COED 6120 – Management and Leadership in Sports (For Coaches)

This course is designed to examine the Contemporary theories related to management and leadership in sports and their applications to sports are also addressed.

Some of the course work allows us to self-reflect on ourselves as to why do we coach.  This class was great about realizing within ourselves the potential we have as coaches.  One of the first assignments in this class was to help you get to know and manage yourself.

Knowing and Managing Yourself

Part 1:

In his best-selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies a hierarchical model of leadership that has emerged through his extensive research of large organizations. The top of his pyramid is crowned by what Collins calls a “Level 5” leader. According to Collins a Level 5 Leader “Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” Further, he asserts that “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.” Collins makes clear that the Level 5 leader is an empirical finding, not an ideological construct.

I am a fan of the work that Collins has done, and applaud those that aspire to build great organizations.   However, when removing the concept of the organization and focusing on the individual I’m left wondering how we build leaders that are the blend of “personal humility and professional will” that Collins’ findings suggest.

Where do we begin? I think we might begin with the Socratic dictum of “Know thyself.” We’ve all encountered this idea at various points along our leadership journey. I’m guessing that most of us have taken personality tests like the Myers-Briggs and have wondered is this necessary to know myself? Well, I’m not going to answer that question. But I do think it is a good idea to know who we are at a deeper level. And that often proves to be a difficult challenge for many of us. Abraham Maslow noted how difficult it can be for us to turn the mirror on ourselves and learn who we are. Maslow (1962) asserted,

We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that would cause us to despise ourselves or to make us feel inferior, weak, worthless, evil [or] shameful. We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves by repression and similar defenses, which are essentially techniques by which we avoid becoming conscious of unpleasantness or dangerous truths (p. 57).

As coaches, administrators, and leaders, we can ask ourselves some pointed questions to better understand who we are and ways in which to manage ourselves. When we engage in the process of critical self-reflection we open ourselves up to finding flawed assumptions, limiting beliefs, and uncovering habits and practices that are counterproductive to our desired end results. Implementing a reflective process should help us to get below the surface and into deeper learning about ourselves. The hope is that our findings will help us develop a larger perspective from which to make decisions and solve problems in our everyday life.   Knowing yourself and being reflective about your own behavior is vital to becoming an effective leader.

So, here’s your assignment. Reflect upon the following questions. Respond with as much depth as you’d like to at this time. Keep this list and use it as a tool for critical reflection. (The list of questions is adapted from Creative Coaching by Dr. Jerry Lynch)

 How do you cope with failure?

Knowing that failure is a part of life, it challenges me to find a better way to succeed in life to achieve my potential. I have suffered many failures since I joined the military in 1987. Unable to have a full career in the military, I got out after 10 years and decided to go to school to get my education in Electronics. Upon completion, I was able to get a job as an Industrial Electrician. After a few years, I realized that it wasn’t meant for me to be an Industrial Electrician. By this point, I realized that I did enjoy teaching (coaching) others in a specific skill set so I embarked on getting my Bachelor Degree in Workforce Education and Development. Upon completion, I was able to find work with Lockheed Martin and Boeing as a Training Manager and Instructor but on a contractual basis. Once those contracts ended, I ended up moving my family to Knoxville for a fresh start. I was able to find another contracting job as a Technical Trainer but I realized that I needed my Master’s to be able to find a full-time position in the career field of coaching.

What are the ways you bring out the best in others?

Working with children, I find ways to make them appreciate the way they are learning a new sport and to play with confidence and most important, have fun while playing. This age group (5-12) is the wrong group to place pressure on winning in their designated sport. They need to learn to how to play and to have fun at the same time. I just started having a player’s meal after our games so the kids can talk about what happened during their game. At the end of the season, I will invite all the players to spend the day with us for pizza and laser quest.

How do you handle pressure and adversity?

I try not to let my emotions get the best of me. When things aren’t going my way, I have to take a step back and reevaluate what is happening, what went wrong and what do I need to do to move forward. There are times that talking with someone will help give me a different perspective on what I did wrong. I try to keep a positive attitude so it won’t affect the people around me when things are going badly.

How do you exhibit patience and persistence?

It’s a daily battle to stay patience. When at practice, I always have a smile and quick to give the children a “You can do this” pep talk. Regardless of what is happening, I will stick with a child until he is able to understand his technique or the play. Repetition is the key for their success.

How do you create balance in your life each day?

Finding balance in my life is a daily battle. I leave the house at 6am weekday morning to drive 25 miles for work; it is about a 40-minute drive. After an 8-9 hour workday, I spend 40 minutes in the car trying to figure out what my next step is once I get home. I allot about 2 hours to schoolwork (unless I’m overwhelmed with my assigned project and end up spending 4-5 hours on an assignment). When I have schoolwork, the wife becomes the designated cook and she will prepare dinner. After we eat dinner, I try to spend time with both kids going over their homework and just talking to them to see how their day was. Once 730pm comes rolling around, it’s bath and bedtime for the youngest boy and then I will start to get ready for bed and try to be in bed about an hour after he goes to bed. Once I climb into bed, I will look at Blackboard to check for new posts or comments. When I finish, the wife and I will talk for about an hour before calling it a night. On the weekend, my time is spent coaching football for ½ day Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday afternoon.

