Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
A trait that I have picked up in 30+ years of coaching sports, is the opportunity to indirectly coach players who are not on my team. It could be the players on the other team, the opposing coaches, the parents of my players, the referees or the obnoxious fan that doesn’t quite understand the game. I admit, this trait is probably extremely annoying if you are on the receiving end of my coaching, but what I have found is that most of my targets don’t understand that I am specifically talking to them. Most of the time, it probably never sinks in but in some cases, it will cause them to think and reflect. Maybe not immediately, but later when they think back or come into a similar situation.
My wife calls this my passive aggressive coaching moments and seems to now take joy in being able to spot them and will always ask for more details on the “why” behind me taking action. There was an incident when my oldest son's team was not playing well against a team that I felt was not as good as our team, but they were more aggressive and physical. We were down 20 which is not something our team was accustomed to, and we were struggling emotionally. The last straw was when a cocky kid on the other team took a cheap shot at one of our players and then started talking trash. Well, our team responded, specifically my son. He proceeded to take over the game and knock down deep 3 after deep 3 and complimented that with defense on their trash talker, repeatedly taking the ball from him that led to easy baskets for us.
The result of his intensity was an almost 40-point swing as we stormed back and pulled away in the second half. As the game was winding down and our team was invigorated by the coming victory, the other team’s frustration reached the boiling point when their trash talking player ran by my son and threw an elbow at him right in front of the referee, who did nothing. Yep, nothing. Let it happen. I’m assuming he felt the game was over and why bother. My son turned to the referee and hollered “Hey ref, are you not going to do anything about that?!”
I immediately called a timeout and stormed towards my son who was standing in front of the other team's bench looking at the referee and began hollering at him so the entire gym could hear. “You don’t act that way! You are a better person than that! You had a great game, and you threw it away by showing disrespect to the referee! I don’t care if that Coach or the kids' parents tolerate his behavior but that is NOT how you will behave!” I drug him back to the bench, took him to the end of the bench and sat him for the final minute of the game. The gym was silent.
I sent a clear message to my son, the opposing coach, the referee, my team, the kids' parents and to the entire gym about the behavior I expect and what I won’t tolerate. I reinforced that regardless of your individual exploits, it is the character you display that really matters. It is HOW you win or lose that reflects your values. After the game, the dad approached me and apologized. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if that was going to be his response, but it obviously sunk in with him and his son. We played against each other in the coming years and the respect grew during that time.
Is this an example of good coaching and parenting? Probably not, especially in today’s feel good about yourself mentality. It was tough coaching AND tough love for my son. For those in attendance, it was probably uncomfortable with half of them saying “right on” and the other half incredulously asking, “why do you let him coach your son?” I know this approach isn’t for everyone because it does publicly embarrass the kids and because of that, I have regrets when I reflect. But when I go back and talk to the kid who I called out, they understand, they know why, and they typically won’t do it again.
They say success and learning is built on failures and responses. If that is true, then I am successful beyond belief because my failures have been numerous over the years! Right or wrong, those events happened in my past and hopefully, I will continue to refine my approaches to improve the effectiveness of teaching and coaching without unintentional negativity to others. It is this desire to raise the expectations through accountability in a positive way that will help young people to maximize their impact Beyond Today.
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Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.
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