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How To Win the Championship, Not Just the Game

September 25
by
Jordan Whitley
in
Inspirational People
with
.

With so many intelligent, competent, qualified individuals in this world, it is difficult to reach the top and stay there. There are so many people with comparable resumes and skill sets that it appears as though anyone could do the job.


With so much talent, experience, and knowledge, what is the difference then, between Kyle Flood and Nick Saban? On paper at the time of their hire, their qualifications may have appeared similar, and yet their results could not be more different. The individuals fighting for the big chair are all good, but what is keeping those good people from becoming great? What sets apart the Nick Sabans and the Urban Meyers from the Kyle Floods?

Jim Collins lays out the keys to success in his book Good to Great. According to Collins, the mystery puzzle piece for any great leader is a paradox made up of personal humility and professional will.

Many skills go into creating a successful athletic program. A coach should expect his or her players to be able to carry out the fundamentals of the game as well as think critically in sticky game situations. This expectation is justified granted the coach is exhibiting Level 5 leadership and preparing his players for success, even in his or her absence. As a coach, your own personal record matters.

As stated by Collins, half of success is professional will. You must be compelled to do whatever is necessary to win. You should pursue the wins and despise the losses, because, as a coach, you are hired to produce a winning team. In reality, your success depends upon their success. If you can achieve this goal, the success is bound to become contagious and grow.

If you can achieve this goal as a Level 5 leader, the success will keep rolling long after you are gone.

This sounds great in theory, but why is it so hard to achieve? The paradox of professional will and personal humility is a tall order because it requires an individual to seemingly be two people at once.

Often those individuals with professional will who have made it to the top are relentless, competitive, and abrasive individuals who seek recognition and won’t stop until they achieve their goals. This definition sounds nothing, however, like someone who displays personal humility, is humble and modest, and avoids like the spotlight.

Another interesting facet of the paradox is that Level 5 leaders set up their successors for success. Companies, teams, etc. should not be led by one genius controlling the show, while everyone else just falls in line. Once you cut off the head of that monster if, for example, the CEO were to leave or fall ill, all of the minions will start running around aimlessly as if their heads were cut off as well.

Instead, you should prepare everyone below you for what it takes to do your job. Teach them your decision making process, show them your work ethic, talk about your values, and give them the tools to do your job better than you could ever do it. As a coach, your assistant coaches should be able to run a flawless practice, and your players should be able to win championships in your absence.

Sounds silly, right? This approach, however, is the difference between successful teams and average teams.

In my experience, the biggest downfall of coaches is their lack of personal humility. Collins talks about a concept called The Window and The Mirror. Essentially, when a coach is asked what went wrong, they should always blame themselves for not preparing their team. When a coach is asked what went right, he or she should point to all of the other individuals who played a part and take no responsibility themselves. Too often, post game talks involve coaches pointing fingers and highlighting the negatives.

It is the sole reason, I believe, the Rutgers Softball team is currently 2-11. Our coach is far too worried about his personal record, his appearance, and losing respect. He cuts down his assistant coaches in front of us all and instead of trying to help them become better coaches, doesn’t allow them to give feedback to the players. He tried to be the genius with a thousand (or two) helpers and his method is failing miserably.

In a speech she gave about her loss in the National Championship series to Florida, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines Softball team, Carol Hutchins, told all of the coaches of the NCAA that SHE did not prepare her team for victory. She stated that her players did everything she asked of them and it was failure on HER part that cost them the championship.

Coaches that work with her will go on to have even more success of their own because of the preparation she has given them. I have made friends with her team of rock stars, and I know for a fact that her players would run through a brick wall for her, dive off a cliff for her, or take a ball to the face for her because she is a Level 5 leader. She wants success not just for herself, but for her team, and has instilled in her girls what it means to be “humble and hungry”.

It is not that our team doesn’t know what professional will and personal humility look like side by side. My freshman year we had an assistant coach who could have turned this program into the next Michigan or Florida. I would have run through a brick wall for her in a heartbeat, and everyone she came in contact with would have been better for it because of her level of leadership.

Unfortunately, family circumstances required her to part ways with Rutgers, and we have all been searching for that feeling ever since. Now, we have quite the opposite leadership. The finger is always pointed at the players. Our post game talks involve nothing but negativity, and in the event that one of the players tries to bring a highlight of the game to everyone’s attention, our coach responds with his layer of sarcasm.

I know from experience coaches need to exhibit both professional will and personal humility, because without humility, your assistant coaches and players will resent you.

You will never build a championship program. You must be ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done while maintaining modesty and humbleness. You must make those below you feel appreciated and confident that, if and when their time comes to take a seat in the big chair, they will be ready.

I have aspirations of becoming a head coach one day, and I will apply what I have learned to do from Jim Collins and what I have learned not to do from my coach in my pursuit to be a Level 5 leader and breed the next generation of softball success.


 

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