How do you give respect to others?

Respect is something that is earned. To gain respect, you have to earn respect. I always try to show respect by doing the little things that matter such as saying thank you, maybe reach out to an old colleague or friend to just say hi, speak to everyone with politeness (not cussing at them or degrading an individual), compliment someone on their achievements even when my achievements didn’t pan out the way I wanted it to (keeping a positive attitude), but most important, you have to be sincere when thanking or praising an individual.

How do you deal with criticism?

I take criticism with a grain of salt. It’s easy to be a parent that will criticize a coach without having any knowledge or training of that particular sport. I will listen to what the parent has to say but they will get my response as to why I do things a certain way and that the parents are more than welcome to come and coach the team if they know a better way.

How do you make good decisions?

How do you define a good decision? Each decision is like a crapshoot. Sometimes our decisions are good, other times, they are crap. A lot of discussion takes place between the coaches, parents and myself before I make a final decision.

How do you show that you care?

I always make it a point to shake the child’s hand every time I see them before practice, look them in the eyes and ask how they are doing in school. I always talk to them with respect and give them praises for doing well (usually the parents will be there with them to nod if they are truthful). Once we practice, if a player does well, we give high 5’s and atta boy shout outs.

How do you celebrate?

What are we celebrating? I teach the children that sportsmanship is very important and that gamesmanship is not nice. Win, Lose or Draw, all which matters is that they had fun playing. After each game, we do a team shout to our opponent and then a team shout-out. There are popsicles afterwards and then lunch with the coaches if their family is able to take them.

How do you accept responsibility for your actions?

No matter what happens within our team, at the end of the day, the responsibility belongs to me since I am the Head Coach.

Part 2

Every coach has a theory of coaching. Some have an elaborate well-thought out theory, others have cobbled together a theory based largely upon personal experience. To begin exploring your theory of coaching, think through and write a response to the following Big 5 Questions. The Big 5 Questions are part of the leadership coaching model developed by The Academy for Sport Leadership. Your responses should reflect your sports team. So, if you are a softball coach, respond to the Big 5 questions from the point of view of a softball coach.

Why do we exist? (Your sports team)

We exist because we love football. Football is an interactive sport that helps teach trust, foster teamwork and creates a bond between all the players.

What is our purpose?

By teaching children basic fundamentals and techniques of football, they are learning the correct way to play football along with proper sportsmanship versus gamesmanship.

Who are our stakeholders and what do they value?

The parents are our stakeholders within our club team. Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to exist as an organization. We strive to ensure that the parents fully understand what we want to do and we include all the parents in the learning activities, if they are interested in learning what their child is learning.

What is value to the student-athlete?

The values that I constantly talk to my kids are good sportsmanship, respect to others, be responsible and integrity. Since my players are about to move up to an older age group in January 2016, I will add leadership to their list of values.

What should our (your sports team) mission be?

(Team name changes each season) aspires to be an outstanding athletic team that provides a high-quality experience to every athlete. A high-quality experience is one in which every athlete:

  • Is coached using the principles of Positive Coaching
  • Has fun at practices and games
  • Feels like an important part of the team regardless of performance
  • Learns “life lessons” that have value beyond the playing field
  • Learns the skills, tactics and strategies of the game and improves as a player.

Part 3

After reading the article Why Should Your Players Follow You? answer the following questions:

You are 100% coach (of course, you already knew this!). Split that 100% pie between the two dominant modes of coaching—transactional and transformational. For example, soccer coach Beth Jones sees herself as 75% transformational and 25% transactional.

How much of a transactional coach are you? How much of a transformational coach are you? Explain how you came to this conclusion.

Using the criteria shown in the table on page 2 of the article Why Should Your Players Follow You?, I looked at each question objectively and asked if I was that type of coach. Using that information, I see myself as 80% transformational and 20% transactional. Working with children, I don’t have to worry about winning or losing games. What’s important is for the child to grow into a responsible adult from what we teach them.

Answer the following four questions (Ehrmann, 2011).

Why do I coach?

I love coaching football. It’s a way to give back to the children and I am able to teach them what I was taught when I was their age. If it wasn’t for my previous coaches, I don’t think I would have the passion to do what we do as coaches.

Why do I coach the way I do?

I want the children to be relaxed while learning how to play. If we are constantly yelling, the child will stop listening to what we have to say and become disenchanted with learning how to play.

What does it feel like to be coached by me?

I don’t know how to answer this question. According to one of my players that I asked, he said that my coaching inspires him to be the best player on the team and that I make him feel like he’s getting better by the compliments given to him.

How do I define success?

Success is seeing the child grow up into a responsible adult who displays sportsmanship over gamesmanship, someone who is able to have healthy relationships with others and someone willing to give back to the next generation of players.