I believe time is something most of us take for granted. In the literal sense, time is something that we can never get back, yet most people don’t seem to realize that until they lose something of value. I’m not saying be anxious all the time and worry about what you’re doing every second of the day but just ask yourself, are you making the most out of your time today?
Every day at 5 A.M, my alarm goes off. Half asleep, I force myself out of bed into the bathroom to start preparing for the day ahead. What’s my first task of the day? Well, it’s to go and workout and perfect my craft. For those who may be wondering, my craft is football. It’s a sport I fell in love with fairly late in my life, since I only started playing in high school.
My story is no different than most athletes, I was just a small town kid with big dreams to play at a big Division 1 school then eventually go to the pros. Funny when I look back, I had my entire life planned out up until I made it to the league. Needless to say, things have not gone according to plan. I’m a junior in college, and at this point of my life I was supposed to have declared early for the draft and be on my way to the NFL. Yet it’s my junior year and I have not even been able to play a single down of college football.
I’ve always felt in life that you could achieve anything you wanted in life as long as you put the work in. No matter what it was, if I worked hard enough, I knew I would be able to achieve any goal. The path to playing college ball has been a tough one for me. I have faced my fair share of obstacles. I had to come to Rutgers University and walk on to the team. I tried out and made the team no problem, but yet was not able to play.
I get my priorities straight and try out again. Once again I make the team, and I was just a couple days away from getting my jersey until it was discovered I would need surgery on my shoulder because of a previous injury years ago in high school. The obstacles drained me almost completely. I barely even worked out at this point. My surgery was the turning point in my life.
The Stockdale Paradox: a concept introduced in the Jim Collins book Good to Great, explains that you must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
In a study done by the International Committee for the Study of Victimization, they looked at people who had suffered serious adversity. The results of the study showed that people generally fell into three groups. Those who let the adversity keep them down, those who get their lives back to normal, and those who take that adversity and grow stronger.
The brutal facts of my situation? Well the biggest one is time. I have two years remaining to play college football. The surgery sparked something in me, and helped me realize that the journey will be hard, but I’m completely capable of doing it.
I have to work every day, and I have to work harder than everybody else to achieve my goal. Just like the good-to-great companies, I understand the brutal facts, and I will not hesitate to face them.
For two years, I worked for the Rutgers Football program under the direction of Kyle Flood. In my time there, beginning with the 2014 season, there was a universal thought amongst my co-workers and college football fans that Kyle Flood was in over his head leading the Rutgers Football team program as it entered one of the most competitive divisions in college football, the Big Ten East.
Sure, we thought we could become bowl eligible, but we did not expect to exceed that. These many doubts proved to be true, and Kyle Flood’s tenure as the head coach of the Rutgers Football team proves what Seth Godin wrote in Tribes: “If you don’t have the ability to lead, it can be dangerous to try.”
From 2012-2015, During his time leading the program, the team endured twelve total arrests, involving ten different players. Also, Kyle Flood himself was found guilty of academic misconduct after violating university code when attempting to lobby for a player’s grade to be improved to make the player eligible for the upcoming season.
All of these occurrences over a four-year period led to his failure as a leader and dismissal from his position as head coach of the football program.
I believe that these issues can ultimately boil down to failure in communication at the organizational level. Successful communication relies on a level of trust within an organization, which will keep a singular focus and allow for collaboration amongst it’s members.
I found that there were failures at both the internal and external levels. Internally, communication within the program was poor. For example, Coach Flood always stated in the off-season that we were “competing for a Big Ten Championship.” That was simply not a realistic message to give to his team as those hopes were usually dashed three weeks into the season.
It was these types of unattainable goals that ultimately lead to establishing a culture of failure.
Externally, Coach Flood explicitly attempted to distort the truth in the academic scandal that ultimately led to his firing. When asked why he used a private email account instead of his university registered account, he said, “The issue with the private email was really just to protect the student-athlete, a student-athlete whose academic record had always been, to some degree, on public display when it shouldn’t have been.”
