  All I’ve really done is shown the coaching staff that as long as they can handle being spoken to a couple times a year, they can continue acting the way they do.  I need to take a more active role in fixing the problem rather than just calling attention to it.

But those are just specific examples for my point as a whole.  AD’s, are you holding your coaching staff accountable for your expectations?

I know exactly what I want when I’m hiring coaches.  I’ve designed our interview questions in a way that candidates can answer questions by telling me how many games they will win or by telling me how they plan on teaching our kids; they can tell me personal goals they plan on achieving as our coach, or they can tell me what they can get the kids to achieve; they can tell me about the individualized nature of athletics, or they can tell me how athletics fits into the educational process.  I use much material from the Minnesota High School League’s Why We Play initiative to find my character driven coaches.  In that manner, I believe that we’re hiring good leaders for our kids.
Following the hire, I pass along my department goals in the pre-season to reinforce the idea that winning isn’t the goal, it’s a result.  I also give pre-season expectation forms to the coaches that ask for goals not related to winning games or hanging banners.
* But then I just stop following up on those.
I haven’t been specifically including those pre-season goals in my post-season discussions.  I’ll usually touch base on them throughout the discussion, but I haven’t been specifically addressing those goals.  In a “face palm” moment – why the heck haven’t I been doing that?!?

My takeaway – I’ll be redesigning our post-season surveys to include the coaches’ individual leadership goals, and I’ll be redesigning  the structure of my post-season coaches’ meetings to purposefully address those non-competition goals.  I will continue promoting our department goals and how we define success, but I will also take a more active role in holding our coaches accountable for teaching to those goals.

What’s your takeaway?

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