Coaching, Sport & Life
My boys (identical twins) played soccer on the recreation team for a few years. This past year, they tried out for the travel team. I promised that if they made the travel soccer team, I would coach it. They made it. And I spent the last several months trying to figure out how to be an awesome coach. As for my coaching skills: We didn’t lose every game.
Learning to coach soccer taught me to be a more effective and fearless leader in life. I’ve found that I can apply what I’ve learned in soccer to my work as a CEO — in sports, certain core principles of leadership always apply.
Here’s what I learned in my first season of coaching travel soccer.
Everyone wants the fame & glory of putting up points and scoring goals. An important part of leadership is re-defining the goals and affecting the things you can control to drive team performance: possession, number of passes, chances at goal, defense, and attitude, for example.
The attitude of players in the other (non-scoring) positions will determine the team’s win or loss outcome at the end of the game. Building team consensus and buy-in is better for team performance than the ego driven self-validation of the few scoring players.
How you play at practice is a great predictor of how you will play the game. Champions are forged when no one is looking. Everyone needs a coach. Players need to be reminded about personal excellence, team leadership and how to hear the unspoken assumptions guiding the team. Progress occurs when the unspoken is stated.
The occasional Goliath is impressive. The courage to be a David is more impressive. Mental toughness is about courage and overcoming your fears. Playing your game, playing the ball is more important than being focused on the competition.
Great teammates are skilled, hard-working players who are nice people. If they are skilled and not nice, they are simply jerks who tend to hog the ball.
Kids play hard until the game is over. They fight to the last minute (even from the sidelines). Giving up is a learned adult condition. You can unlearn it at any time.
Individual talent is important. Teamwork is more important. Teamwork trumps talent.
How you play a sport is an indication of how you play in life. I’m proud of what the kids on my sons’ team accomplished. I’m also proud to see so many great, co-operative, focused young people learning the skills that will take them forward to success in the adult world — and happy that I got to play a part in it.
Oh, and one last thing I learned:
Pizza parties are awesome! It’s important to celebrate wins.