Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

This past week I spent eight days on a missions trip to the island of Dominica.  I was blessed enough to be able and use my talents as a soccer coach to try and serve a developing country.  What a blessing to work with a people who love the game of soccer, and appreciate what little they have.

Training the NGB Soccer Academy in Dominica

Training the NGB Soccer Academy in Dominica

The trip was a partnership between Generation of Opportunities and Athletes in Action to bring seven coaches down to the island of Dominica.  We brought coaches from four different disciplines (soccer, basketball, fitness, and volleyball/ chaplain) and conducted player clinics and coaches sessions throughout the week.  This was the first trip of it’s kind to Dominica, so the trip was also as much discovery as it was action.  We met with several officials and administrators from the presidents of the basketball and football associations, to principles, city officials, and administrators of soccer academies.

I was personally impacted by the love of soccer they had.  Kids were taking buses from villages almost an hour away to attend their academy training on Saturday in the city.  Children with out proper footwear and clothing would jump in because they just enjoyed the game and wanted to be apart of it.  In a country with a total population of 70,000 people they had four competitive divisions of soccer plus neighborhood leagues and eight academies for the children to be involved in!  They love this sport, and they are passionate about playing it.

But there is a need for intervention.  The one repeating theme we kept hearing over and over again from coaches and administrators alike was the battle to teach the youth of their country the value of discipline, hard work, and respect.  There is a need for this younger generation to learn principles that will lead to success later in life, and Generation of Opportunities is trying to help change that through the platform of sport.

The trip has given me a passion to see the culture of the youth in Dominica change, and if I can use soccer to do that then all the better!  God was opening doors left and right for us to be involved in the lives of the young and old alike through this beautiful game, and I’m looking forward to going back!

Quote of the Day

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Quote of the Day
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“In every act of greatness…the best of the best accomplish extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with extraordinary consistency, commitment and focus.” -Jon Gordon

We were eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament; and the game was a great representation of how the season went as a whole for us.

The first half was a lot of fun.  We competed and played really tough together as a team and held the top seed to a 0-0 score line by the half time whistle, but unfortunately the second half was a total 180 degree turn from the first half.  We made major mistakes around the goal that resulted in two goals allowed off of set pieces, we didn’t stay focused and allowed things that were outside of our control to distract us, and we went away from our style of soccer and build up.  As a result we gave up three goals in the second  half and really didn’t give ourselves a chance to compete in the second period.

It was very gratifying to watch the guys compete in the first half, and even though I have to concede that the better team won, it was disappointing to watch our level of play drop so drastically in the second half.

And the toughest part of the night was saying good-bye to my first recruiting class here at DWU.  All six seniors hold a special place in my heart, and it was very difficult to go through that line and see each of them crying at the end of their career.

We finished the season strong, which is always a coaches objective, but overall I leave 2012 with a lot of questions about how we could have done more to reach our potential.  Felt this team had a lot more to give, and as a coach I was unable to get that out of them and help them reach their potential.

More to come later.  Season evaluations will be conducted tomorrow, and individual meetings will be conducted this week.  Hopefully it’ll give us a better idea of what we could have done better with the talent we had.

The 2012 season was supposed to be the crown jewel of all the work that has gone into the previous three years here at Wesleyan.  The first recruiting class are graduating this upcoming May and they had successfully turned a program that finished dead last in the conference into a title contender in 2011 with our second place finish.

But things don’t always turn out the way you imagine them too, and players don’t always care as much about the “crown jewel” as you do.  In all honesty this has to have been one of the toughest seasons in my young coaching career.  I’ve had worse seasons in the record books and on paper, but this one feels like we are the furthest from reaching our potential.

We returned nine starters from last years team, six All-Conference selections, and we brought in what I thought was one of the better recruiting classes we’ve ever had here.  For some reason the chemistry on the field has just not been there, and every game has been a struggle to stay competitive.  Off the field it feels like the team is closer than last year and the rookies have been accepted and brought into the family quickly.  But we don’t trust eachother on the field, we play very selfish and individualistic soccer on both sides of the ball.

So I’ve had to re-evaluate my coaching methods and our training schedule.  Are there things we need to go back and address or start from scratch.  We threw in a new defensive system after the first four matches.  We’ve changed our personnel over and over again looking for the 11 guys that play the best together.  Now that we have eight games left I’m looking at my notebooks from the previous three years and I’m wondering why I gave up so quickly on the things that got us here?