If a player is in good academic standing, then their academic record would never have been a topic. This player was not in good standing, and by saying this, Flood not only removed his athlete’s responsibility for being a topic of media coverage but also hid the real reason for using a private email, which was likely to erase any trail of his wrongdoing. This failure of external communication furthered an already negative perception of his leadership within the program.
None of these failures became so clear to me until I got the opportunity to operate under the new coaching staff at Rutgers University lead by Chris Ash.
After watching just one practice I saw that, as Simon Sinek wrote in Start with Why, “there are leaders, and there are those who lead.”
A leader, Kyle Flood, is merely someone who holds a position by title. But someone who leads, Chris Ash, can be any person, regardless of a title, that does what is needed to be done. The simplicity of Coach Ash’s messages and central theme of accountability are extremely refreshing adjustments from the far reaching goals of the Kyle Flood Era.
When asked if winning championships was a realistic goal for his program, he answered, “we’re not going to make a lot of goals that talk about results with winning games and championships. We’re going to worry about making goals that make us better tomorrow than we were today.”
“It’s about getting better every single day,” he said.
Being present at practices this winter, I can honestly say that he has stuck to this quote every day. Therefore, there is better internal and external communication in the Rutgers Football program.
In addition to an improvement in communication, Coach Ash also shows that he has begun the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of the program’s current reality. It is ultimately a fact that Rutgers will not win the Big Ten this year, and Coach Ash accepts that.
But he is willing to focus on the things that he feels he can control and make his players more capable of becoming champions. He does this simply by holding them accountable and demanding maximum effort. I have personally been inspired by his messages without having a conversation with him, and I feel motivated to be a better person by having the opportunity to be in his presence.
There have been many times in my life where there was good and bad leadership. Whether it was in a classroom or playing sports, leadership played a big role in my life.
I was able to watch the leaders throughout my life and learn from their good ideas and bad mistakes. According to Jim Collins, in his book GOOD TO GREAT, there are five different levels of leadership. The leadership is ranked from level 1, being the most common, yet least effective leader, to level 5 which is the most effective. It isn’t until level 5 leadership where a leader really stands out.
These are the rarest group of leaders. Level 5 leaders build lasting greatness. They tend to blame mistakes on themselves when something goes wrong, and value others when things go well. These leaders have no ego and put their company before their selves. I can relate the idea of five level leadership to the leaders I have grown up with in my life. They mostly consist of players and coaches on sports teams. I played football my whole life and throughout high school. I had witnessed the culture of our program change from when I joined the team as a freshman, to the last game of my senior year. Throughout the years I played, I was able to identify the type of leadership that went on.
On this team I was able to identify level 1 to level 4 leadership. The level 1 leaders were the players who sat on the bench, but helped make practice effective. Theses players used their little amount of skills to contribute to the team. The level 2 leaders consisted of the players who started on the team and played the most. These players used their capabilities to achieve goals for the team. They were the ones out on the field winning the games. The level 3 leaders where some of the players who labeled themselves as “captains”.
The captains led the stretching lines and spoke at team meetings, but some of them weren’t respected by other players. Captains who were respected and had players believe in them were the level 4 leaders. They were helping the team build a culture to become better. Their teammates wanted to play for them. Level 5 leadership was attempted but failed by the Athletic Director of the school.
Our head football coach became Athletic Director when I was a junior in high school and put us in a harder division. Our team was playing harder teams and each year we kept losing talent. This caused the team to lose more games and less students wanted to play. Players started to not show up at practice and because we were a small school, it didn’t look good with the program. I would consider our coach as a level 4 leader because he cared about the football program and wanted it to be a great one.
He made people believe that he can make the program strong, but his ego took over, and his self–interest of wanting the program to be more than what it was caused it to fail. If he was a level 5 leader he would have put the program back into the weaker division, but his ego got the best of him. He was unable to take the blame for the mistake and do what’s right for the team.
I believe that if our coach drops his ego and turns the program around, he can potentially become a level 5 leader. He is an alumni of the high school and grew up in the town. He cares about the team and its reputation because he has been coaching for over 15 years.
Level 5 leaders are usually found within the organization and that is where he comes from. This will be difficult to achieve though because there is less talent on the team and the amount of players are diminishing.