I threw out our team culture and system way too fast.  Now we’re having to play catch up by going back to it with a third of the season remaining.  But I’ve learned a valuable lesson this season; If I believe in the system and style that we are playing and I’ve recruited around these things then I need to be confident enough in them to give our team a chance to be successful with it.

There’s a time and a place to change things up, but maybe smaller changes can be made instead of wide spread changes.  It’s a simple lesson, and one that probably several of you already are aware of.  However it seems that I had to learn this the hard way.

All season the San Jose Earthquakes have been using the “Goonies never say die” tag line for their Supporters Shield run.  Need to take a little bit of that and apply it to DWU soccer.

Had a great discussion in my class this week about how we should define leadership.  Here are some of the definitions my students came up with…

“Someone who guides or directs a group.  They must be a motivator and a role model.  They influence people in a positive way.”

“Holding your team accountable and showing them the right way to do things through speech and actions.”

“Leadership is influence on a group of people to do a task for the better good.”

The definition we use in our class is from the book “Launching a Leadership Revolution” by Woodward and Brady; “Leadership is the influence of others in a productive, vision-driven direction and is done through the example, conviction, and character of the leader.”

As John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence- nothing more, nothing less.”  And I fully support this belief.  Positive or negative, leadership is simply the influence of other people.  As we discussed these various definitions the comment was made that John Maxwell’s definition was too broad, and it is, but that’s the point.

Leadership is not for the select few who are given a title or position above other people.  It can be as broad as the father who has influence over his wife and kids, or the one person who influences a group of friends to select a designated driver.  My personal belief is that leadership moments arise in everyone’s life, and what matters is the willingness to recognize and act upon this moments.

Therefore, everyone has the responsibility to develop their leadership skills and potential to be ready for these moments.  Everyone will be called to step up and lead at some point in their lives, so the responsibility is on us to be ready for these events to lead effectively.  That’s why I include a unit on leadership in a Psychological Dynamics of Sport class and in our curriculum with the soccer team.

Our world needs people who care about being ready for these moments they are called to lead in.

Great Quote on Leadership!!!

Posted: February 5, 2012 in Book Review
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“Everything rises and falls on leadership…The effectiveness of your work will never rise above your ability to lead and influence others. You cannot produce consistently on a level higher than your leadership. In other words, your leadership skills determine the level of your success- and the success of those who work around you…

“This is humorous story underscores the importance of effective leadership: During a sales meeting, the manager was berating the sales staff for their dismally low sales figures. ‘I’ve had just about enough of poor performance and excuses,’ he said. ‘If you can’t do the job, perhaps there are other sales-people out there who would jump at the chance to sell the worthy products that each of you has the privilege to represent.’ Then, pointing at a newly recruited, retired pro-football player, he said, ‘If a football team isn’t winning, what happens? The players are replaced. Right?’

“The question hung heavy for a few seconds; then the ex-football player answered, ‘Actually, sir, if the whole team was having trouble, we usually got a new coach.'” – John Maxwell; “Developing the Leader Within You”

Below is an email I sent to my coaching staff.  Our program is on the verge of becoming a strong program that is going to push young men to grow and be their best, not only on the field but off the field as well.  But we need to make some team culture changes and we need to improve as a staff as well.  The team can only grow as much as the staff grows, and ultimately as much as I grow.  If we want the team to take a step to the next level then as a staff we need to take ourselves to the next level.  This is why we have committed to reading books on leadership and influence over the break, and why we are attending the convention together as a staff.

This will give you some insight into what our goals are for the spring and what I believe are steps that our staff needs to take to improve…


New goals for Recruiting this Spring:

  1. Have the class of 2012 signed by February
  2. Have at least 10 individual visits on campus for the class of 2013 this semester
  3. Have at least 10 players on campus for the Junior Visit Day
  4. Get at least 20 recruits to our summer camps from the class of 2013
  5. Narrow down the 2013 recruiting class to 50 seriously interested players by June (right now we’re at 127), and organize them into our top 15 and 30.
  6. Get four verbal commitments for 2013 by August.
  7. Have our recruiting class of 2014 inquiries up to 30 seriously interested players by August (currently have 28, but may not all be serious)

 Also, I’d like us to have a series of meetings during the first week all three of us are back to discuss some changes I’d like to make to the way we do things.  A lot of it is based on the books I’ve been reading over break, but some are ideas I’ve been kicking around for a little while too.  Come in with ideas of your own too.  The main thing is I want us to start living up to the program creed “Experience the Difference.”  This needs to be one of the toughest places for players to play, and I want it to be the best place to play in the GPAC and the Dakotas.  We shouldn’t be fighting with local colleges for the same players.  It should be a no-brainer for kids that if they want to be the best they need to come to DWU.  To do this we need to change our team culture to play to the standard, not a specific opponent or school, but a perfect standard.

 After we get back from the convention I’d like us to do a series of meetings with the seniors and juniors to get their input into this culture shift.

 Also, start building up a store of youtube videos to use for film sessions with your lines (Stefan-keepers and backs; Dan- mids and forwards).  I’ve ordered film from the national tournament, and I’ve also ordered some additional film that I’d like us to watch as staff and break down for the players.  I really want us to make an effort to get into the classrooms this Spring semester with the players for at least eight hours total (in their lines, starters and reserves, etc).  We need to start explaining the player’s roles and expectations better to them.  They need to start reading the game better to make the best decision, not just good decisions.

 Finally, don’t forget about the books you’re reading over the break.  During our meetings when we first get back I’d like each of us to take a few minutes and talk about something we took away from the books we read that we can apply to the program in the future.

 Have a great break!  Safe travels as you guys are all over the country this winter break.  Thanks so much for everything you do!  The two of you have played a big role in the direction this program has turned and we definitely have not reached our peak yet!  It’s an exciting time for our program, and you guys are a major factor in this.


Am I a bad leader?  Or a leader at all for that matter?  How do I answer these questions and grow as a person?  Are people born with it, or can we develop ourselves into leaders? 

Ultimately my personal philosophy in coaching is that the world will rise and fall on leadership, and my team will rise and fall on MY leadership.  I thought coaching was a teaching profession, but as I’ve grown and learned from experience the more and more I believe that coaching (and teaching for that matter) is a leadership profession. 

It seems that there are those who do, and those who don’t.  Those who don’t say that leadership seems to be something people are born with and it’s just not in them to be a great leader of people.  Than there are those who do and they will tell anyone that leadership is something that is developed through hard work and lots of dedication and growth.

What is leadership? According to John Maxwell “…leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”  I like this definition because it’s very frank and to the point.  Leadership, good or bad, is simply influencing people in a certain direction.  Hopefully I’m on a path of positive leadership development, but ultimately we want to influence people to move in a specific direction.  If leadership is influence than it seems like there must be a certain skill set that I can develop to become better influencers of people.

It all starts with vision.  Hyrum Smith once said that “Leaders conduct planned conflict against the status quo.”  Leaders have a deep desire to see something change!  I want my soccer players to grow as young men and be better people and athletes when they graduate from our program.  I’m not satisfied with where we are in our present state; as a soccer team and as a community.

But it can’t just be about having a vision.  It starts with a desire to see a dream become reality, but then we have to have the character, relationships, and work ethic to make it happen.  According to Woodward and Brady these are the three areas that we have to continually be evaluating ourselves to monitor personal growth.  Am I a person of character, integrity courage, and consistency that warrants the trust of people to follow me?  Do I have the relational skills to encourage, instruct, and teach others?  Will I have the work ethic, perseverance, and autonomy to get things done and create results?

We need to be constantly evaluating ourselves and establishing a plan of action to grow ourselves as leaders.  If I’m deficient in one of these areas I need to focus on developing in that are so my scope of influence grows.

This is an area that I feel is hugely underrated by coaches.  We all call ourselves leaders, and we all recognize that there is a larger and larger need for true leadership, but none of us see ourselves as the problem.  A study was conducted by George Barna that surveyed managers and executives in the USA.  Two thirds stated that there was a management crisis in our country.  Later in the same survey the participants were asked if they were part of the crisis as a defective leader, and a majority of the respondents said “no,” they were not part of the problem. 

Stephen Covey states that teams will only go as far as the abilities, character, and drive of the leader.  He refers to this as the “ceiling principle.”  If we want our players to be better people of integrity and character in showing up for practice and how they treat officials and one another maybe we need to look at where we’ve set the ceiling as coaches?  I’m always on my athletes to take the initiative and responsibility to workout during the summer to prepare for the season.  How much time do we take as coaches to “workout” and develop our leadership skill set and prepare ourselves to be better coaches and influencers?  The challenge is to take this to heart and put the time in to be a better coach for our players and our clubs.